When Devenish Nutrition first investigated the potential of the Ugandan market in 2013, farmers in Hoima, Western Uganda, were taking nine months to rear a pig to a kill weight of 50kg. Now, on the back of initiatives to improve nutrition and breeding, pigs are reaching an average weight of 85kg after six months.
“This is what good nutrition and genetics can bring. We have brought both of these into the Ugandan pig industry,” Michael Maguire, Devenish’s East African director, told FeedNavigator.
He explained: “Nutritionally, the pigs were challenged because their feed was so restricted. Farmers couldn’t access quality feed – what they were getting was an adulteration of what they thought they were getting. They were using maize hulls and taking the rest of the product out for human consumption. They didn’t realize that to get growth and performance, they needed to give their animals quality feed.”
Voyage of discovery
Maguire first visited Uganda in 2013 to evaluate the opportunities to supply the country’s pig industry. However, on discovering the market was “so underdeveloped, producers wouldn’t get the benefits”, Devenish decided to “assist with the development of the market, rather than waiting for it to establish itself”.
Devenish began the project in June 2013, supported by the Africa Agri-Development Fund and the Departments of Agriculture and Foreign Affairs and Trade in the Republic of Ireland. The Belfast-based firm has since invested €1m in Uganda, which equates to 75% of the total project spend.
“We see it as a good long term investment. If we can engage other companies we can leave a lasting footprint and in time, build up a strong business on the back of it,” said Maguire.
Feeding and breeding
The transformation of Western Uganda’s pig production in the last five years from subsistence to sustainable commercial farming has been achieved by focusing on two key inputs into progressive smallholder farmers: feeding and breeding. To this end, Devenish has established a model pig farm and a feed mill in Hoima.
Maguire described the feed mill as basic and small by European standards, with a capacity of 80 metric tons per week and “grind and mix” set up, but said that a highly mechanized operation would not work in Uganda. The mill is processing maize and soy, bought from farmers and co-operatives and combined with premixes imported from Devenish’s Irish factory.
Soy is a new feed source for Uganda’s pig farmers, who were almost exclusively using maize. Devenish has educated farmers on the benefits of soy, both in terms of providing a high protein feed source and helping soil usage by releasing nitrogen into the ground.
“Over 75% of people in Uganda are farmers so they are already growing their own maize. Introducing soy gives them two crops a year as there are two rainy seasons. Provided they know there is a market for a crop, they will grow it,” said Maguire.
The project is gradually improving the genetics of animals via a model pig farm that supplies breeding stock to the 20 small scale farmers who are making the transition to progressive pig producers.
“Our target with the feed mill and the model pig farm is that they will reach a point of being self-supporting,” explained Maguire.
Devenish is already looking to other under-developed markets to replicate this model and Maguire named Kenya as a likely target.
“We are looking very closely at Kenya at the moment and hope to invest there in the coming months. We look at this as our emerging market initiative,” he said.