Livestock Research for Rural Development 23 (7) 2011 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

The constraints and potentials of pig production among communal farmers in Etayi Constituency of Namibia

N P Petrus, I Mpofu, M B Schneider and M Nepembe*

University of Namibia, Neudamm Campus
Private Bag 13301, Pioneerspark, Windhoek, Namibia   or
* Ogongo Campus, Department of Animal Science, Private Bag 13301, Pioneerspark, Windhoek, Namibia


A baseline survey was carried out in the Etayi Constituency of Namibia to determine the pig production constraints and potentials among smallholder farmers. A structured questionnaire was administered through random sampling.

Results showed that smallholder pig production formed an important source of nutrition and emergency cash among the communal farmers. Farmers kept an average herd size of 2.3. The motivation for keeping pigs ranged from income generation, home consumption to keeping them because it is a family tradition passed on from one generation to another. The major challenges faced by pig farmers in Etayi Constituency were poor nutrition, husbandry skills due to lack of extension services, diseases and lack of access to lucrative markets. The majority of farmers felt that pig production had a potential if they could get enough training on husbandry techniques and also if they could get help in acquiring better feed and good quality breeds to expand their units. The study served to show that communal farmers are sitting on huge potential sources of animal protein and potential revenue generation avenue that can improve their livelihoods in a sustainable manner. Livelihoods could be enhanced in the areas of improved access to money to pay for school fees and to buy basics like food, clothes and improve their shelter. This has an effect on helping Namibia to attain Millennium Development Goals on poverty reduction.

Key words: livelihoods, nutrition, smallholder, poverty reduction, scavenging pigs


Pig production has an immense growth potential in Namibia. Besides providing protein, pig meat is frequently fatty and is a source of animal fat - a product with many uses. The role of pig production begins on the farm where pigs are reared and integrated harmoniously with other livestock and crop enterprises. Apart from the farm, the pig’s contribution can also be felt at the national economy level. 

Pigs mostly found in the rural areas are variously referred to as native, scavenging, indigenous, and local or village pigs. These terms are used to distinguish them from the more exotic breeds reared under intensive commercial production systems. In the Etayi Constituency of Namibia, the majority of the people subsist on livestock-based livelihoods. These livestock production activities are not specialized stand-alone economic activities but are closely integrated with other agricultural endeavors like crop production. Native pigs are a common site but it is apparent that the known high turn over rate of pig production is not being taken advantage of due to a myriad of constraints; hence limiting the potential contribution that pigs can make to sustainable livelihoods. 

The scavenging pig has been rightfully or wrongly described as a dirty animal, an object of distaste and a parasite trafficker to humans. When kept under well-managed confined conditions, the pig is the exact opposite of the above description (Mpofu and Makuza 2003). Local pigs have been documented by several authors as important assets because they improve livelihoods of rural farmers (Mhlanga 2002; Drucker and Anderson 2004). According to Zanga et al (2003) indigenous pigs are well adapted to tropical conditions as they are adapted to local production conditions and environments. They are also less susceptible to common diseases and parasites. In addition, the local breeds have the ability to survive long periods of feed and water deprivation (Drucker and Anderson 2004) compared to exotic breeds.  According to Holness (1999), native pigs are generally hardy, and can survive and reproduce on low plane of nutrition. 

Generally, the inadequacy of food for humans in most developing countries is a limitation to pig production. This is in view of the fact that pigs are simple stomached animals and thus will compete with humans for the staple grains and oilseeds. Raising pigs on a commercial basis thus require farmers to produce more grain than they need for their own consumption and this calls for increased inputs into the crop enterprise. 

In China, the “one pig for every Chinese” policy has created opportunities for smallholder farmers to produce enough protein sources for families and for surplus sale. This policy was put into practical operation by addressing farmers’ constraints and challenges and opening up opportunities for farmers to remain interested and inspired to keep and rear pigs using modern husbandry techniques. It is such success stories that inspired the enactment of this research with the hope that Chinese success can be replicated in a developing African country like Namibia. 

The objective of the study was to obtain baseline information about specific aspects on pig production constraints and challenges that farmers face in their mixed crop livestock smallholder production systems. The areas addressed included feeding systems, herd health management, marketing and the farmers’ general attitudes and perceptions as regards pigs as a potential vehicle for sustainable livelihoods. 

