Or: Why Empowerment is a 'Pig' Deal
That chicken is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen,” was my first reaction after finishing Disney’s Moana. I think I’m not alone there. My second reaction: PUA THE PIG IS SO CUTE I NEED ONE. Anyone else?? With time, I’ve accepted the fact that I won’t roll around town with my very own Pua sidekick (apartment managers don’t encourage pig rearing, apparently). Nevertheless, over the last few months my pig knowledge has increased exponentially, and not because of Moana.
© Walt Disney Pictures, Moana, 2016
My new knowledge stems from the fact that the women we partner with in Uganda have a new project: pig rearing! During Natalie’s January 2017 trip to Uganda, the women noted that one of their members, Magoba Margret, was raising pigs and it was quite the profitable side business. The women in all three villages were so impressed that they set a goal: every woman in WOCAP would own a pig by December 2017.
During this most recent August trip, we asked about the “pig idea” and found that the majority of women now own at least one pig! Their goal is being reached and we are celebrating like crazy!! We’ll reveal why this is such a big deal but first: Why pigs are the women’s farm animal of choice?
Pua > Heihei
As it turns out, pigs make excellent business sense - with just one catch.
Here’s the highlight reel: pigs make a lot of baby pigs, baby pigs grow quickly, and you can sell big fat pigs for big fat prices.
Here are the details: a sow can birth (farrow) an average of 10-12 piglets and can farrow twice in one year (bless them). A piglet can be sold after two months, be full sized for market by six months, and be ready to breed at eight months (Daily Monitor). If you think this sounds fast, it is. Second only to the not-so-sensitively named “Broiler Chicken”, pigs are the most efficient weight-gaining farm animals, gaining a minimum of .6kg, or 1.3lb, a day (Africa Uganda, Daily Monitor). Other great benefits are that pigs tend to weather seasons better, stay healthier, and avoid getting run over by motorcycles better than their chicken counterparts. Pua > Heihei.
So, what’s a pig worth in Uganda these days? According to the women, a piglet can be sold for 40,000-50,000 Ugandan shillings and a full sized, six-month-old pig sold for 350,000 to 500,000 shillings. Perspective: When BOH started partnering with these women, they managed to earn only 12,600 shillings a month on their own. This shows that by just selling one full-sized pig, a woman could increase her month’s income by 96.4% at least. One sow with ten healthy piglets can really take you places.
What’s the catch?
Wellllll there’s a reason a pig can gain a pound a day. They like food, and each pig needs 4.5-6.5 pounds of it daily. Not only that, but the assumption that pigs can eat anything is flat false. It turns out that happy pigs require quite the specific diet of maize bran, fish meal, cassava, cotton-seed cake and - if you really want to do it right - vitamins (Daily Monitor). This combination can cost a pretty penny, especially if a woman is trying to raise several piglets to full size for that desirable high price. During our meetings this August, the women confirmed that it takes a significant amount of investment capital to begin pig rearing. Along with funds needed for constructing a pigpen, affording pig food is one of the biggest struggles in their pig rearing efforts.
Why it’s a Pig Deal
Even with these obstacles, the pig idea is a definite sign of empowerment. Reminder: EMPOWERMENT IS WHY WE’RE HERE. We hope that Ugandan widows and kids, even with the odds stacked against them, can make it out of poverty through their own strength. This pig idea is helping them do just that. The women used their own savings program to purchase these pigs. Pigs are a local resource that can be sold to local buyers and the profits invested in more pigs. That’s sustainability. As the women overcome setbacks, they will be expert pig farmers in their communities, able to share their knowledge, and able to better provide for their families.
To sum up, the fact that these women came up with this idea, took action to begin and maintain it, and paid for it with their own savings (rather than looking to us or another organization to supply it for them) is evidence that empowerment is dawning. Empowerment means these women are beginning to live, not just survive. That’s why we’re celebrating!! Simply put: the pig idea? Well, (plug your ears, Pua) it brings home the bacon.
Blog by Mackenzie Lanphear
Africa Uganda Business Travel Guide: http://www.africa-uganda-business-travel-guide.com/ugandapiggery.html