Nabbanja is the projects coordinator of Hope for Kabingo that empowers people in the village of Kabingo in Lwengo District by building a better life through economic and agricultural development.
She is the overseer of the several projects that include St. Josephine Bakhita High School, a health centre II, water project and a women centre.
In 2017, Nabbanja only had one stream of income as a community worker at the organisation. She had moved from Rakai District where she worked as a tutor at Rakai Community School of Nursing for greener pastures.
“I was desperate to get a side income,” Nabbanja says.
She met a vet, Deo Ssempiira, during her routine visits to women’s groups in a village called Kasekere. “We shared ideas with him. At the time we had a piggery group where women were given free pigs but I was keen on my monitoring work and never thought I would need to do that kind of work,” Nabbanja recalls.
After the interaction, she asked for a starter’s guide and a few tips got her up and running.
“Dr Ssempiira advised me to start with few pigs. But I did not have enough money, so I asked my husband for a hand and he funded the construction of the sty. Before the pigsty was done, I bought gilts and gave them to people in the village to look after them for me. At birth I would give one to the person taking care of them.”
Trial and error
When the pigsty was complete, she brought in two pigs, a boar and gilt from the same mother.
“But I was advised against inbreeding. I had to start again as I looked for a boar. Then I sold the piglets off after nine months,” she says. In the middle of things, an African swine fever outbreak in Masaka District caused panic as it claimed a lot of animals and took a toll on farmers’ hopes, including Nabbanja.
“I had no option but to quickly sell off all the pigs for fear of losing everything. Of course it was not profitable but it was money which I later used for re-stocking, one month after the epidemic,” she says.
Yet she made another mistake. This time she only acquired neutered piglets. On the advice of the vet, she had to sell off all the 18 and brought in new stock. After six months, the benefits started coming in as she sold the smallest pig at Shs180,000 and the fattest, a 65kg boar, at Shs520,000.
Business was booming and the current stock included four gilts and a boar on top of the 12 farrow of piglets. One just gave birth to seven piglets last week while the other three are gestating.
“The good thing is that pigs keep giving and after birth you can start selling off piglets,” she says.
Best housing conditions
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Farmer’s Handbook on Pig Production, pigs need a three-sided shelter that will keep them safe from sun, wind, and rain. It can be built out of pallets or scrap wood or anything else you have around. They need to be dry, have shade, and have wind protection.
Nabbanja says that the pigsty’s major requirements were to have a strong shelter that could stop direct sunshine reaching her animals. She therefore chose a place in the banana plantation close to her house in a shade of Natal fig (omutuba).
“We were advised to find a place that cannot be flooded and since we are on a hillside, that was easy,” she says. Manure disposal is also crucial and at the eastern side of her sty, she dumps the excreta and leaves it to cool before she applies it in the banana garden. But she opted for a permanent structure using strong trees and new iron sheets. Her sty can hold up to 80 pigs although it is now half that capacity.
Keeping her gold healthy
Nabbanja already has what she says is the appropriate pigsty as was recommended. She has dug two water holes in her garden to meet the pigs’ drinking water requirements. She is yet to concentrate on a single breed and keeps looking for the best sows that can give her healthy and improved piglets.
At the project, they have a veterinary specialist and she uses his availability for regular vaccination, drenching and any other veterinary services.
Nabbanja regularly supplements her pigs’ feeds with iron and vitamins. “I am trying to learn all the best practices I can because I have witnessed first-hand how beneficial piggery can be,” Nabbanja says.
Best management practices
Pigs can eat anything from water melon, pumpkin, banana stem, maize, wheat, millet, potato, yam, paw paw, sweet potato, sweet potato vines and tubers, offals and maize, among others.
Nabbanja says meeting the pigs’ feeding requirements is one of the lessons she has learned along the way.
With maize bran as expensive as Shs1,400 in the market now, she has five acres of maize on their 37 acres of land to help cut the feeding costs. She has supplemented it with seven acres of sweet potatoes.
“I use locally available materials on the farm. But the main components is having enough water as well as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. I only apply vegetation – potato leaves. I don’t use cooked food in order to prevent the spread of diseases.”
According to FAO, there are risks associated with feeding raw or improperly cooked food waste and the experts caution that if in doubt, do not feed any food waste.
Nabbanja insists that having a high quality boar enables good breeding.
Nabbanja is aware that financial stability is important for her family. In less than two years, the family is completing a modern house.
Currently, she sells live animals but her plan is to sell slaughtered animals which she says are more financially gainful.
On top of that, her vision is to become a model farmer.
What you cannot feed to your pig
•Meat products; includes pies, sausage rolls, bacon and cheese rolls, pizza and others without proper cooking and screening.
• Any carcass of any mammal or bird (raw and uncooked); includes any meat blood, offal, hide or feathers. Pigs that feed on carcass are at risk of contracting diseases which is contagious to humans.
• Any fish products and bones.
• The excreta of any mammal or bird.
• Any substance that has come into contact with a prohibited substance via collection, storage or transport in a contaminated container.
• Household waste including restaurant waste, without proper cooking and screening.