A worker grips a guinea pig around its middle as another man holds a cardboard box full of the squirming, furry rodents.
The animals are not destined to be pets. Instead, they are being handed out by the humanitarian organisation Action Against Hunger to communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo to be farmed for their meat.
19 Feb 2013. Karete, Democratic Republic Of Congo. REUTERS/Jana Asenbrennerova
A young girl holds two guinea pigs that were given to her as part of a wider food and development program run by Action Against Hunger.
One of the reasons the NGO chose to distribute the rodents as livestock is that they can be reared easily by children, who are a major focus of the organisation's efforts to combat malnutrition.
Guinea pigs have other benefits as farm animals, according to the charity's outgoing deputy country director for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Petra Hoskovec. They reproduce quickly, they are easy to take care of and they are cheap, so the NGO can distribute them to a larger number of people.
The advantages do not stop there: “In an area with frequent attacks by armed groups on the local population, guinea pigs are less likely to make families a target of pillaging than are other larger, more valuable livestock such as chickens or goats,” said Hoskovec in an email to Reuters.