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Placing Pigs in a Piggy Bank as a Community Livelihood Resilience Strategy in the Lower Mekong Basin
Author: Shannon Dugan  |  Posted on 20 July 2015  |   Comments

As the USAID Mekong Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change (USAID Mekong ARCC) project guided communities at sites in Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam through a participatory decision making process to identify adaptation activities, what became increasingly clear was the value of livestock to community livelihoods across the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) and the vulnerabilities of those animals to the changing climate. Not only did communities rely on livestock as a means of immediate cash income, but also as financial security and household assets—water buffalo plow the rice fields, chickens lay protein rich eggs to sell and consume, and of course, pigs provide adorable piglets that can grow up to be breeders themselves or are sold at markets.

Target communities of the USAID Mekong ARCC project learned that temperatures are projected to increase between 2-4 degree Celsius across most of the LMB, causing increased heat stress and further impacting livestock productivity (typically cows, pigs and chickens) beyond what communities have thus far experienced due to rising temperatures within the past ten years. In response, community members prioritized adaptation options that would preserve the significance of livestock in their daily lives.

The USAID Mekong ARCC project is partnering with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Thailand in Chiang Rai and Sakon Nakhon and with the Asian Management and Development Institute (AMDI) in Kien Giang, Vietnam to work with local communities to develop a holistic livestock improvement plan as part of their community adaptation strategy.

There are some key considerations involved in livestock adaptation options. Below are a few related to pig-raising—a common livelihood in several of the villages where we work.

Climate Smart Pig Raising Management Recommendations:

  1. Pig Breed. Not all pigs are created equal. In fact, pigs are highly evolved to survive in their specific environments—hot or cold. In Thailand, linking villages to the Royal Projects Study Centers proved pivotal in finding native pig breeds that have higher heat tolerance.
  2. Pig Pens. Sometimes even pigs need thoughtful decor in their home. A pig pen that has air ventilation, drip water on demand and a bio-material mattress can improve pig health, conserve water and prevent foul odors from manure and waste.
  3. Caring for Pigs. Purchasing a pig from a reliable breeder and ensuring vaccinations and records are maintained helps farmers raise healthy pigs that have a higher probability of surviving, fattening and/or reproducing.
  4. Livelihood Links. Linking pig rearing to other livelihood activities and natural resources can amplify benefits and ensure happy, healthy pigs. Placing a pig pen in a shaded area, such as under a banana tree, is great for keeping pigs cool (and giving them easy access to their favorite snack!). Furthermore, the drip spigot allows for continual water access and the fertilizer produced from the biomattress of the pen is great for an organic household vegetable garden.

Climate Smart Pig Rearing—Put into Practice:

Over the past few months, participating villagers started to receive the pigs they would rear as a means to diversify their income and strengthen their resilience. In Chiang Rai and Sakon Nakhon, the Royal Project study centers provided a source for native black pigs, which research has shown to be more heat tolerant than traditional pigs. Villagers had to commit to abiding by the pig raising management recommendations outlined above, whether they had raised pigs before or not.