Material and Methods

 This study covered a large constituency called, Etayi in the Northern Communal Areas of Namibia.

Sources of Data

The secondary data consisted of annual reports produced by the Extension Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry. It was mainly used to provide an insight into the level of awareness, attitudes and practices among the smallholder pig owners about problems affecting the communal farmers in Namibia. Secondary data also provided an insight into national statistics on pig production. 

In-depth Interviews

In depth interviews were held with key informants from the Extension Directorate who gave valuable suggestions on how to conduct the survey. The interviews enabled the researches to solicit views regarding developmental policies, viability problems encountered in pig farming and possible solutions. The views and ideas, which were presented by these key informants, are incorporated under the major findings and recommendations.

Primary data

A pilot study was conducted to pre-test the effectiveness of the main research instrument being the structured questionnaire. The questionnaire was also pre-tested to determine the reliability and validity of the explorative questions. It also gave the researchers and the enumerators an opportunity to experience how respondents would react to the probing questions.



The questionnaire comprised a combination of open-ended and closed-ended questions. Questionnaires were administered on a face to face basis. The face to face interviews were considered most appropriate, as most farmers were able to provide all the valuable information incorporating non verbal communication. 

Research Design and Data collection

The research design was the exploratory research (face to face interviews) where 46 communal pig owners in Etayi Constituency were sampled at random. The constituency is large and was first divided into 4 clusters being villages. In each cluster, at least 10 pig owners were sampled. 

Results and discussion

Herd size and husbandry practices

The study revealed that rearing pigs in the rural areas is a matter for the whole family. This means that when it comes to feeding both adults and children, especially women and girls participated in the feeding routines of their pigs. Wives and young girls constituted 57% and 39% of the carers of pigs. The average herd size was 2.3 pigs ranging from 1 to 10 pigs per household (Table 1.). There was a clear indication that most of the respondents (98%) fed their animals on home remnants and allowed them to scavenge. At least 60% of the farmers gave watermelons and water melons’ leaves, 60% also gave their pigs millet bran (locally known as mahangu bran), while 53% of the farmers indicated that they also fed pigs on products of local beer brewing, known as omalovu or tombos (Figure 1). This indicates that rural farmers fed their pigs on what was available without regard to their age sex and their production stages. This also shows that feed availability is the first and key constraint to small-scale pig production.

Figure 1. The popular feeds used by small-scale pig farmers

 Feedstuffs such as watermelons are said to be seasonal, therefore, farmers could only feed pigs with watermelon and water melon leaves during rainy seasons. Water melons are known to boost libido in male pigs and if farmers institute a directed feeding of the boars, there is a possibility that they can improve on farrowing index and possible litter size. It was also observed that the majority of farmers (74.4%) provided feed to their pigs twice a day while the remainder (25.6 %) fed pigs one meal per day. 

Purpose of rearing pigs

The general observation during the survey was that pig farming among the rural farmers was a part-time activity. Farmers kept an array of animal species that included chickens, goats, cattle and donkeys. In this study, farmers did not rear pigs for specific economic reasons. The motives of keeping pigs differed from one farmer to another. About 63% of the farmers indicated that they reared pigs for both income generation and home consumptions while the remainder (27%) reared pigs as a tradition carried over from the previous generations.  Sale of pigs and home consumption only occurred in cases of emergency need for cash. Generally, farmers consumed pigs during celebrations on Christmas day, weddings and marriage ceremonies. Overall, farmers slaughtered their pigs when unexpected needs occurred or when particular farmers had nothing to feed their pigs.

Acquisition of new breeding stock

As shown in Table 1, farmers said that they obtained their breeding stock from their neighbors or relatives while other respondents indicated they bought their stock from the University of Namibia’s Ogongo campus. In addition, most farmers (at least 80%) did not make use of the improved breeding stock. Instead they made use of their own stock, their neighbors’ and that of close relatives resulting in a rise in inbreeding depression, in agreement with Ajala et al (2007). 

