Pig production forms a minor activity in Kenya and lags behind dairy, beef, sheep, goat and poultry. Despite the gloomy history of pig farming in Kenya, pig production has a huge potential in transforming livelihoods in the country. At present the pig population is 200,000 according to the 2009 KBS figures.
The Kenyan population is currently at 38 million people and projected to increase at 10 million people every decade. This means that the population pressure will soon overstretch the available resources, of most concern being land for the simple reason that it is fixed.
For livestock to play a significant role in optimizing the capacity of the country to realize food security, it is important to give priority to species that combine efficiency of conversion and productivity; and have the capacity to use by-products and residues from other primary industries.
Although there is a role for the small, as opposed to large ruminants, and the small non-ruminant herbivores, pigs and poultry are certainly the ideal animal species in this scenario. High reproductive rate is what gives the competitive edge to these species. For example pigs have higher reproductive rates and are prolific compared to cattle, sheep and goats. A sow produces 6 to 14 piglets and weans on average 8 to 10. It furrows twice a year therefore the advantage of continuous harvest.
Compared to other livestock species, non ruminants like pigs and poultry require less space at the farm. As farm sizes become smaller due to population pressure, farmers will have to rethink their production priorities and shift to intensive systems regardless of the huge capital requirements. Many farmers are into poultry but pig production has unfortunately lagged behind.
Looking at pig production in particular and despite the many constraints, there are tremendous economic benefits in national engagement in the enterprise. The demand for animal protein is on the increase and the rate of increase is a crucial factor so that even if the per capita consumption remains static, the total demand will increase substantially. Pig meat is bound to contribute to protein demand because of the following among other reasons:
- Invested capital produces returns quicker compared to beef
- Pigs are affected by very few diseases hence farmers in areas with endemic diseases like tick borne disease and Trypanosomiasis are better off with the pig.
- Pork contains all the essential amino acids required for human consumption
For pig production to spread and gain wide acceptance across the country factors affecting pig production in Kenya need to be addressed. Some of these include:
- Availability of grain feeds and grain by-products – 60 to 70% of pig feed contain grains and grain products therefore pig production will concentrate in areas with sufficient grain.
- Climate – pigs are not commonly found in hot humid areas because of heat stress. Production should therefore be intensive in cooler areas.
- Socio-cultural factors
- Religion – Muslims, SDA and other groups do not consume or keep pigs
- Nomadic life – it is difficult to move with pigs
- Pig handling is difficult and new to most people
- Lack of steady market for pig meat
- Lack of strong government support for pig project
- Management skills of most farmers are low
- Shortage of suitable breeding stock