Livestock Research for Rural Development 23 (8) 2011 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Characteristics and production constraints of rural-based small-scale pig farming in Iringa region, Tanzania

E D Karimuribo, S W Chenyambuga*, V W Makene and S Mathias**

Department of Veterinary Medicine and Public Health, Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), P.O. Box 3021 Morogoro, Tanzania
Department of Animal Science and Production, Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), P.O. Box 3004 Morogoro, Tanzania
* The Open University of Tanzania (OUT), Iringa Regional Centre, P.O. Box 23409 Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
** Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT), P.O. Box 2958 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania


A study was carried out in Iringa and Kilolo districts of Iringa region of Tanzania in July 2007. The objective of the study was to characterise pig production system and identify constraints and opportunities of small-scale pig farming. The study farms were purposively selected and included only those farms with pigs (n=41) during the study period. Data collection was based on individual interviews using a questionnaire, examination of animals and animal houses, as well as, direct observations.

Whereas all (100%) households reported livestock keeping and crop farming as their main sources of income, only 31.7% and 14.6% of household heads said they depended on business and salaried employment, respectively. The types of livestock owned by farmers were pigs (97.5%), chicken (75.5%), cattle (17.1%), rabbits and guinea pigs (12.2%) and goats (9.8%). The average number of pigs per household was 2.9±2.0 (ranging from 1 to 8) while that of chicken was 14.5±9.8 (4-56). For the cattle, small stock (rabbits and guinea pigs) and goats, the average number of animals per household was 8.3±9.7, 5.2± 5.5 and 5.0±4.5, respectively. The main basal ration fed to pigs as reported by farmers was maize bran (100%), green leafy materials (12.2%) and vegetable residues (4.9%). Supplementary feeds provided to pigs were mainly sunflower seed cake (38.9%), vegetable residues (19.4%) and minerals (13.9%). The main production constraints identified by farmers included unavailability of animal feeds, inadequate animal health and inadequate extension service and diseases. Important pig diseases and signs of pigs perceived to be important were mange (44%), worm infestation (35%), hind limb paralysis (14%), abortion (4%), cysticercosis (2%) and diarrhoea (1%).

Despite availability of reliable market for pigs in the study area, the average number of pigs kept per farm was very small indicating existence of opportunity for increased pig production which could be sustainable in the area.

Key words: Animal feeds, flock structure, pigs, Tanzania


Pig farming is an important undertaking which provides opportunity as an income generating activity for small-scale farmers, especially in developing countries. This activity is most popular in Africa, Latin America and South East Asia (Costales et al 2007, Huynh et al 2007). The reasons for keeping pigs include provision of protein/meat, dowry and manure for fertilising the soil, particularly for farmers that practice mixed farming.

 Small-scale pig farming is practised in different parts of Tanzania. The pig population is estimated to be 1 129 223 (Ministry of Livestock Development and Fisheries (MLD&F 2006) with skewed distribution. Based on these statistics, the main pig-rearing regions in Tanzania are Mbeya, Iringa, Kilimanjaro, Kagera and Ruvuma.

 A number of studies have reported the most common production constraints of pig farming in developing countries to be high mortality rate, low off take, absence or minimal health care, supplementary feeding and improper housing (Wabacha et al 2004a, Lekule and Kyvsgaard 2003). Previous work in Tanzania identified the major constraints to be diseases (Ngowi et al 2004, Esrony et al 1997, Kambarage et al 1990) and lack of animal feeds (Sarwatt and Lekule 1987). However, there is limited knowledge on production systems and the constraints facing small-scale pig production have not been adequately documented in Tanzania.  The aim of this study was to characterize pig production systems and identify production constraints faced by small-scale pig farming households in Iringa region located in the Southern highlands of Tanzania.

