Building the piggy bank

Developing piggeries as a small-scale business is the path forward in a state where the animal is worth its weight in additional income

According to PG Wodehouse, the Empress of Blandings was a fine pig indeed, famous for her size. The size of the swine matters, especially when pigs are an important part of the agricultural sector, as is the case in Nagaland. That’s the big reason Tata Trusts are using piggeries as a way to improve household income levels in the state.

Nagaland consumes the highest quantity of pork in the country. There isn’t enough to go around and it had to import about 10,000 tonnes of pork — worth 920 million — from other states last year to meet demand. Local supply of the meat has dropped steadily over the years and this is mainly due to lack of knowhow on the part of the farmers.

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Pig rearing in Nagaland is mostly a backyard activity, with the animals feeding on household waste and whatever else they can scrounge. Lack of awareness on the right kinds of feed, breeding strategies, and animal health has led, as well, to a decline in the quality of pork available in the state.

The North East Initiative Development Agency (NEIDA), a Tata Trusts associate, has been working to improve local pig production as an alternative livelihood option for small farmers. NEIDA has focused on increasing the supply of pigs, improving breeds and training farmers on care and management so that they can earn more from pig rearing.

Over the last three years, NEIDA has put 4,600 households on the entrepreneurial track by helping them set up properly managed piggery units. More than 100 health camps have been held during the period and about 80 ‘livestock service providers’ have been trained in basic animal care.

Improving standards

Since good quality feed was not available in the market, NEIDA has opted to produce and supply the feed. The agency got infrastructural support from the state Department of Veterinary and Animal Husbandry, and production started in 2016.

NEIDA has also worked with the state government to develop a pig breeding policy so that the quality of breeds can be improved over time, and the state can become less dependent on imported meat.

The piggery initiative has shown encouraging results. Farmers are reporting an average increase in litter size from 4 to 6.5 piglets per farrowing. And they were able to earn 19,000 to 22,000 every year from sale of pigs.

NEIDA has also backed the setting up of a pig producer enterprise, the Nagamaiki Smallholder Pig Producer Company, which has 900 shareholders. If pig production can become a significant domestic activity, Nagaland will benefit in several ways — import savings, local jobs, better quality meat and the further development of well-paying economic activity.

Improved breed stock and modern rearing practices have helped improve pig production in Nagaland