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Pig farming in rural areas of Gabon

Area of the project's activities
Technical and financial aspects
Animal health
Training of farmers
Marketing of pig meat
Selection of farmers
Size of the farm

A.M. Fickers

The author was Extension Specialist with the FAO/UNDP project GAB/87/004 "Pig production in rural areas", Gabon. His address in Avenue Leemans 88, 1160 Brussels, Belgium.

An FAO/United Nations Development Programme (PNUP) project in Gabon has successfully established a few small pig-rearing units in an area which has been largely abandoned by the younger rural people. With the attraction of earning larger incomes, it is hoped that the number of these units will increase, but much extension work as well as credit facilities are necessary.

In 1981, the FAO/UNDP project for a pilot farm to assist pig production started activities in Essassa, Gabon; 58 sows and five boars were imported from the Côte d'Ivoire (mainly from Korhogo) and they adapted to the heat and humidity of the equatorial climate with little difficulty. One of the main objectives of the project is to increase the number of small pig farms in rural areas so that the additional income from these activities will help to stop the rural exodus.

Area of the project's activities

So far, 11 small pig farms have been established in the Estuary region near the capital, Libreville. The sparse population in this region is mainly concentrated along the main roads, with few people in the 20-40 year age group.


The type of farming proposed should fit into the traditional rural family background without causing any major upheavals. These rural families are mainly composed of old men, women and young children. Traditionally, the woman is responsible for most of the work. Low incomes, derived mainly from the sale of surplus food crops, lead to subsistence farming with no developed agricultural economy and therefore an absence of marketing channels. There is a certain mistrust of agricultural projects as previous experiences have been rather negative. Access to rural credit seems to be beyond the reach of small farmers as they feel that this is reserved exclusively for officials. Finally, livestock management is traditional with no enclosures, and the animals kept are mainly young goats, sheep and chickens with a few local pigs.


Motivation. The small farmers should be made fully aware of the work being undertaken and they should understand that the project can help them in building the infrastructures (such as pig housing); in providing a regular follow-up to farmers; and in ensuring a market for their products. Their interest can also be aroused by specifying that pig production will be introduced into the traditional family background and that this enterprise will form a part of their other agricultural activities, with everyone (men, women and children) contributing.

Pig housing with a solid base of concrete blocks. Note the wide roof for shade - Porcherie avec muret de blocs de ciment. Remarquer la largeur du toit qui donne de l'ombre - Porqueriza con base sólida de bloques de cemento. Obsérvese la amplitud del tejado para dar sombra

Fattening pigs in comfortable housing which provides shade and good ventilation - Porcs a l'engraissement dans des locaux confortables, ombragés et bien ventilés - Ceba de cerdos en un alojamiento confortable, que dispone de sombra y buena ventilación

Simple housing for fattening pigs, mostly made of local materials. Note the metal barrels for collection of rain-water - Porcherie simple d'engraissement, construite essentiellement en matériaux locaux. Noter les fûts métalliques pour la récolte de l'eau de pluie - Alojamiento sencillo pare el engorde de cerdos, construido en su mayor parte con materiales locales. Obsérvense los bidones de metal pare recoger el agua de lluvia

The active participation of the farmers must be emphasized and increasing responsibility accorded as and when the various infrastructures are established and later during the several phases of pig fattening. The farmer should also be taught how to make better use of the extension service.

Target populations. As the rural population of the Estuary region lies along the few main roads, the objective is to establish small pig farms near each main road. The Pilot Farm is situated on the Libreville-Kango road, 15 km from the town of N'Toum. Taking N'Toum as the central point, four major roads branch out, namely, N'Toum-Libreville (tarred), N'Toum-Cocobeach (track), N'Toum-Kango (tarred) and N'Toum-Donguila (track). As the farmers' homes are widely scattered and abandonment of the land is high, because of the advanced age of the farmers, the task of concentrating activities in certain target groups is not easy. By arousing interest, it should be possible to select the most dynamic farmers whose efforts, if successful, could have a multiplier effect.

Organization of the work. Table 1 shows the distribution of responsibilites in organizing work activities. Whit regard to pig housing, this can be of bricks, concrete or wood so long as it is simple. The use of wood, which is abundantly available, should be encouraged as it will lower costs and does not require a highly skilled labour force. All the wood is treated with used motor oil salvaged by the extension service.

A "growth-promoter" feed is given which is made on the pilot farm (bran, mainly wheat middlings, with fishmeal, soybean cake, calcium carbonate, bicalcium phosphate, salt and premix). Farmers are also advised to give their pigs locally available residues or plants such as banana stems and rejects, tubers such as cassava and kudzu beans (Pueraria sp.), kitchen garbage and sugarcane residues. The feeding plan is simple. Standard bins are distributed to all the farmers. The extension service indicates the number of bins to be given to each pig per feeding (twice a day at 06.30-07.00 hours and 16.3017.00 hours). Feed is given by the men, sometimes by the women and even by the children.

The pilot farm has so far been able to guarantee a market for farmer production and this has largely contributed to the success of the operation. Previous operations in the agricultural field have left much to be desired in this respect.

The farmers receive both piglets and feed on credit (CFAF100-110/kg). Before slaughter, the pigs are weighed (CFAF750/kg live weight). The cost price of the piglet and the cost of feed are deducted from the live-weight value and the remainder is the farmer's gross income.


