Research group helps pig business become bigger business in northeastern India

 Pig in Nagaland, India

Pig kept in Nagaland, in northeastern India, where pig production and consumption by poor tribal peoples is commonplace (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Small-scale pig production is the basis of livelihoods of many poor tribal people living in India’s remote northeast corner. Pigs could provide a pathway out of poverty for many people if they were able to transform their subsistence production into market-oriented systems. Few people in India’s state of Nagaland are vegetarian and pork is the most preferred meat (50% of all pork consumed in India is consumed in the northeast). Although only about a quarter of all pigs in India are in the northeastern states, some 80% of tribal families keep at least 2 to 3 pigs. Pig meat is so in demand that these states import pigs from northern Indian states and Myanmar. Nagaland alone imports about 10,000 pigs per month.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) undertook the first comprehensive assessment of the whole pig value chain in northeast India in 2006–07. Reports were published for the state of Assam as well as Nagaland and set out the role of pig production in people’s livelihoods and the current state of pig production here, identifying some of the sector’s technical, economic, social and institutional constraints and opportunities.

As part of a National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) funded by the World Bank, the Government of India and the International Fund for Agricultural Research (IFAD), ILRI is implementing a project with other local partners in Mon District of Nagaland to improve livelihoods through development of the pig sector. With few good roads or other infrastructure, most people here are very poor, and their pig farming remains very traditional. The small, local pig breeds raised here are fed forages harvested from the jungle and kitchen wastes and are housed in unhygienic pens with virtually no veterinary care. With no concerted effort made to improve pig production in the villages, it remains very traditional and largely unprofitable. While most of the farmers produce one mature pig, of 70–80 kg, in a span of 3–4 years, the same sized pig can be produced within 8–10 months through adoption of a few relatively simple improved practices.

In the pilot project in Mon, ILRI and members of the community together identified a package of integrated, locally appropriate interventions: (a) improvement of the local pig genotype through distribution of higher-producing pig breeds, (b) development of community-based veterinary first aid services, (c) cultivation of dual-purpose crops that can feed pigs as well as people, (d) better pig housing, sanitation and quarantine measures (e) closer links among stakeholders in the value chain, from input suppliers to pork sellers, (f) creation of business development services and (g) building the capacity of target groups using local resource persons and influential groups.

ILRI’s initiatives raised the level of interest of community members in pig keeping, especially for breeding. The ILRI project promoted the adoption of clean and hygienic practices in the pig sty and encouraged the cultivation of food-feed crops. Two trained paravets in each village became sufficiently confident to provide veterinary first aid and business development services. And household income from pigs increased from one year to the next by 133–457 per cent.

With funding from the Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust under their North East Initiative and in collaboration with several local non-governmental organizations, this successful model will be extended to other parts of Nagaland and into Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. Several government and non-government organizations in northeast India are interested in replicating this model and have sought not only ILRI’s technical support but also its help in framing a people-centric policy for development of the pig sub-sector initiated by the government’s North East Council.

For more information, contact Iain Wright, ILRI’s representative for Asia, at i[dot]wright[at]cgiar.org

Small-scale traders in ‘clean milk’ strengthen the milk value chain in urban India

Fresh milk traders in Guwahati, Assam, India

Small- and medium-scale milk traders—not big or even small grocery stores—are what links most dairy farmers and consumers in Guwahati, the capital of Assam. Milk and milk products make up a large part of the most nourishing foods available to millions of poor people in this remote, poverty-stricken state of northeastern India. To promote the business of ‘clean milk’ among smaller scale traders, researchers recently trained more than 90 dealers in improved milk handling technique.

For three weeks this July 2010, courses were conducted on clean and hygienic milk handling and distribution for milk traders and vendors. Participants were trained in such specifics as the causes of milk spoilage and disease, hygienic milk handling and transportation, how to conduct tests for milk quality, and ways to ensure milk containers used in all processes of milk handling are sanitized.

