ZIMBABWE will soon import 230 high yielding pig breeding stock from South Africa under a European Union funded Value Chain Alliance for Livestock Upgrading Empowerment (VALUE) project, a move aimed at improving the country’s pork production.

Speaking at a media workshop on goat and pork value chains assessments in Bulawayo last Wednesday, Action Aid team leader Mr Newton Chari said 230 breeding stock of large white landrace and duroc, which include 200 gilts and 30 sows and boars grandparents were sourced from one of the world’s leading international pig breeding companies, Danbred in South Africa.

“We are bringing in new genetics from a reputable supplier in South Africa, Banbreed and we are expecting these in a very few weeks in the country and the supplier is a seasoned one who will also be providing the necessary after station services, which is required for the breed,” he said.

The VALUE project is a four-year programme, which will end in 2023 and is run under the Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme (ZAGP). The project is being implemented by Action Aid Zimbabwe as the lead organisation in partnership with COSV and Mercy Corps together with private sector livestock players namely Shamiso and Bradford farms in the pork value chain, Michview and Zvikomborero farms in the goat value chain.

Mr Chari said the imported pig breeding stock will increase chances of formation of desirable qualities in an animal. 

“We are looking at improving food conversion ratio so that there is efficiency. You feed less to get more in terms of weight. We are also looking at improved disease management, adaptability and we are also looking at some traits, which are special in terms of the meat quality. We are also looking at good breeds, which can farrow (give birth) more, as opposed to getting nine to 10 (piglets), which is the average with some of the genetics we have. We can also increase that to 18-19, so that farmers are able to get more because the whole discussion is around commercialisation, sometimes it’s not necessarily increasing the space but it’s about increasing productivity in the unit that the farmers are operating in, so that becomes one of the essential targets of the programme,” he said.

The pig breeding stock would be raised at Shamiso (Mashonaland East) and Bradford (Mashonaland West) farms, which are the pork value chain integrators for the VALUE project while others would be reared at the Pig Industry Board. 

Mr Chari said the consortium of non-governmental organisations deliberately selected Mashonaland East and West as its pork value chain corridors due to access of feed and high piggery activities in the two areas. 

“We are looking at areas structured around the corridors. The project is working in corridors. We can find the necessary structures of production there (Mashonaland East and West) and one of the key costs in pork production is feed, which constitutes 80 percent. So at least within these two corridors there is hope in our farmers being able to access raw materials, which are required for example maize, which constitutes 75 percent of alternative feed and also soya. 

“It becomes quite easier to access these within these two main corridors, which is why we have essentially zeroed . . . we also looked at the fact that these areas have high volumes of pork so it becomes easy to focus on commercialisation because our thrust is not on food security or poverty eradication but to organise farmers so that they can be commercialisation in the process.” 

The project would also see the establishment of two region-specific Pork Production Business Syndicates in Mashonaland West and East in partnership with PIB.

“The comes in as an essential marketing structure and the starting point in which our farmers become organised and as soon as our farmers become organised they begin to organise themselves to be able to benefit more from some of the backward and forward logistics, which will be essential to drive the pork value chain. So, the syndicate is basically bringing in all farmers, which would have registered for the pork value chain,” said Mr Chari.

The syndicates would see the selection of 100 small to medium producers as primary members with shareholding status and investments in them. Identification and training of 18 champion farmers, 40 anchor farmers and 400 small to medium-scale farmers as well as support to 600 women and young farmers for upscaling domestic production weaners for finishing has started.

“There are investments, which are being done for the syndicates. We are putting up two abattoirs in the two corridors. Each of the abattoirs will be farmer owned . . . the primary shareholders of the syndicate become the owners of those structures and as soon as they become the owners of those structures then the proceeds which are also coming in from those structures are channelised back towards the development of the pork value chain . . . ,” said Mr Chari.

He said the project would go a long way towards improving the country’s sow herd, which stands at just above 20 000.

“We want to improve commercialisation in the country and this has to be done through the investment, which is also coming into the project. So, we really believe the model works and will improve the sow herd in the country both with improved genetics and organising the farmers themselves because if they are organised they can even import more genetics as well, to support their whole production. What we are really bringing in is foundation to trigger the process of addressing some of these value chains,” said Mr Chari.

He said as part of ensuring the new genetics are spread throughout the country, the project would embark on an artificial insemination programme. 

“Artificial insemination has had some significances and we are trying to ensure that the genetics that we are bringing in the country can reach out to more farmers. The whole idea of improving genetics which the farmers indicate will become easier, they don’t get a boar to service their source but can do it through artificial insemination,” said Mr Chari.