Livestock Research for Rural Development 25 (10) 2013 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Smallholder pig production and its constraints in Mekelle and southern zone of Tigray region, north Ethiopia

Theodros Tekle, Abreha Tesfay and Tsegabirhan Kifleyohannes

Mekelle University, College of Veterinary Medicine,
PO Box 231. Mekelle Ethiopia.
theodt2002@yahoo.com

Abstract

A cross sectional survey was undertaken during the period June 2013 to August 2013 in order to assess the smallholder pig production and its constraints in Mekelle town and selected urban centers in the southern zone of Tigray region, north Ethiopia. The study involved a total of 116 randomly selected pig owners and a pre-tested semi-structured questionnaire was employed for collecting data through interview and face to face discussion with the pig owners. A visit was also made to observe the housing, feeding and other pig management practices. Secondary data was collected from Mekelle and southern zone agriculture and rural development offices and from experts on poultry and pig sector development at each study sites while descriptive statistics were used to summarize the results.

Pig production as a newly introduced economic activity was integrated into the traditional mixed farming system with production objective of income generation. Inadequate provision for confinement and extensive management based on scavenging was the most commonly observed management practice. Mean herd size of 12+2; farrowing rate of twice per year; mean litter size of 11 piglets per farrowing with range of 8 to 13; mean age at first farrowing of 8 months and mean lactation length of 28.0+2.8 days were recorded. Lack of market, high feed cost, lack of basic knowledge and skill on pig management, poor extension services, lack of skilled veterinarians on pig diseases and poor preventive health care were identified as major constraints. The advantages from pig keeping were not realized mainly because of lack of marketing. Intervention should be initiated focusing on improving pig management practices.

Key words: extension, management, marketing, poverty, scavenging


Introduction

Changing livestock production trend towards landless monogastric species such as poultry and pig production because of better production efficiency per unit area of land has paved the way for integrating pig production which is becoming increasingly important economic activity (FAO 2009). Pig production was appreciated by Lekule and Kyvsgaard (2003) because of its advantages such as high fecundity rate and feed conversion efficiency, early maturity, short generation interval, relatively small space requirement and ability to produce maximally under varied management systems. The importance of pig production as a likely solution to deficiency of animal protein and as a tool to fighting poverty in the tropics has been indicated by Ajala (2003). Furthermore, small scale pig production has been indicated as a viable livestock system in many east African countries, playing an important role in pork production either for home consumption or sale and income generation (Wabacha et al 2004; Kagira et al 2010; Mutua et al 2011; Petrus et al 2011; Muhanguzi et al 2012; Riedel et al 2012).

According to Ethiopian livestock development master plan (MoARD 2007) all the pig population in Ethiopia has been under private ownership and in strictly religious terms members of the Ethiopian Orthodox church as well as people of the Islamic faith are not in favor of consuming pork which effectively means that there is only very limited pork market within Ethiopia and in those solidly Islamic surrounding countries. Hence, no public intervention has been promoted on pig production in Ethiopia (MoARD 2007).

The pig population in Ethiopia was estimated to be 29,000 heads representing 0.1% of African pig population (FAO 2005). In many rural parts of Ethiopia, pig production was characterized by extensive production system whereby pigs are allowed to scavenge at backyard and municipal garbage dumping sites (Abdu and Gashaw 2010). On the other hand, extensive husbandry system coupled with poor environmental hygiene and voracious feeding behavior of pigs has been indicated as a major risk factor for infection of pigs with helminths and gastrointestinal parasites where pigs may act as potential reservoir hosts of human gastointestinal parasites such as ascariasis (Tomass et al 2013).

Small scale pig production is a very recently introduced economic activity in Ethiopia (Abdu and Gashaw, 2010) including Tigray region, north Ethiopia. The domestic pig is an animal which has been very much neglected by the scientific community in Ethiopia, hence very few publications are available focusing mainly on gastrointestinal parasites of pigs (Abdu and Gashaw 2010; Haileyesus 2010; Tomass et al 2013) and prevalence of tuberculosis in pigs (Arega et al 2013). This study was conceptualized following the concern related to problems in pig production and marketing which were repeatedly reported through mass media by pig owners, the community and town municipalities in Mekelle and urban centers in southern zone of Tigray region. With such problem at hand, the study was initiated with objective of generating information on smallholder pig production and its constraints in the study areas in north Ethiopia. Sustainable intervention requires a systemic study on the management, production potential and constraints. Such data are important in identifying key intervention areas and in exploring opportunities for improving the contribution made by the sector.