The course trainers and materials were provided by staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), who are working to educate and skill up relatively informal milk traders in the production and sales of clean milk and milk products. The benefits of this training are many, including not only cleaner, hygienically handled, milk, but also more milk sales, greater customer satisfaction and improved community health.

The trainings are part of a series that will reach more than 300 traders who collect and sell milk on the outskirts of Guwahati. The five modules that make up each training course are being delivered in 12 batches through October 2010.

Led by the Directorate of Dairy Development in Assam, the training program is supported by the Assam Agricultural Competitiveness Project under an initiative of the Joint Coordination & Monitoring Committee, which is bringing together organizations such as Dairy Development, the Veterinary Department, the public health departments in Assam, the Guwahati Municipal Corporation, the Assam Rural Infrastructure & Agricultural Services Society, and ILRI.

ILRI’s participation in this initiative is part of a project, ‘Improvement of the traditional dairy value chains in Assam’, partly funded by the UK Department for International Development’s Research-into-Use program. The project aims to increase demand for locally produced, good-quality milk in Assam and the capacity to supply it. Project members are supporting agents involved in the entire peri-urban traditional dairy value chain, from production, to distribution to the sales of safe, high-quality milk and dairy products.

ILRI dairy project office in Guwahati, Assam, India

ILRI has helped the Directorate of Dairy Development to mobilize Assamese dairy producers, suppliers and processors in the traditional sector as well as policymakers to improve the quality of milk delivered to consumers and to strengthen the dairy sector in general. ILRI is a member of a team strengthening the capacity of the local milk producer & milk traders/vendors association and will work with the Directorate of Dairy Development on a Joint Coordination and Monitoring Committee to monitor the ways that the lessons imparted to the milk traders are implemented and adapted.

Asif Bin Qutub, a project coordinator with ILRI in India and one of the trainers in this course, said that: ‘This training addresses trader needs identified after a baseline survey conducted by ILRI showed that most of the traders had lost potential customers as a result of selling inferior milk due to not following proper milk handling procedures.’

‘The training aims to address other issues as well,’ Qutub said. ‘It provides dealers with information on milk prices and good business practices—information likely to motivate them to improve the quality of the milk they supply to their customers.’

Those trained said their newly acquired knowledge would help them as well as farmers to increase their milk sales, and at higher prices, to reduce their losses from spoilage, and to protect their health and that of their families. They also mentioned that they looked forward to gaining greater approval for their businesses as well as new opportunities.

Sagar Dhakal, vice president of Guwahati’s Milk Suppliers Association, said he and his colleagues had agreed to keep the training materials on display in their offices and to share their training more widely with others in the business.

Those participating in the courses will receive certificates from Assam’s Directorate of Dairy Development and Joint Coordination and Monitoring Committee.

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and Nagaland

With soaring food prices, indigenous peoples in India are going back to raising small local black pigs. With knowledge-based support, they could tap into new market opportunities and double their incomes.
 

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandThis is Nagaland, one of India’s most insecure and poorest states. It is in the country’s mountainous northeast corner. 

Remarkably, even remote villages here are affected by the rising global prices of milk, meat and cereals.

Most Naga ethnic groups have always kept pigs. Pork remains their preferred meat. Now, today’s skyrocketing grain prices mean the small black pigs these tribal peoples keep, which are adapted to local feed resources, have suddenly become more attractive than big white imported pigs, which have to be fed on expensive grain.

 

India: Poverty Statistics

India: Over 300 million people, 27.5% of the population live below the poverty line.

Northeast India is the easternmost region consisting of the Seven Sister States. It is home to 38 million people. The region is linguistically and culturally very distinct from the other states of India and officially recognized as a special category of States.

Nagaland is home to 1.99 million people. 19% of the population or 399,000 people live below the poverty line of which 387,000 live in rural areas.

Assam is home to 26.6 million people. 19.7% of the population or 557,700 people live below the poverty line, 545,000 of them in rural areas.

Poverty statistics source: Government of India Planning Commission (2007) Poverty estimates 2004-05.

Pig income for livelihoods and education 

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and Nagaland


‘Apart from keeping pigs and farming, women like us don’t have any other ways to make money.
 