Materials and methods

Study area

The study was conducted in Iringa rural and Kilolo districts in Iringa region. The study areas were chosen after recommendation by Iringa regional and district veterinary officials as they (districts) have relatively large number of small-scale pig farmers. Iringa region is located in the Southern highlands zone of Tanzania. The two districts are located in the eastern and southern part of Iringa region. The human population in Iringa rural and Kilolo district is 245,623 and 222,530 respectively (KDC 2011, NBS 2011, REDET 2011).

This study was conducted in four villages in Iringa rural (Ndiwili) and Kilolo (Kilolo, Luganga and Lulanzi) districts. The villages were purposively selected as they were considered as representative of small-scale pig farming areas by Iringa regional and district livestock development officers. A sampling frame was prepared by listing all farmers in the selected village. This was followed by simple random selection of 50% of farmers in each village using random numbers, and in total 41 smallholder farms were chosen to participate in this study. These small-scale farming households were sampled from Kilolo (13), Luganga (6), Lulanzi (14) and Ndiwili (8) villages.

Data collection

A cross-sectional survey was adopted whereby the selected farms were visited once during July 2007. The majority (73.2%) of respondents (n=41) were males. Other characteristics of the respondents are summarized in Table 1. During the farm visits, a structured questionnaire was used to collect information on production constraints from farmers. The questionnaires were administered using face to face method. The questions focused on identification of production constraints and characterisation of management practices under small-scale pig farming system in Iringa region. Additional information on flock structure, type of feeds available and presence of diseased animals was collected through direct observation.

In order to quantify the magnitude of mortalities on the farms, retrospective information on the number of pigs owned and died in each age category (piglets, growers, sows and boars) within a period of 12 months before the study was collected. Mortality rate was computed as percentage of deaths (irrespective of cause) of all animals that were on study farms during the reference period.

Data analysis

Data were entered and analysed using Epi Info statistical programme (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2008). The data were summarised using descriptive statistics such as percentages, means and frequency tables. A comparison of statistical difference between proportions was carried out using the Chi-squared test.


Household characteristics of pig farmers

A summary of characteristics of household heads and persons interviewed in the study areas is shown in Table 1. The majority of the small-scale farmers in the study villages were of the Hehe tribe followed by the Bena tribe. Other tribes with small number of people included Wakinga, Haya, Ngoni and Waanji. It was also observed that the majority of pig farming households was headed by married person (82.9%). Out of the 34 households headed by married persons, 28 (82.4%) were monogamous families while 6 (17.6%) were polygamous. The majority of the interviewees were household heads who were predominantly males (65.9%). The average age of the interviewees was 38 years (ranged from 18 to 70 years) and the majority had primary school education. It was observed that pig farmers also had other main sources of income including crop farming, keeping other livestock (mainly dairy cattle, chicken, ducks, rabbits and goats), business and a few had salaried employment. Major crops grown by pig farmers were maize, beans, potatoes, sunflower, fruit trees and horticultural crops such as tomatoes and cabbages. The majority of small-scale pig farmers (62.2%) owned a small piece of land (0.41-2.00 hectares) around their homesteads. However, a few of them (6.70%) in Kilolo district owned big-sized farms (i.e., 24.4 to 40.5 hectares).

Table 1. Distribution of household and interviewee characteristics in the study villages



Overall (n=41)

No. (%)

Iringa rural (n=8)

No. (%)

Kilolo (n=33)

No. (%)

Tribe of household head





33 (80.5)

3 (7.30)

1 (2.40)

4 (9.80)

5 (62.5)

0 (0.00)

0 (0.00)

3 (37.5)

28 (84.8)

3 (9.10)

1 (3.00)

1 (3.00)

Marital status of household head




34 (82.9)

5 (12.2)

2 (4.90)

7 (87.5)

0 (0.00)

1 (12.5)

27 (81.8)

5 (15.2)

1 (3.00)

Age of interviewee









Sex of household head



38 (92.7)

3 (7.30)

8 (100.0)

0 (0.00)

30 (90.9)

3 (9.1)

