Addressing Uganda’s pig value chain constraints, the PigSmart way

Improved pigs on a farm in Hoima district (photo: ILRI/Karen Marshall).

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is implementing a Uganda priority country project to address specific constraints in the pig value chain. The ‘Improving pig productivity and incomes through an environmentally sustainable and gender-inclusive integrated intervention package’ project, which is also known as ‘MorePORK II’ focuses on developing the capacity of value chain actors in best-bet interventions through an information and communications and technology (ICT) platform known as PigSmart.

The PigSmart platform is an ecosystem of digital players and contributors working towards efficiency, quality of pigs, profits, and cost reduction among other aspects in the value chain. It links smallholder pig farmers to quality-controlled input and service providers and offers a two-way flow of information that also enhances extension work.

The project’s main aim is to improve the livelihoods of women and men farmers through a market systems approach, which supports stronger and more profitable market links between pig buyers and producers. PigSmart is a tool intended to enhance and strengthen these linkages.

This is achieved through market arrangement approaches that also strengthen links between producers and inputs and service suppliers, thereby incentivizing adoption, by value chain actors, of the integrated productivity-enhancing integrated ‘best-bet’ interventions that are pre-tested through the research program.

The best-bet interventions in the PigSmart innovation are designed and availed to all value chain actors. These include best practices in information and education products and tools such as the feed calculator, disease reporting channels and information technologies on herd health, community-based artificial insemination, improved forages, manure management, heat stress and a business model for improved commercial feeds through training and certification. Extension services are enhanced digitally on multiple channels – Short Message Service (SMS), interactive voice response (IVR) and video. The project envisages that the PigSmart partnerships will attract private sector digital players into the pig value chain so that farmers and other value chain actors can also benefit from the efficiency and other products that these solutions already provide to other livestock value chains.

Key problems being addressed

  • Lack of access to timely and appropriate extension services and quality inputs.
  • Limited knowledge of best practices in husbandry, disease prevention and control, poor access to quality veterinary inputs such as drugs, including use of antimicrobials.
  • Poor disease management, inadequate feeding and hygienic practices.
  • Existing main channels of information to pig farmers do not necessarily ensure farmers access information to resolve their problems.
  • Inability of the current channels such as face-to-face and training workshops and seminars to deliver information efficiently.
  • Farmer’s failure to act on the information received during face-to-face meetings and training workshops.
  • Lack of information by farmers and extension officers to better enhance the pig value chain processes.
  • Poor access to market information.
  • Poor quality commercial feeds on the market.

Examples of the PigSmart digital innovations

Innovation typeInnovation description and functions
The feed calculator is a mobile-based app that computes least cost and balanced feed for livestock based on the local feed ingredients available to a farmer. The app is used for training extension staff and village agents on formulating feed based on local feed ingredients rather than commercial feed ingredients. The solution can help change the farmer’s mind-set on pig feeding from the belief that pigs eat too much and shift practices from reliance on commercial feed concentrates to use of local ingredients with similar outcomes in growth rate and pork quality among other variables.
The gross margin calculator, which is dubbed AgriTechTalk International, targets farmers with the help of village-based agents to calculate basic input and output costs on their pig farm enterprises. The objective is to instill farming as a business which has knock-on effects on efforts towards reducing costs by improving efficiency in farming practices.
The Akorion Company Limited, which is also known as EzyAgric, focuses on digitizing the agricultural value chain to efficiently deliver production, financial and market information and bundled services. This is done through the EzyAgric App that serves as both a hub for knowledge and an e-commerce for production, produce marketing and access to finance. It is data-driven and inclusive, enabling inputs and product demand reports and facilitates record management at cooperative or group level. Using a network of community-based enterprises (EzyAgric market agents) and individuals (EzyAgric village agents), this solution aggregates farmer demand for inputs and delivers the same at a competitive market rate from a quality-assured source thereby linking farmers and groups to cheaper and quality assured inputs and services. This digital solution strengthens the overall pig value chain system.

With such innovations in use, it is expected that pig farmers in Uganda will increase productivity in quantity and quality, reduce costs and increase their income as a result of better access to timely, relevant and actionable information besides quality-controlled inputs and services.