New project to help Vietnamese and other farmers conserve their native livestock breeds

Hmong girl hold native black chicken of Viet Nam A native black pig of Viet Nam

Left: A Hmong girl, 13-year-old Hi Hoa Sinh, holds a native black chicken in the village of Lung Pu, northern Viet Nam; Right: One of Viet Nam’s native black pigs on the farm of Ma Thi Puong, near the northern town of Meo Vac (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

A project funded by the Global Environment Facility has selected Vietnam, a country with a wealth of livestock diversity, as one of four countries in which to implement a project to conserve livestock genotypes.

The diversity is deteriorating due to the popularization of new breeds together with the commercialization of livestock production. To preserve indigenous livestock breeds, the Global Environment Facility and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have selected 4 countries—Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka—to implement the project ‘Developing and applying supporting tools on the conservation and sustainable utilization of the genetic diversity of livestock and their wild relatives.’

Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has made the National Institute of Animal Husbandry as the Vietnamese partner in the project.

The project aims to enhance livestock keepers’ awareness of the importance of the genetic conservation of indigenous livestock while helping them to raise their incomes through adoption of indigenous livestock breeds. The project is being implemented over 4 years (2010–2012) in Vietnam’s Son La and Bac Ninh provinces, with a focus on indigenous chicken and pig breeds. The project will train farmers on survey methods and data collection; on ways to maintain their use of indigenous animals; on livestock management; and on business skills in such areas as as tourism with traditional cuisine and cultural activities.

Basic information about valuable indigenous breeds and representative animals is needed, as is the capacity to prioritize, monitor and manage them at both scientific and farm operational levels. Stakeholder groups need to be empowered with knowledge and conducive operational environments in which they can make decisions that work best for them.

Agriculture in the partner countries in this project contributes 20 to 26% of gross domestic product, of which livestock contributes approximately 15 to 20% in terms of income, insurance, food (meat, milk, eggs), hides/skin, traction and manure. It is mostly smallholder farmers who are dependent on indigenous breeds. These animals have evolved in diverse tropical environments and possess valuable traits such as disease resistance, adaptation to harsh environments, including heat tolerance and ability to utilize poor quality feeds, attributes essential for achieving sustainable agriculture in low-input production systems. However, it is still largely unknown which breeds hold significant genetic diversity or specific genes that should be targeted for conservation and/or incorporation into breeding programs. In the meantime, crossbreeding with exotic breeds is increasing and indigenous breeds are being lost.

The development objectives of this project are to help conserve the indigenous livestock of the partner countries for future generations and to help increase the contribution these native breeds make to the livelihoods of poor people. The first goal of the project is to develop and to make available effective tools to support decision making for the conservation and sustainable use of indigenous farm animals and their wild relatives in developing countries.

For more information, see the project’s description on ILRI’s Biotechnology Theme webpage.

Small pig producers bring home the bacon in Vietnam

Pigs for sale at a market in Viet Nam

Pigs for sale at a market in Viet Nam (photo credit: Simone Retif).

In Viet Nam, small pig farmers raising 10 or fewer animals near their village households can remain competitive with larger pig producers if they continue to exploit their advantages over larger farmers. These advantages include their low labour costs and their ability to supply buyers with freshly slaughtered meat, a form most Vietnamese continue to prefer to the chilled or frozen meat from bigger piggeries.

These are the conclusions of a three-year research project led by the Kenyan-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

ACIAR's representative in Viet Nam, Geoff Morris, speaking at a final workshop of the project held in Hanoi on 5 October 2010, said that smallholder pig producers, who supply about 80 per cent of the pork marketed in Viet Nam, play a big role in the nation's economy. The research project identified policies that would help Viet Nam's many small pig farmers to raise their incomes and remain competitive in the face of growing imports of pork and official support for larger piggeries.

Another advantage small producers have over large ones is that the former spend less on feed for their animals. Lucy Lapar, an economist with ILRI, said that while feed accounts for two-thirds of the costs of raising pigs at small piggeries, this was much lower than at bigger farms because small operators tend to feed their pigs by-products from their own crops and to let their pigs forage. Bigger operators must buy relatively expensive, industrially processed, feed.

Household-based pig production generates gross margins ranging from 4,000–15,000 Vietnamese dong (US$0.21–0.78 based on current exchange rates) per kilogram liveweight of pig produced. These are good indicators of returns to household labour and comparable to the current daily minimum wage of about 22,000 VND ($1.15). Among those employed in small-scale pig production are women and many others who would otherwise remain jobless.

Conducting a consumer survey of 1,650 households to investigate the demand for pork, the researchers found that it accounts for 40 per cent of household expenditure on meat and that fresh pork remains preferable to chilled or processed meat.

'The good news is that smallholder pig producers are highly competitive in producing fresh pork,' said Lapar. The bad news, she says, is that, compared to large-scale pig producers, most small producers in the country have to deal with poor genetic stock, low-quality feed, animal illnesses, and insufficient market information and policy support.