 

A window of opportunity for small pig farmers


Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandPig farmers in Nagaland and Assam now have a window of opportunity to step up their pig production and sell their native animals across the two states.
But as markets for pigs are getting larger, so is the market chain, making the business of supplying disease free, safe meat increasingly hard for small producers.  On top of that, there are no functioning breeding schemes or feed systems that would allow farmers to intensify.

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandThis lack of quality knowledge is stopping expansion in a rapidly changing industry that could benefit many of the most vulnerable members of society, such as women and children. Without this critical knowledge-based support the opportunity for millions of the world’s poor to climb out of poverty through enhanced pig farming and marketing will be lost.

A local solution for rising prices

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandDevelopment agencies have tried for decades to raise the very low household incomes in Assam and Nagaland. But even though pig keeping is central to the livelihoods of the poor and especially poor women, pig production has seldom been viewed as a development tool for the region.
This is peculiar because until recently local demand for pork was so great that it was profitable for local business people to import large numbers of commercial white pigs from producers in India’s grain states further west.  Animals were being transported 2000-3000 kilometres, at a cost of USD40 each.

But grain-based feeds and transport have both recently shot up in price, adding even more to the cost.  People in Assam and Nagaland are suddenly finding the imported white pigs far too expensive. A new market is growing fast for the local black and cross-bred pigs. Because these native animals can be fed mostly on low-cost feed crops and crop wastes, they are an ideal solution to fill the new pork and piglet supply gap. 

Knowledge-based support needed to tap into fast changing markets


Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandHowever because markets are changing so fast smallholder farmers can no longer make it alone.  They lack access to information and resources, linkages to health and breeding services, business support, and feeding systems.  All these are vital if they are to expand while also meeting increasingly demanding new health and safety standards. This short-term opportunity is ready-made for success. The pigs are there, the demand is there, and farmers ambitious to grow their pig enterprises are also there.

With relevant knowledge and training, both of which ILRI with its national partners are ready to provide, most tribal households in these states could boost their herd sizes and double their incomes sustainably and in a cost-effective way over the next 5–10 years.

Without support, millions of people will increasingly suffer poverty, conflicts, and the loss of dignity that goes with forced migration to cities. However, with help, they can maintain the traditional livelihoods that sustain communities and generate prosperity.

ILRI’s representative for Asia, Iain Wright, says ‘We are working with national partners to gain support for helping poor people seize this big pig marketing opportunity in Nagaland, Assam and other northeast states.

‘We have recently started a project with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the School of Agricultural Science and Rural Development, Nagaland University, to implement a programe of research to improve the production and marketing of pigs in selected villages in Mon District, Nagaland. We’re also looking at working on similar projects with national partners in other notheastern states’, says Wright.

Background information:
The Nagaland pig production and marketing project is funded by the National Agricultural Innovation Project with a contribution from the International Fund for Agricultural Development and aims to develop sustainable solutions to livelihood improvement in one of the poorest districts in India.

 

New strategy for pro-poor dairy development in Assam

ILRI and partners recently unveiled a new action plan to help the poor in Assam improve their livelihoods through the dairy sector.

Assam is located in the far North-East corner of India and shares its borders with six Indian States and two countries. The majority of milk is produced by rural smallholders using indigenous cattle and buffalo, but productivity is low in comparison with other States in India. Further, most milk is marketed through traditional and informal channels, estimated at 97% of locally marketed milk, compared to some 80% nationally.  In spite of these constraints, Assam displays strong production potential and inadequate milk supply, so there are many opportunities to grow the dairy sector and help the poor improve their livelihoods.

In 2005, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was invited by the Directorate of Dairy Development (DDD) of the Government of Assam, to collaborate in a comprehensive study on the dairy sector in Assam to identify opportunities to boost the milk sector and improve the livelihoods of smallholder producers.

About Assam

Assam is situated in the far, North-East corner of India. The total geographical area of the State is 78,438 sq kms which accounts for about 2.4% of the country’s total geographical area. In 2001, the population of Assam stood at 26.64 million – representing 2.59% of the total population of India.