Highest level of education of interviewee

No formal education

Primary school

Secondary school

6 (14.6)

29 (70.7)

6 (14.6)

2 (25.0)

6 (75.0)

0 (0.00)

2 (12.1)

23 (69.7)

6 (18.2)

Role of interviewee


Household head



2 (4.90)

27 (65.9)

3 (7.30)

9 (22.0)

0 (0.00)

5 (62.5)

1 (12.5)

2 (25.0)

2 (6.10)

22 (66.7)

2 (6.10)

7 (21.2)

Main source of income

Crop farming

Livestock keeping


Salaried employment

41 (100.0)

41 (100.0)

13 (31.7)

6 (14.6)

8 (100.0)

8 (100.0)

3 (37.5)

3 (37.5)

33 (100.0)

33 (100.0)

10 (30.3)

3 (9.10)

Size of land owned

0.41-2.00 hectares

>2.00-4.00 hectares

>4.00-10.0 hectares

>10.0 hectares

23 (62.2)

8 (21.6)

4 (10.8)

2 (5.40)

4 (57.1)

3 (42.9)

0 (0.00)

0 (0.00)

19 (63.3)

5 (16.7)

4 (13.3)

2 (6.70)

Only 37 farmers (7 in Iringa rural and 30 in Kilolo) reported to own land

Livestock keeping on study farms

Different livestock species were reared on study farms. Predominant animals owned by small-scale farmers were pigs (97.5%) and poultry (75.5%) but some farmers also owned cattle (17.1%), small stock comprising rabbits and guinea pigs (12.2%) and goats (9.8%). The average number of different animal species owned per household in the two districts is shown in Table 2. 

Table 2. Number of livestock owned by pig farmers in Iringa  and Kilolo districts

Type of livestock

No. possessed on farm visit day, Mean±StDev (Range)


Iringa rural






























Small stock







 Experience in pig farming

Figure 1 illustrates when farmers started pig farming. It is clear from Figure 1 that the majority (58.5%) of farmers acquired the first animal recently between 2001 and 2006.

Figure 1. Experience in pig-farming based on year when farmers acquired the first animal
 Flock structure and housing of small-scale pigs in Iringa

 Data on flock structure in the small-scale pig farms are summarised in Table 3. Out of 41 small-scale farms visited 40 (97.5%) had at least one pig in either of the three age categories of piglets, growers or adults. The proportions of farms which had piglets (21.9%) or adult pigs (48.8%) were significantly lower (P = 0.000) than those which had growers (70.7%) during the time when the farms were visited. The difference was noticeable particularly in Kilolo village where out of 13 households visited, only 7.7% and 30.8% had piglets and adult pigs, respectively. It was also noted that none of the male pigs in all three age categories (piglets, growers and adults) was castrated due to unavailability of this service in the study area.

Table 3. Flock structure on small-scale pig farms in Iringa


(No. of farms with animals in the category)

No.  of farms visited

No. of farms with animals in respective category

Per cent

Mean±StDev (Range)

No. of farms with animals and their percentage in each village§ (n, %)

1. Piglets






Kilolo (1, 7.7)

Luganga (2, 33.3)

Lulanzi (3, 21.4)

Ndiwili (3, 37.5)

    Female piglets




2.2±1.5 (1-4)


    Male piglets




1.3±0.5 (1-2)


 2. Growers




 2.0±1.2 (1-5)

 Kilolo (9, 69.2)

Luganga (3, 50.0)

Lulanzi (9, 64.3)

Ndiwili (7, 87.5)

    Female growers




1.4±0.6 (1-3)


    Male growers




1.6±1.0 9 (1-4)


 3. Adults




 1.7±0.8 (1-4)

 Kilolo (4, 30.8)

Luganga (4, 66.7)

Lulanzi (8, 57.1)

Ndiwili (4, 50.0)

    Female adults




1.5±0.7 (1-3)


    Male adults




1.1±0.3 (1-3)


 4. Total animals





2.8±2.0 (1-8)

 Kilolo (12, 92.3)

Luganga (6, 100.0)

Lulanzi (14, 100.0)

Ndiwili (8, 100.0)

    Total females




2.0±1.2 (1-5)


    Total males




1.7±1.0 (1-4)


§The percentage is based on total number of farms visited in Kilolo (13), Luganga (6), Lulanzi (14) and Ndiwili (8) villages.

