Transformation of life and livelihood: The success story of Manpai Konyak, Indian pig farmer

Nagaland pig farmer Manpai Konyak

Manpai Konyak with his sow in Lampongsheanghah Village, Mon District, Nagaland, India (image credit: ILRI/Ram Deka).

Manpai Konyak, a 52-year-old married father of six children, attended elementary school up to class V. All his children used to go to school but two have now left. Konyak and his family reside in a small house made of bamboo and leaves built on a hillside in Lampongsheangha Village, in the Mon District of the state of Nagaland, situated in India’s far northeastern corner. Konyak is a beneficiary of the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) of the Indian Council on Agricultural Research (ICAR), which is being implemented by ICAR and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

This is Konyak’s story.

Konyak’s livelihood before the NAIP project intervention
Manpai Konyak is a very poor farmer who cultivates three jhum, or slash-and-burn, fields of paddy rice, maize, millet, colocacia, tapioca, vegetables, and so on. He rotates his jhum plots, each constituting 1–1.5 hectares, every 3–5 years. His plot yields were very low because they were neither irrigated nor fertilized. Konyak’s agricultural production met the food requirements of his household for only four months or so a year, with the family facing acute shortages of food over the other eight months of the year. In addition to farming, Konyak used to earn a small daily wage from labouring, or collecting firewood, or collecting leaves from the forest for making brooms. Daily wages in Lampongsheangh Village were only Indian rupees 50 per day (about USD1), and that was only available to him seasonally. In the off-season, he sold firewood (Rs25 per bundle) or brooms (Rs3 per broom). Konyak also kept some indigenous animal stock: usually 1 pig, 3 cows and 5–7 chickens. He earned Rs7000–9000 every 3–4 years when he sold a fattened pig, as well as about Rs400–500 a year by selling 2–3 chickens.

The pig system of Manapai Konyak before the NAIP project intervention
Konyak raised his small native pig in his backyard. He fed it waste from the household kitchen and forages collected from the nearby forest. At first he raised his pigs in the open, with no shed for them, but after a local ban was placed on free-ranging pig production systems, he started rearing his pig in a small (3 ft x 4 ft) enclosure constructed out of tree stems and leaves. He had no access to government, private or community veterinary services and in the absence of such services, most diseased pigs in the village died without treatment. It took Konyak 3–4 years to grow a pig to a weight of 70–80 kg. In the absence of any markets, he used to slaughter or sell a pig within the village every 3 to 4 years, usually during Christmas or Aaoling festivals, earning Rs7000–9000 (USD139–179) each time. Konyak’s wife helped him manage his pigs, but they gave little attention to the animals, as the little income they got from raising them didn’t justify much labour on their part. And in any case, Konyak and his wife had little understanding of good piggery management, and their lack of knowledge and confidence meant they never tried to rear cross-bred pigs for breeding purposes.

What ILRI worked to do under NAIP with Konyak and other small-scale pig producers
ILRI started to work in Konyak’s Lampongsheangh Village in early 2008, when ILRI staff visited the village and talked to some of the pig producers about their pig production practices, their problems and scope for improvement. The ILRI staff worked with the community to develop ideas for simple interventions that could  improve the village’s pig production and marketing. The villagers and ILRI staff then finalized activities and action plans for implementation. Konyak, like many others, took an active part in these discussions and helped design the following intervention plans, which the villagers then jointly implemented with ILRI staff.