The percentage of poor in Assam is the highest among the seven sister States of the North East. Around 36.09% of the State’s population continues to live below the poverty line, a figure considerably above the national average of 26.1% (1999-2000). There is a rural-urban divide: four out of ten people in rural Assam are likely to be below the poverty line, while in urban Assam, the incidence is less than one in ten.

Cattle constitute the largest livestock group followed by goats, pigs and buffaloes. Livestock in Assam are mainly indigenous breeds but the average productivity is poor in comparison with other States of India. The production of milk in Assam in 2002-2003 was estimated at 773 million litres as against 750 million litres in 2001-2002 indicating a nominal increase of 3.06 per cent over.

Action plan presented to stakeholders
On Wednesday 30th May, ILRI and the DDD presented their findings and a draft action at a final stakeholders’ meeting in the Assam capital Guwahati convened by the Assam Minister for Animal Husbandry and Veterinary, the Hon. Khori Singh Enghti. The action plan is based on surveys of 1500 consumers, 600 traditional and formal market agents and 3000 dairy producers in eight districts of Assam. It also includes an analysis of the successes and failures in the formal sector in Assam and an analysis of the quality and safety of milk and dairy products in both the traditional and formal sectors. The data were gathered and analyzed in collaboration with local partners in Assam.

New Strategy for Pro-Poor Dairy Development

Assam Action Plan Highlights

Demand outstrips supply
The report found dairy production to be a feasible option for raising incomes and improving livelihood opportunities, particularly for the rural poor. According to Steve Staal, ILRI’s markets theme director, ‘Our study shows that there is a huge gap between demand and supply. To meet the demand, which is mostly for good quality raw milk, dairy interventions that address productivity, access to livestock services and markets, and improved milk quality in the traditional sector, would result in more income and more employment for rural smallholders.’

Improved productivity and increased production essential
Besides large market potential in rural Assam, the survey also found many farmers expressed a desire to become involved in increased marketed milk production, but low milk yields and lack of a basic marketing infrastructure were identified as major obstacles. The action plan highlights opportunities to increase farm-level production and productivity through improved animals such as cross-breeds, improved fodder and feed technology, and by providing access to livestock services. The action plan also incorporates actions to provide smallholder access to reliable markets to absorb more milk at remunerative prices. The government of Assam have already made efforts to bring smallholders into collective market mechanisms, but marketing of milk through the processed milk channel remains relatively insignificant and smallholders receive little remuneration.

Pro-poor interventions critical
The plan highlights that dairy systems in Assam may be too diverse to have a singular policy thrust. It states: ‘We need to recognize such diversities of the system and place them within pro-poor dairy intervention designs and enable poor households to take part in the process.’

According to the report, no dairy development is possible in Assam unless it addresses the problems faced by the traditional sector. Most of the milk consumed in Assam is ‘raw’ unpasteurized milk supplied by smallholders. The survey found that demand for pasteurised milk was low and its consumption was limited almost entirely to urban areas. Staal emphasised the need for an inclusive plan ‘Any development plan that focused mostly on pasteurised milk is unlikely to yield the desired results. The idea is not to have a parallel competitive system to beat the traditional sector but to strengthen the existing system and help build a blend of modern infrastructure and professionalism.’

Quality standards to be raised
The report also highlights the need to raise quality and hygiene standards. According to Delia Grace, an epidemiologist and food safety specialist at ILRI, ‘Most of the samples analysed did not meet general bacteriological quality standards causing a potential risk to human health. There is an urgent need to create awareness among farmers and distributors to address the problem.’ The report suggests taking immediate steps to provide training packages to milk farmers and distributors and to raise awareness among consumers that all ‘raw’ milk should be boiled before consumption – a practice that is generally followed in Assam.

Assam action plan soon ready for implementation
According to Iain Wright, ILRI’s representative for Asia ‘the report was well received by stakeholders and we are currently incorporating their comments. The final action plan will be released within a month.’

ILRI Assam Dairy Project Staff

Liza and Patro