Pemphero Kachule from Malawi is completing a 4-year Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Like some of our other Watipa scholars, he was negatively affected by staff striking at his university earlier this year but nevertheless has been getting on with his studies and doing lots of community work. In this blog, Pemphero explains his study into rural smallholder farmers, how they generate funds for their children’s education and his work to help them raise their income…
“One common source of income that these farmers use to generate funds for their children’s school fees and upkeep at different primary to tertiary institutions is through the sale of livestock. Pig production is one of the most important agricultural activities as far as livestock production is concerned in Malawi. The industry is important for the provision of meat and manure, which can be used in fish ponds and in production of energy through biogas. Due to its high feed conversion rate, pig production is marked as one of the most important income generating activities among local farmers.
The Malawi government’s pig policy aims at better quality meat for domestic consumption and export. They promote the use of improved pig breeds including the indigenous, Landrace, large white and Tristar breeds and promote more breeding by medium and large-scale farmers. I wanted to find out the constraints which smallholder rural pig farmers face which mean maximum profit is not realised out of their herd. I designed a questionnaire with the aim of finding out the main challenges faced by rural smallholder farmers in the process of raising pigs for market. I collected data from several villages under the Traditional Authority Kaluluma in the north of Kasungu district from 12 farmers with flocks up to 14 animals. The majority provided no medication to their animals, all sold animals for slaughter. Most of the farmers were keeping local breeds in intensive systems.
The academic knowledge I have acquired so far shows that the high mortality of pigs due to the viral disease African Swine Fever is a limiting factor in progress toward the Malawi government’s goals. The other main factor is the discrimination against rearing pigs for cultural and religious reasons. From the interaction I had with the rural smallholder pig farmers, the common problem of African Swine Fever was mainly due to poor management techniques. There was also stunted growth among piglets and among those older than a month. Compromised growth came about due to anaemia which young piglets are prone to and, in elder pigs, is due to heavy infestation of worms and ectoparasites such as lice and mites.
The picture below shows a pig house in a poor state which risks the biosecurity of the pigs.
This picture shows a good pig house, found in one of the villages I visited for my study.
After finding out the problems affecting these farmers’ pigs, I bought some drugs to treat and prevent worms and other ectoparasites and iron dextran, an iron supplement used to treat anaemia in young animals, like the anaemic piglets pictured below.
I delivered these services at a very cheap price, enough to cover the drugs, so I could outreach to as many people as possible. I also advised farmers on management techniques they can follow to help control the prevalence of the African Swine Fever virus and made detailed recommendations including on the preservation of feed and the orientation and modification of livestock housing.
On the 28th September 2017, I was involved in the world rabies vaccination campaign on World Rabies Day. Vaccines were provided by the Lilongwe Society for Protection and Care of Animals and took place at strategically located places in Kasungu District. By next year I seek to find more drugs and knowledge towards reducing disease conditions in animals and I remain focussed on community development.”
Pemphero Kachule and Isaac Barry