Pig systems used after NAIP project intervention
Konyak is one of the first people to benefit from the Pass-on-the-Gift scheme implemented by ILRI under NAIP. He attended training on self-help group management, pig management and fodder cultivation delivered by ILRI. He participated in an exposure visit to Dimapur to observe pig management systems and attend a motivational program. These trainings have built his confidence in managing improved pigs for breeding and motivated him to invest more time and energy in managing his pigs. He realized that his piggery operatons could be an importance source of income for him and could transform his livelihood. He thus attended all the training programs and worked to follow all the recommendations made by ILRI. After being trained, ILRI project staff gave him a good-quality Large Black cross-bred female piglet in Sep 2009. As per the precondition, he constructed, with his own investment, a pig sty in a slightly elevated area that had good sunlight and no waterlogging. The shed he built was of sufficient size (8 x 10 ft) to accommodate one sow and her piglets. He used good-quality locally available materials to ensure his pig shed was durable. A drain and two manure pits were constructed for easy drainage of the pig waste. The pigs and shed were regularly cleaned to prevent the spread of diseases. (Konyak commented that his pig sty ‘was very dirty prior to the NAIP interventions, but now one can take food or go for sleeping in the pig sty’.) Konyak began to cultivate sweet potato, tapioca, colocacia and maize in a small area in his backyard. He and his wife no longer have to collect forages from the forest with which to feed their pigs, but rather cut and carry their home-grown forages to their pigs. Konyak supplements his forages with some bought concentrates, especially when his sows are pregnant and lactating. If Konyak observes any abnormality in his pigs, he now immediately contacts his local livestock service provider for advice on treating the animal(s). This local service provider visits Konyak’s farm and other farms at least once a week to advise the pig farmers about improved pig production practices and regularly provides them with deworming drugs, liver tonic and mineral and vitamin mixtures.  While Konyak formerly spent much of his time on unproductive work, and spent little time looking after his pigs, he now invests a lot of time in his pig rearing, and enjoys taking good care of his sows and piglets.

Impacts of the project on Konyak’s life
Whereas Konyak used to have to work for a daily wage quite frequently, he now does so rarely. The period during which his household experiences a food shortage has shrunk from 8 to 4 months. He is now living a much more comfortable life than ever before. He has bought a new cell phone and pays the school fees of his school-going children regularly. He recently purchased iron sheets and other construction materials to build a new house for his family. And his new awareness of the need to maintain clean and hygienic pig-keeping practices not only motivated him to keep his pig sty clean but also to improve the personal health and hygiene of his family.

Konyak’s future plans
After completing construction of his new house, Konyak says he would like to improve his pig sty further. He plans to make the floor of the sty concrete and to put a tin roof over the pen. He also plans to increase the number of sows he keeps from 2 to 5 over the next 2–3 years. Konyak is also taking the lead in installing a feed grinding machine in his village, with technical support from ILRI, and has already collected from his community Rs26,000 for this purpose.

Economic outcome of the interventions
The piglet ILRI supplied to Konyak grew well and was mated with a boar reared by another farmer participating in the project. The pig delivered 7 piglets in Oct 2010; 3 died due to lack of milk by the sow. Of the 4 survivors, Konyak gave one to his down-line beneficiary as a gift, as per the condition of the Pass-on-the-Gift scheme, and sold the other three for Rs2000 each in the village. The sow farrowed twice again in 2011, producing 11 and 9 piglets, respectively. Out of these, 1 piglet died and Konyak kept 1 as replacement stock and sold the remaining 18 in the village for Rs2000 per piglet, thus earning  Rs36,000 (USD714). In management his sow, Konyak spent about Rs1600 in 2011, giving him a profit in 2011 of about Rs34,400 (USD680) excluding the cost of labour. Considering the price of the piglet (Rs2000, and note that he received the first piglet free in 2009 from the project) and the cost of managing the pig in 2009–2010, Konyak’s total pig expenses came to some Rs5400, with his total earning during this period about Rs42,000, leaving him with a total profit of about Rs36,600 (USD726) over the two-year period.

Konyak has no problems selling his piglets. Many of the farmers from his village and neighbouring villages book the piglets in advance. Other pig farmers in the village, like Konyak, are now rearing pigs for breeding under the NAIP project, and all of this is transforming the village into a major piglet-producing village in the area. The villagers consider the project to be a great success because before the start of the project the village had no pig breeder, forcing them to buy piglets from visiting traders or farmers outside their village.

With the help of NAIP, Konyak has become one of the most progressive pig breeders in Lampongsheangha Village. He now encourages other farmers to rear and sell cross-bred pigs for breeding. Konyak says that good breeding, feeding, housing and veterinary care, coupled with his improved knowledge on pig management, have helped him to transform his subsistence pig system into a profitable one.

Read more on the ILRI News Blog about ILRI’s pig research in Nagaland.

Read an ILRI report: Improving the livelihoods of small-scale pig producers in Northeast India: An integrated, people-centred approach, by Ram Deka and Iain Wright. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI, 2011.


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

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.