In the 11 farms established so far, the farmer fattens about 30 pigs for each fattening cycle.

Pig houses are made of concrete blocks, bricks or wood and have a concrete yard. The roofing is of aluminium sheeting. The use of locally available wood has been encouraged to minimize costs. Wooden housing, each unit for seven pigs, placed on piles and with a grating, is at present being constructed.

Technical and financial aspects

Table 2 gives details about the technical and financial aspects. The large variation in results reflects the quality of the farmers' performance, such as adequate distribution of feed and water, hygiene, and use of locally available feed and residues. However, it should be pointed out that the average fattening period is directly related to the weight of the piglet on delivery which often varies greatly. Financial results are also very varied. However, farmers' income is high, perhaps too high for an activity that does not occupy them full time. The minimum monthly wage in Gabon is CFAF65 000 and, considering the number of hours worked, all the farmers are earning considerably more than this.

Animal health

There are very few problems at present. Cleaning, followed by disinfection and leaving the premises empty for at least seven days limit the risk of disease. Piglets can suffer from mange but if brushed for three days with a solution of Neguvon by the farmer, they can be cured. A few deaths have been recorded due to piglet oedema disease (enterotoxoemia) which can affect a variable number of pigs but is not contagious. Generally the pigs can be treated with nitrofurazone or tetracyclines in their drinking-water for four days. To avoid occurrence of this disease, stress should be avoided and the feed ration should be increased gradually after arrival (water only for the first day).

Training of farmers

Training is based on practice day-to-day work and consists of teaching the farmer the elementary rules of managing a fattening farm. Good personal contact with the farmer is necessary on a once- or twice-weekly basis. It is useful to hold seminars in the rural areas to bring together all or some of the farmers. At these seminars, a small folder illustrating the subject discussed (feeding, treatment of wastes, etc.) is distributed to each participant.


Extension of activities. The fattening capacity in rural areas could be doubled easily if financial resources were allocated to the extension service. Eventually, raising piglets from birth to slaughter could also be attempted with the best qualified farmers if they were interested in doing so.

1. Distribution of responsibilities between the parties concerned - Tâches respectives des services de vulgarisation et des agriculteurs - Distribución de responsabilidades entre las partes interesadas


Extension service (FAO expert and 2 Gabonese counterparts)


Building pig-sties

Assistance in the building work

Collecting together the necessary materials available on the spot (wood and straw)

Delivery of material

Doing the work


Delivery of piglets (± 25 kg)

Respecting the feeding plan

Delivery of feed

Distributing feed available locally

Feeding plan and hours of distribution

Respecting standards of hygiene (cleaning and disinfection)

Hygiene on the premises

Care of the animals


Collection of all pigs that have reached slaughter weight (95-105 kg)

Keeping all production for the National Pig Production Project, Ministry of Agriculture 1

Payment to the farmers at the end of each fattening cycle

Respecting the collection dates laid down by the extension service

1 Farmers may occasionally keep one pig, if they wish

2. Technical and financial results Résultats techniques et financiers Resultados técnicos y financieros

Economic aspects. For a clearer concept of the situation, the following elements should be taken into account in calculating incomes:

-transport costs (piglets, feed, slaughter pigs);
-expenditure on health (preventive and curative);
-financial charges on purchases on credit (piglets, feed).

Integrated activities. As a follow-up to pig farming, the farmers could utilize the manure, either treated or untreated, and thus extend their field of activities and their sources of income by raising vegetable crops near the piggeries, growing food crops and/or crops to feed the pigs such as maize, and by producing biogas and, at the same time, an excellent organic fertilizer. Biogas could lighten the work of the women who collect the firewood.

Marketing of pig meat

Annual consumption of pig meat in Gabon in its various forms, including processed by-products, is about 1 200 tonnes, equivalent to nearly 15 000 pigs. Much of this is imported frozen. Local production at present meets 1015 percent of this demand which leaves an enormous margin for progress. Locally produced pork has the advantage of being fresh, is more easily processed than frozen meat and is popular with consumers. The pilot farm is unable to meet the demand for pig meat and in particular for quality processed by-products.

The carcass price is CFAF1 080/kg which is very close to the price of imported meat.

At present, pork is imported freely and no entry duties are imposed. However, with the expansion of local production, protective measures may become necessary (subsidies, for example) to maintain the local industry.

Selection of farmers

In the initial phase, the extension service had to find dynamic farmers, open to innovation, so as to start pig farming. These farmers have made rapid progress and their example has led to a high demand from rural areas. In view of this strong demand, the extension service is ascertaining the socio-economic situation of interested farmers. The degree of motivation can be judged by frequent contacts, insistence on the need for active participation by the candidate-farmers, and the practical demonstration of the preliminary work which they must undertake, such as preparing the site before construction.

Size of the farm

An average of 30 pigs per farm are presently fattened per cycle. The small production of the pilot farm does not necessarily constitute a limiting factor in the introduction of pig farming as it is possible to procure piglets from a private breeder ( 1 200 head/year) and to distribute them in rural areas on the same conditions as those of the pilot farm. In fact, two of the 11 farms which have been established received piglets from this private breeder.

The major obstacle to pig farming is the fact that the extension service does not have enough independence or a sufficiently strong structural base and that farmers have difficulty in obtaining credit. A larger number of farms with fewer pigs would not necessarily solve this problem.

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