Materials and methods

The field study was conducted in Mekelle town and in Alamata, Endamehoni and Maychew towns which represent growing urban centres in southern zone of Tigray region, north Ethiopia (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Map of Tigray region showing the study area (Adopted from Tomass et al 2013)

The study sites were purposively selected because of availability of pig herds as many households are involved in smallholder pig production. Mekelle is the capital of Tigray region, located 783 km north of Addis Ababa. Its geographic location is 1332'N and 3933'E. It has an average altitude of 2200 meter above sea level, with a mean minimum and maximum monthly temperature of 8.7 and 26.8oC, respectively. The annual average rainfall in Mekelle is 600 mm and more than 70% of it falls between the months July and August. The long dry season extends from October to May (Kibrom 2005). The human population of Mekelle town was estimated at 215546 (CSA 2008).

Alamata, Endamehoni and Maychew are growing urban centers in the southern zone of Tigray region. Alamata town is located at geographic coordinates of 12 o24’59.64’’N and 39o33’27.55’’E and at distance of 619 km from Addis Ababa; Enda-mehoni town is located at 12o47’50.22’’N and 39o38’36.44’’E and at distance of 665km from Addis Ababa while the geographical position of Maychew town is 12o47’03.52’’N and 39 o32’25.77’’E and it is located at distance of 649 km from Addis Ababa.

According to CSA (2008) the total human population of the southern zone of Tigray region was estimated to be 1004558. Mixed farming is the major economic activity in the area. The southern zone is characterized by bimodal rainfall pattern and about 70–80% of the rain falls during the major rainy season that extends from June to September (Araya and Stroosnijder 2011). The mean minimum and maximum temperature is 8oC and 30oC, respectively. Urban agriculture is a common practice in Mekelle and southern zone (Ashebir et al 2007).

Study design and data collection

A cross sectional survey was conducted during the period May 2013 to August 2013 in Mekelle town and selected urban centers in the southern zone of Tigray region, Ethiopia. At each study site, from a list consisting of all pig owning households study households who are actively engaged were selected systemically on random basis. A total of 116 randomly selected pig owning households comprising of 42 from Mekelle, 20 from Alamata, 25 from Endamehoni and 29 from Maychew were included in this study. A pre-tested semi-structured questionnaire with open and closed ended questions was employed for collecting data through interview and face to face discussion with the pig producers. A visit was also made to residence site of selected pig producers to cross check the housing, feeding and other pig management practices. In addition, secondary data was collected from Mekelle and southern zone agriculture and rural development offices. Experts who are responsible for poultry and pig sector development at each wereda were also consulted as source of secondary information.

Data handling and analysis

The collected data were organized using Microsoft Office Excel 2007 and descriptive statistics was used to summarize the results.


Results

Socio-economic information of the study households

Pigs were owned by individuals as well as groups of producers organized into cooperatives mainly in Alamata and Maychew study sites. The age of pig producers ranged from 19 to 54 and the mean family size was 4.0+0.4. Seventy eight percent of the pig producing households were having elementary school and above educational back ground. Majority (97%) were followers of Orthodox Christian.

Table 1. Distribution of pig owners by age and educational level

 

Age groups/years

Number of

respondents

 

Educational level

Number of

respondents

19-23

28

Illiterate

25

24-33

37

<primary level

51

34-43

30

Secondary level

35

44-54

21

>Secondary

5

Total

116

 

116

Production objective

In all the study sites, pig production was integrated into the traditional mixed farming system. All of the respondents were keeping pigs entirely as a means of income generation. Litter size, multiple farrowing per year, short generation interval, feeding behaviour and orientation of pigs was appreciated by majority of the producers. All producers were against the slaughter of pigs for household consumption.