 Forty-one farms that were visited during the study period raised pigs in confinement. The pigs were kept in houses with either a ground (earth and concrete) floor (17.1%) or raised floor (82.9%). In all 34 pig houses which had raised floor type, the floor was made of wooden materials. Out of seven pig houses which had ground floor, five had earth floor while only two had concrete floors.

 Source of labour for rearing pigs

 The results of the present study showed that small-scale pig farming in Iringa region is predominantly a work of wives (>70%) followed by husbands (Figure 2).  Only few households (4.9%) said that all family members participated in pig farming in the study area. Children and other members of the family were less involved in pig farming.

Figure 2. Roles of family members in pig-rearing in Iringa region
  Production constraints in the study farms

 A number of production constraints were identified by farmers in the two districts including diseases, lack of animal health and lack/inadequacy of extension support and inadequacy of animal feeds.

 Animal health constraints

Different animal health problems were reported by respondents (Fig. 3). The major problems were mange and worm infestation, followed by leg paralysis and abortions. Less common problems were cysticercosis and diarrhoea.

Figure 3. Common animal health problems reported on small-scale pig farms in Iringa region

 Mortality rate on study farms

 Ten (6.60%) out of 151 pigs which were retrospectively traced to have been on farms during 12 months before the study died.  Out of 10 pigs that died, 7(14.6%), 2(7.7%) and 1(5.6%) were piglets, sows and a boar, respectively. From this information, piglets were significantly (p=0.000) at higher risk of death compared to other age groups. In this study, farmers could not identify causes of deaths, a finding that supports importance of conducting research to identify actual causes of deaths in pig farms in Iringa region.

 Animal feeds used by small-scale pig farmers in the study areas

Different animal feeds were reported to be used as either basal or supplementary feeds (Table 4). The majority of the respondents said they used maize bran and green leaves as basal rations provided to pigs. Out of 41 households visited, 36 (87.8%) said they provided pigs with supplementary feeds. The most common feeds used to supplement pigs were green leaves, sun flower seed cakes, vegetables and sometimes mineral supplements. Less common supplements were table salt, blood meal, and brewer’s waste and home remains e.g. rice, beans or local stiff porridge from maize called ‘ugali’. 

Table 4. Types of basal and supplementary feeds on small-scale pig farms in Iringa

Basal ration (n=41

Supplementary feeds (n=36)

Type of feed

No. (%)

Type of feed

No. (%)

Maize bran

41 (100.0)

Sunflower seed cake

14 (38.9)

Green leaves

5 (12.2)

Table salt

2 (5.6)

Rice bran

3 (7.3)


5 (13.9)


3 (7.3)

Blood meal

1 (2.8)


2 (4.9)


7 (19.4)


1 (2.4)

Green leaves

20 (55.6)



Brewer’s waste

1 (2.8)



Home remains

1 (2.8)

 Availability of markets for pigs

All the small-scale farmers interviewed indicated that they had no problems with availability of markets for their animals. Live animals were sold either at home or local butchers. The availability of markets offers an opportunity for expansion of this income generating activity in the area.


The findings from this study show that small-scale pig farming is an important source of income, especially in rural areas of Tanzania. It also shows that small-scale pig farmers do engage in other activities, especially crop farming and keeping of other livestock such as poultry and cattle to earn their living. Such findings have also been reported in other countries in Africa and Asia (Kagira et al 2010, Costales et al 2007, Lemke et al 2006). As in other African countries, the findings of this study show that small-scale farming is done on small land holding of <1 up to 2 hectares (Table 1).