Table 1. Distribution of pigs by herd size and sources of parent stocks

Herd size

Frequency of respondents

% of respondents







6- 10



Source of parent stock



Neighbors/ relatives






Ogongo Campus



 The use of improved breeds in developing countries present farmers with a major challenge, as these breeds require intensive management for them to realize their full production potential. Some farmers prefer the indigenous breeds because they are tolerant to diseases and utilize feed of low nutrient density to produce good quality meat and perform well even without very sophisticated management. Combining the desirable traits of the indigenous and the exotic breeds by crossbreeding might give an improved pig breed with lower input requirements. 

Marketing Systems

Pigs were sold at different ages or sizes and marketing channels varied among the respondents. The marketing channels utilized by the farmers are summarized in Figure 2. Although the sale prices depended on the time, age, and size of pigs, the overall pig marketing systems in all the rural households visited in the constituency were found to be generally exploitative, collusive and economically inefficient. For instance, if a farmer is in dare need of the money or if the farmer does not have enough food to feed the pigs she/he may chose to sell at a giveaway price. This means the farmer has little influence on the price. Pig producers do not weigh their animals, so actual live weights of pigs were not known at the time of sale. This is so because at village level, retail traders visit the homes of pig farmers to buy pigs in small numbers such as one or two.

Figure 2. The pig marketing channels used by farmers in Etayi Constituency

Table 2 shows the marketing constraints identified by farmers. Farmers observed that prices were not all that favorable. This is a result of the poor body condition scores of the animals observed by the researchers. Farmers also indicated that they struggled to get extension services and customers. They also had no access to micro-finance or credit to enable them to expand their herd sizes.

Table 2. Marketing constraints identified




Low prices



Lack of extension services



Lack of buyers



No problem



Lack of feed



Lack of capital



Another factor which was observed in the research areas is that farmers who sold live pigs did not own vehicles for transportation; instead they used the services of other transporters and paid animal transportation costs which eroded their income.  

Generally, smallholder farmers in the developing world have limited expertise resulting in poor management and planning of pig enterprises. This lack of technical know-how is a common problem and is coupled with a general lack of supporting services (Steinfeld and Mac 1997). This could be rectified mainly by an improvement in extension services, making available credit facilities and by improving communication networks (roads and telephones). Poor road infrastructure brings about transport problems and pig producers far from their markets, cannot exploit the market potential provided by various meat processing companies that utilize pig meat resulting in viability problems. 

Production parameters

The majority (88%) of farmers owned 1-2 sow herds and litter size ranged from 4 to7. In most cases sows were reported to farrow once per year with a few indicating a farrowing index of 2 (i.e. farrowing twice per year). This is consistent with Nsoso et al (2006) and Holness (1999). These results show that the productivity of the unimproved pig breeds in smallholder farming areas is influenced by their environment, which in this case is the traditional management system employed by the farmers. Environmental factors important in this case are nutrition, diseases, climate and managerial techniques. 

Health status of pigs and disease control measures

Over 99% of the respondents said they were either not aware or did not experience any kind of disease while the remainder reported that very often mange occurred in pigs. Treatment of mange involved the use of a common disinfectant called Dettol to wash out the scabs. Vaccination was none existent mainly because of lack of knowledge on its importance. Some respondents were surprised that pigs could be vaccinated. However, a high incidence of mortalities was reported among the piglets which indicated disease challenges. The actual causes could not be established from the farmers themselves because of lack of veterinary service in the area. About 10% of the respondents indicated that some sows cannibalized their offspring soon after birth and that some piglets died due to crushing by the dams (their mothers). These incidences could be due to lack of proper farrowing house fitted with creep or farrowing crates.

Potential of Pig Production in the smallholder farming areas

Compared to other livestock, the pig has some major potential that include:

The numerous potential advantages of pig production in Namibia indicate that smallholder farmers stand to benefit a great deal from a well supported pig farming activity. Effective extension services by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry will assist farmers to help themselves. In this way the communal farming communities will contribute to the attainment of Millennium Development Goal No. 1, ie, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. 



The researchers are grateful to the farmers of the Etayi Constituency of Namibia for sparing their time during the questionnaire administration. The work had the generous financial and logistic support from The University of Namibia (UNAM). 


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Received 11 October 2010; Accepted 26 January 2011; Published 1 July 2011

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