Management practice

All the pig owners started pig keeping by purchasing pregnant sows or gilts from their neighbors or friends. Pig production was integrated into the traditional mixed farming system.  In addition to pigs, most of the producers were keeping at least one other species involving cattle, sheep, goats or chicken. The pig husbandry was based on a low input system with minimal inputs mainly feed and facilities such as housing. Batch management was entirely unknown. Inadequate provision for confinement during the night without considering age, sex and production status as in pregnancy was a common observation during our field visits.

Photo 1. Pig confinement made of old and materials, Alamata. Photo 2. Pigs taking a nap at public garbage dumping site, Maychew town (left) and on the sand in Mekelle (right).

All pig owners let their pigs to scavenge on garbage dumping sites (Photo 2). Pigs are also allowed to wander on the streets in search of feed (Photo 3).

Photo 3. Pigs wandering on a street in search of feed, Mekelle

Household remnants, leftover from restaurants and waste from fruit selling shops were fed to pigs as supplements. Very few producers were supplying purchased feed such as wheat bran and midlings to their pigs. In addition, no care was provided to sows at and around farrowing.

Production parameters

Mean herd size was 12+2. The average farrowing rate was twice per year. Litter size ranged from 8 to 13 with a mean of 11 piglets per farrowing. Mean age at first farrowing was 8 months. The average lactation length was 28.0+2.8 days.

Constraints to pig production

Poor marketing of pigs, high feed cost, lack of basic knowledge on pig management practices, poor extension service, lack of skilled veterinarians and poor preventive health care were indicated as major constraints to pig production in the study areas (Table 2).

Table 2. Summary of the constraints to pig production and their ranking order as indicated by the respondents.

 

Constraints

Ranking order of constraints

First

Second

Third

Fourth

Fifth

Sixth

Poor access to market

40

32

26

17

0

1

Increasing feed cost

31

29

22

19

6

9

Lack of skill and knowledge

23

19

21

28

14

11

Poor extension service

12

16

19

22

42

5

Lack of skilled professionals

7

11

17

14

25

42

Lack of preventive health care

3

9

11

16

30

47


Discussion

Socio-economic information of the study households

Seventy eight percent of the pig producing households were having elementary school and above educational back ground (Table 1). This can be taken as a good opportunity for adopting technology. The majority were Orthodox Christians. This was the major reason for producers’ unwillingness to consume pork.

Production objective

In the study area, the major objective of pig keeping was for income generation. All pig owners were against the slaughter of pigs for home consumption. This is an indication that in Ethiopia, religion, culture and traditions play an important role in the pig sector (MoRAD 2007). Hence, pig production and consumption is not widespread in the study area. This in turn explains the lack of local market except for breeding sows or gilts done by few farmers who would like to involve in pig production. This is in contrast to the situation in Namibia, Uganda and Kenya where pig keeping is for income and pork consumption (Petrus et al 2011; Muhanguzi et al 2012).

Management practices

Pig production was integrated into the traditional mixed farming system. In addition to pig, 94% of the producers were keeping at least one species with pigs involving cattle, sheep, goats or chicken. According to Abdu and Gashaw (2010), 24% of the farms visited in central Ethiopia were under mixed farming system. On the other hand, Tomass et al (2013) pointed out that the integration of pigs into the traditional mixed farming system might contribute to disease transmission taking the role of pigs as reservoirs of diseases. In this study it was found that pig husbandry was 99% based on a low input system with minimal inputs mainly feed and facilities such as housing. Batch management was entirely unknown. Inadequate provision for confinement during the night without considering age, sex and production status as in pregnancy was a common observation during our field visits. This study has shown that the pigs were not provided with proper and adequate confinement. The pig management was not based on sex, age or production status. According to Banerjee (2010) separation of various age and sex groups and classes of pigs has great advantage in feeding and management which will help to to improve growth because it will help to avoid compettion among animals.