Pham Van Duy, from the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry's Livestock Department, said that it is likely to become increasingly difficult for the nation's four million pig-raising households to continue to meet the growing demand for pork in terms of both increasing their quantity and quality, both of which are being demanded by the country's consumers. According to Viet Nam's General Statistics Office, the country's pork sales have steadily increased, from 1.5 million tonnes in 2001 to 2.9 million in 2009, with 27.6 million pigs now being raised in the country.

This smallholder pig research project, 'Improving the competitiveness of pig producers in an adjusting Vietnam market', was carried out in Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City and six of Viet Nam's provinces from 2007 to 2010. Partners in the project include the Centre for Agricultural Policy – Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agricultural and Rural Development, the International Food Policy Research Institute, Oxfam and the University of Queensland.

For more information contact Lucy Lapar ( or visit the project website.

For a news clipping on this topic, see Viet Nam News: Small pig producers bring home the bacon, 9 October 2010.

Read six projects briefs developed for the October 2010 final workshop:

Competitiveness of smallholder pig producers in Vietnam

Demand for pork by Vietnamese consumers: Implications for pro-poor livestock policy and development agenda in Vietnam

Future scenarios for pig sector development in Vietnam: Results from a policy simulation model

Participatory risk assessment of pork in Ha Noi and Ha Tay, Vietnam

The growing shortfall in Vietnam’s domestic supply of pork: Significance and policy implications

The pork value chain in Vietnam: Emerging trends and implications for smallholder competitiveness and chain efficiency

The common practice of pig-rearing in northeast India would profit from better breeding and feeding programs and greater involvement of women

ILRI India

A woman pig farmer in northeastern India. Pig-rearing there can benefit from better coordinated breeding and greater involvement of women in the sub-sector. (Photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann)

Livestock researchers are recommending improved feeding systems, better coordinated breeding and more involvement of women to increase pig production in poor communities of northeastern India.

In a paper on the pig sector in northeast India, a group including Iain Wright, who leads and coordinates research by the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Asia, provides detailed analysis of the pig sub-sector in the states of Assam and Nagaland and key recommendations to improve the sub-sector’s productivity and its benefits to farmers. The paper also provides the first systematic review of the pig value chain in the region.

India’s northeastern region has over 3 million pigs, which is about one-quarter of the country’s pig population. Most of the tribal peoples who live in this remote region rely on raising pigs to sustain their mixed farming systems. Farmers here who can take advantage of a growing demand for pork and related products in the region—a rising demand brought about by urbanization and a rising middle class—will be able to increase their incomes from their animal enterprises and escape poverty in one of India’s poorest areas.

The paper notes, however, that the region’s pig sub-sector faces many problems that keep farmers from exploiting the great potential it offers. These challenges include a largely unstructured pig sub-sector, low-producing breeds, insufficient feed resources and little animal health care services. In addition, the infrastructure available for slaughtering pigs and selling pork meat is inadequate, compromising food safety and putting public health at risk.

Following field surveys carried out over several months in 2006 and 2007, researchers are recommending that the region’s pig producers adopt better feeding and management methods, including better use of local feeds and cross-bred pigs. In addition to these traditional approaches to improved livestock production, the researchers are also recommending that more women, who already provide most of the labour in pig rearing at the household level, become much more involved in pig development programs.

These findings are reported in a paper presented in July 2010 at a symposium in Hanoi, Vietnam. The authors also recommend using current venues for pig slaughtering as main entry points for interventions made to increase food safety in the region’s pork supply chain.

The researchers commend on-going efforts by government and donor agencies to create programs that support the pig sub-sector. These efforts include supplying research information, improving breeding stock, and provision of extension services and credit, which are encouraging people to take up pig rearing and introducing better breeds to farmers.

The authors say that breeders should be encouraged to include the region’s indigenous ‘large black’ pig, a breed preferred by most producers, in their breeding programs. Consumer preferences should be studied and built on, the report says, and a planning and coordination group should be established to oversee policies and programs for the region’s pig sub-sector.

‘Some of these recommendations are already being tested or implemented in ongoing work by ILRI and its partners,’ says Wright, ‘but much more can be done to help this region’s millions of smallholder pig-keepers climb out of poverty—and do so on the backs of their backyard pigs.’

The report is available at:

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and Nagaland

With soaring food prices, indigenous peoples in India are going back to raising small local black pigs. With knowledge-based support, they could tap into new market opportunities and double their incomes.

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandThis is Nagaland, one of India’s most insecure and poorest states. It is in the country’s mountainous northeast corner. 

Remarkably, even remote villages here are affected by the rising global prices of milk, meat and cereals.

Most Naga ethnic groups have always kept pigs. Pork remains their preferred meat. Now, today’s skyrocketing grain prices mean the small black pigs these tribal peoples keep, which are adapted to local feed resources, have suddenly become more attractive than big white imported pigs, which have to be fed on expensive grain.