The results of this study also show that women are the major source of labour used to take care of pigs. These results are in agreement with Sillitoe (2001) in Papua New Guinea who reported that the daily work of managing pigs is regarded as the duty of women. In the present study most men were involved in the sale and slaughter of pigs.

It was also found that the majority (70.7%) of small-scale pig farmers in the study area had acquired at least primary school education (Table 1). This could be used as an opportunity for improvement of pig production by the extension services through training of farmers and provision of extension materials such as leaflets and handouts, which can be used to transfer knowledge to the farmers. This is especially true for the study areas as it was reported that the direct face-to-face extension service is rarely available to farmers. This is supported by lack of basic routine services such as castration of animals which was also evident in this study.

 Another interesting finding was on the pig flock structure of small-scale farms. The majority of farmers kept small numbers of pigs (1-3 pigs per household) on their farms. This observation is consistent with the findings under small-scale farming system in other countries (Ajala et al 2007, Huynh et al 2007). It was also noted that the majority of farms had growers, followed by adult pigs and relatively small proportion of farms (21.9%) had piglets. Such an observation suggests that there are relatively few piglets available on-farm as replacement stock for future flock build-up of the piggery units in this area. The possible reasons that may contribute to this observation include movement off farm of young animals in terms of sale of live piglets or high mortality rate of young animals in the study area. The result on mortality rate on study farms suggest that piglets die more often than growers and adult pigs. Other possible explanation is reproductive inefficiency of sows or even less number of sows in the study area. This is supported by findings that out of the 41 small-scale pig farms visited, only 20 (48.8%) had at least one adult female. In the absence of enough replacement stock, farmers are likely to be forced to buy either piglets or growers from other farmers in the villages. Therefore, there is an opportunity for farmers to invest in pig breeding which can offer replacement stock to other farmers.

Animal health constraints were perceived by farmers to be important with mange, worms and leg paralysis being mentioned by the majority of the respondents (farmers). Although these claims are not supported by laboratory confirmation due to lack of enough resources, mange and helminth infestations are also prevalent and commonly reported in other parts of Tanzania (Kambarage et al 1990) and in other countries (Wabacha et al 2004b).  These health constraints may be attributable to the management system (i.e. indoors) used when pigs are confined together in small houses, a condition which is suitable for transmission of mange mites and helminths. Leg paralysis may be caused by physical injury of animal feet on raised slatted floors as it was commonly observed to be the main floor type used by farmers. Other possible explanation may be diet-associated osteopenic conditions due to dietary deficiencies in animal feeds which could contribute to bone malformation and fractures particularly Vitamin D, phosphorus or calcium deficiencies (Hejazi and Danyluk 2009).

Locally available feed resources were used to feed small-scale pigs in the study area. This finding is shared by other studies in areas where small-scale pig farming is practised (Ajala et al 2007). All farmers (100%) reported that they used maize bran as basal ration for pigs. This practice is likely to expose pigs to limited or unavailability of essential nutrients such as lysine and methionine which are essential for growth performance in pigs (Lekule and Kyvsgaard 2003). Unavailability of commercial feeds for pigs is mainly attributed to lack of reliable animal feed compounding factories in the country after collapse of the then National Milling Corporation in the late 1970s. Consequently, all (100%) farmers rely entirely on home-compounded feeds, which are often deficient in proteins, minerals and vitamins. Therefore, there is a need to promote investment in animal feed compounding by either public or private entrepreneurs in order to ensure availability of animal feeds in the country.


 The following conclusions can be drawn from this study;


This study was funded by the African Institute for Capacity Development (AICAD/06/A/004) and we are grateful for the financial support. We also acknowledge the assistance provided by the extension officers and also sincerely thank farmers for participating in this study.


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Received 21 December 2010; Accepted 17 February 2011; Published 3 August 2011

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