Monday, September 21, 2015

Pig value chain in Uganda : a stake for smallholders?

In one week, i will be returning to Hoima, Uganda to work with policy maker and other key decision makers involved in ILRI's Uganda Pig projects, to work on an environmental decision making support tool. Time to finish the reporting of the last trip.

group photo at the end of the Hoima trip

We went trough Hoima visiting small farmers such as John the model farm of Devenish, and continued crossing this landscape thinking about the stake of the smallholder.

How will this system evolve? In Europe pigs are kept by large farmers keeping thousands of pigs, what dynamics will prevent this phenomenon in Hoima? What is the comparative advantage of the smallholder?

At the consumer level there is no difference between pig meat from a big commercial farmer or a smallholder. So the price for both products will be the same. Commercial farmers will feed their pigs with commercial feeds that is and probably will remain expensive. That's why the commercial farmer will need to increase drastically the number of animal he keeps in order to benefit returns to scale. Are we still talking of a smallholder, when he owns two hundred animals?

The "real smallholder", the farmer that closes the environmental cycle, combines crops with livestock smartly without huge "industrial-like" investment and yet produces food surpluses in this world will only have a comparative advantage if his feeds are cheaper than the commercial/industrial farmer and therefore can compete. Using agricultural waste, such as crop residue efficiently to feed pig "for free" is one way to support the smallholder competitiveness, but in this world smallholder will not have plenty of pigs, but an optimal number corresponding to the amount of waste such as crop residue they produce on farm. So pigs will not support the poorest who have almost no land, as they also will not have the comparative advantage of free fodder.

A reflection to keep in mind as we are now preparing for the policy and decision maker workshop to parametrize our ex-ante environmental assessment tool for the area in the upcoming weeks! So follow the posts from my up-coming Uganda trip to discover more!

In the meantime, let me thank Robert and Emily from the ILRI office in Kampala for the smooth organization of this trip, and my whole team for the talk and reflections around the pig value chain in Uganda.

Friday, September 18, 2015

How will your life look like by 2050?

Recently i have been quite involved in doing foresight work, i.e understanding how we will be living in 2050. What will be the role of a smallholder? Where will food production take place? What environmental impacts will changes bring?

What i have learned over the last year analyzing data and traveling the developing world is that food production, and more particularly livestock keeping in not something rural, it is found all over including the high end areas of Nairobi. The biggest changes up to 2050 will be expected at the urban-rural fringe, where there is still space to produce at commercial or even industrial scales and where ways to reach the market both in terms of consumers and in terms of input (commercial feeds, veterinary services) in a short time.

Deepening myself into the topic, i found the shell new lenses on cities, showing how cities will change over the next decenies. They found 6 categories of cities around the world, offering us a new base to think about the urban-rural divide and its up coming developments : how will food be brought to people into each of these types of cities? what will be the role of agricultural production within the boundaries of these cities? And how will its suburb be organized?

A fascinating topic that hopefully we will take up soon. In the meantime get your own copy of the shell new lenses on cities here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Can sutainable intensification go together with developing a pig value chain?

In my last trip to Uganda, we visited the Devenish project, a model pig farm funded by IrishAid. The project, bring new breed of pigs. The farm is currently functioning at 1/3 of its capacity, with about 30 pigs for breedings. Piglets are sold to farmers.

The farm manager mentioned that their major issue is manure management. The lagoon is already almost full in the few months of operation at 1/3 capacity. The manure is mixed with the water used for cleaning, and is stored in the open lagoon, which produces a lot of green house gazes that could actually be managed (for example with a biodigester).

The lagoon is too small for the farm, also because local farmer do not come and pick the free manure. Indeed local farmer have no idea on how to use it and it is quite difficult to transport liquid manure.

The most worrying part is soaking pit, where the overflow directly infiltrates next to the borehole for drinking water...
It is not very clear to what extend this is a problem at this stage, but in a near future ground water pollution could become a serious problem, especially if the pig intensification is about to bring up more bigger farms.
Better manure management is therefore critical and our team is looking into testing biodigesters in theses systems. A story to follow!