This study has shown that the pig production was based on scavenging and all pig owners let their pigs to scavenge on public garbage damping sites and pigs were commonly seen wandering along the streets in all the study areas. Household remnants, leftover from restaurants and waste from fruit selling shops were fed to pigs as supplement but there is limited availability. Very few (1%) producers were supplying purchased feed such as wheat bran and midlings to their pigs. According to Abdu and Gashaw (2010), the type of feed available for swine in and around Holetta area was mainly oil seed cake and waste food. Some swine were also feed on pasture, crop residue, and garbage. In Namibia, Petrus et al (2011) reported that 98% of pig producers fed their animals on home remnants and allowed them to scavenge and rural farmers fed their pigs on what was available without regard to their age, sex and their production stages. Recently conducted research in the current study area by Tomass et al (2013) revealed that extensive pig management based on scavenging on garbage is one of the risk factors for infestation of pigs with gastrointestinal parasites. According to Tomass et al (2013), the domestic pig has a role in the epidemiology of important zoonotic diseases such as Ascaris and Cryptosporidium spp and as a reservoir host of Fasciola hepatica, an economically important parasite of ruminants. Arega et al (2013) isolated M. tuberculosis, an emerging zoonotic disease, at prevalence rate of 5.8% in pigs slaughtered at two abattoirs in central Ethiopia, suggesting the existence of possible risk of interspecies transmission particularly between pigs and humans. This situation has to be taken as critical taking the association between TB and HIV (Arega et al 2013).

Production parameters

The current study has shown mean herd size of 12+2. In the same study area mean herd size of 20.8+2.89 has been reported by Tomass et al (2013) and an average herd size of 29 swine has been reported elsewhere in Ethiopia (Abdu and Gashaw 2010). The declining herd size as indicated by lower herd size might be associated with the demotivation of pig producers due to lack of market incentives. Pig producers were reporting strong opposition from the community and municipal offices for disposing their pigs as a result of the extensive and scavenging of pigs on the streets, around villages and public garbage damping sites. Pig producers were very much demotivated and some were making efforts to avoid the pigs to the wild. In Alamata, we have witnessed pigs being starved to death. This study has revealed that the average farrowing rate was twice per year. Litter size ranged from 8 to 13 with a mean of 11 piglets per farrowing. Mean age at first farrowing was 8 months. The average lactation length was 28.0+2.8 days. The pigs in the current study sites have shown better potential in terms litter size, age at first farrowing and weaning age as compared to the production potential of pigs reported by Mutua et al (2011) in western Kenya who reported that sows can farrow at least two times in a year yielding multiple piglets at each farrowing, sows were 12.14.5 months old when they farrowed for the first time, average litter size was 7.82.6 while piglets were weaned at 5.43.3 weeks of age (Mutua et al 2011). This difference in production potential can be explained by breed variation.

Constraints to pig production

The major constraints to pig production in the study areas reported according to their order of importance include poor marketing opportunities, increasing feed cost, lack of basic knowledge on pig management practices, poor extension service, lack of skilled veterinarians on pig diseases and poor preventive health care. Similar production constraints were reported by Muhanguzi et al (2012) in Uganda; by Petrus et al (2011) in Namibia; by Kagira et al (2010) in western Kenya. Petrus et al (2011) generalized that smallholder farmers in the developing world have limited expertise resulting in poor management and planning of pig enterprises. The production constraints might hinder improvement to productivity of pigs (Wabacha et al 2004). According to Ayele et al (2003), alleviating constraints to marketing, improving marketing and market information and upgrading marketing infrastructures will potentially increase the welfare of smallholder producers and urban consumers and improve the national balance of payments. The government should also work on cultural and behavioral change of the people and also formulate an appropriate policy regarding swine production without delay, and should be hold in the national livestock development program (Abdu and Gashaw 2010).


Conclusion


Acknowledgement

This study was made possible through the partial financial support obtained from MU, Mekelle University. The authors very much appreciate the cooperation made by the zonal and wereda agriculture and rural development officers and poultry and pig development experts at each study site. We are also grateful to the pig producers for their willingness to participate in the study.


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Received 19 September 2013; Accepted 25 September 2013; Published 1 October 2013

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