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Researchers set sight on superior pig breeds

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Ugandan pig farmers are now enjoying the benefits of having a dedicated team of researchers aimed at improving the pig sector with the country enjoying the fastest growing pig population in Africa.

The mileage and resilience that Ugandan pig farmers portrayed to the world is commended and noted to be the main reason as to why researchers from International Livestock research Institute (ILRI) set a base in Kampala with a main mandate of bettering the pig sector. The researchers are tasked with involving the whole value smallholder value chain in order to realign the lucrative but once ignored sector in the society. When we set a base in Kampala in 2008, the pig sector was in shambles in terms organization and therefore this exposed the farmers as well as the end user in terms of sustainability and safety respectively, explained Danillo Pezzo the lead program manager at ILRI Uganda.

To carry out a successful realignment and strengthen the sector, the team from ILRI identified districts within the country to work with. Danillo explained that they had to settle down on the sample population to work with and then replicate the findings to other regions in Uganda and elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa. The districts were identified based on their pig population, pig density per square kilometer, poverty levels as well as their access to market. In order to also tackle on the issue of vulnerable people in the society, the researchers included the districts that were hard hit by the HIV-AIDS scourge. In total, the researchers selected 13 districts with Mukono, kamuli and Masaka taking a lead role.

In the preliminary focus group discussions, the researchers found out major obstacles affecting pig farmers that include; Disease control especially the African Swine Fever ASF, Lack of Knowledge on pig genetics, Market access and feeding of pigs. According to Danillo, feeding is a major issue when it comes to livestock rearing because it mainly it may take up to 80 percent of the total cost of production. Danillo and his team has carried out research on availing cheaper but effective alternative feeds to farmers  with a case in point being the cassava and sweet potatoes vines silage making. This feeds if well prepared Danillo explained that it can help the animal to gain over 400 grams of weight daily.

The farmers have also been sensitized on bio-security measures as a means of controlling and preventing outbreak and spread of diseases. “We have advised farmers to ensure that they set up at the farm and also limit entry of visitors to the farm especially the pig traders who move from one farm to another and therefore have higher chance of carrying the virus from infected pigs to safe one. In addition, we also advise farmers to ensure high standards of hygiene. The scientists also advise the end consumers of the dangers of contracting certain zoonotic diseases like tape worm from the pig if they consume meat that is not well cooked. However, Danillo observed that 90 percent of the pork joints in Uganda cook their meat well but still cautioned consumers to be observant as the tapeworm is lethal as causes a cyst in the brain.

 The researchers have also succeeded in organizing the whole pig value chain into one group and therefore raising hopes of more attention from the policy makers to help advance farmers with their needs. One of the group that is making headways among farmers is Pig Production and Marketing Uganda. Farmers that are organised under a single entity have a higher bargaining power while accessing the market as well as easily having their grievances addressed by the government of the day and that is exactly what we have tried to achieve. Currently the team of researchers is actively involved in gathering data on this smallholder farmers will continue working with in order to foster the sector.

It is estimated that the current pig population in Uganda stands at 3.2 million and owned by about 1.1 million households. By improving the pig sector, the ILRI team have are uplifting women. Danillo noted, “Our research indicates that they (women and children) are the major people who undertake pig management at home.  We have also observed that piggery is playing an important role in the education especially among the smallholder peasant farmers as more sales are recorded during back to school moments.” Danillo is impressed that their research is adding value to the farmers and hopes to replicate the findings to other African nations.

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