India: Poverty Statistics

India: Over 300 million people, 27.5% of the population live below the poverty line.

Northeast India is the easternmost region consisting of the Seven Sister States. It is home to 38 million people. The region is linguistically and culturally very distinct from the other states of India and officially recognized as a special category of States.

Nagaland is home to 1.99 million people. 19% of the population or 399,000 people live below the poverty line of which 387,000 live in rural areas.

Assam is home to 26.6 million people. 19.7% of the population or 557,700 people live below the poverty line, 545,000 of them in rural areas.

Poverty statistics source: Government of India Planning Commission (2007) Poverty estimates 2004-05.

Pig income for livelihoods and education 

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and Nagaland

‘Apart from keeping pigs and farming, women like us don’t have any other ways to make money.

A window of opportunity for small pig farmers

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandPig farmers in Nagaland and Assam now have a window of opportunity to step up their pig production and sell their native animals across the two states.
But as markets for pigs are getting larger, so is the market chain, making the business of supplying disease free, safe meat increasingly hard for small producers.  On top of that, there are no functioning breeding schemes or feed systems that would allow farmers to intensify.

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandThis lack of quality knowledge is stopping expansion in a rapidly changing industry that could benefit many of the most vulnerable members of society, such as women and children. Without this critical knowledge-based support the opportunity for millions of the world’s poor to climb out of poverty through enhanced pig farming and marketing will be lost.

A local solution for rising prices

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandDevelopment agencies have tried for decades to raise the very low household incomes in Assam and Nagaland. But even though pig keeping is central to the livelihoods of the poor and especially poor women, pig production has seldom been viewed as a development tool for the region.
This is peculiar because until recently local demand for pork was so great that it was profitable for local business people to import large numbers of commercial white pigs from producers in India’s grain states further west.  Animals were being transported 2000-3000 kilometres, at a cost of USD40 each.

But grain-based feeds and transport have both recently shot up in price, adding even more to the cost.  People in Assam and Nagaland are suddenly finding the imported white pigs far too expensive. A new market is growing fast for the local black and cross-bred pigs. Because these native animals can be fed mostly on low-cost feed crops and crop wastes, they are an ideal solution to fill the new pork and piglet supply gap. 

Knowledge-based support needed to tap into fast changing markets

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandHowever because markets are changing so fast smallholder farmers can no longer make it alone.  They lack access to information and resources, linkages to health and breeding services, business support, and feeding systems.  All these are vital if they are to expand while also meeting increasingly demanding new health and safety standards. This short-term opportunity is ready-made for success. The pigs are there, the demand is there, and farmers ambitious to grow their pig enterprises are also there.

With relevant knowledge and training, both of which ILRI with its national partners are ready to provide, most tribal households in these states could boost their herd sizes and double their incomes sustainably and in a cost-effective way over the next 5–10 years.

Without support, millions of people will increasingly suffer poverty, conflicts, and the loss of dignity that goes with forced migration to cities. However, with help, they can maintain the traditional livelihoods that sustain communities and generate prosperity.

ILRI’s representative for Asia, Iain Wright, says ‘We are working with national partners to gain support for helping poor people seize this big pig marketing opportunity in Nagaland, Assam and other northeast states.

‘We have recently started a project with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the School of Agricultural Science and Rural Development, Nagaland University, to implement a programe of research to improve the production and marketing of pigs in selected villages in Mon District, Nagaland. We’re also looking at working on similar projects with national partners in other notheastern states’, says Wright.

Background information:
The Nagaland pig production and marketing project is funded by the National Agricultural Innovation Project with a contribution from the International Fund for Agricultural Development and aims to develop sustainable solutions to livelihood improvement in one of the poorest districts in India.


To market, to market, to sell a fat pig

Asia is home to more than half a billion pigs that provide food security and livelihoods to the majority of its rural population. Demand for pig products is soaring, but markets are consolidating. Will smallholder pig producers be able to participate or are they likely to get squeezed out?

The ubiquitous pig is a familiar sight in Asian villages in non-Islamic countries where it mingles with other small stock such as poultry and goats and with large stock, like buffalo and cattle, raised by households in mixed crop-livestock systems where livestock are an important source of cash to meet household consumption needs due to the seasonal nature of crop production.

The demands for and domestic supply of pig meat have been increasing steadily as a result of rising incomes, increasing human population, domestic market liberalization, increasing demand for livestock food products and urbanization.

Pig meat and byproducts

Pig meat provides an important source of protein and other nutrients; it is especially rich in thiamin (vitamin B1) which helps the body metabolize carbohydrates and fat to produce energy, and is also essential for the functioning of the heart, muscles, and nervous system. Thiamin deficiency is common in low-income populations with diets high in carbohydrates and low in thiamin (eg milled or polished rice). Beriberi, the disease resulting from severe thiamin deficiency, was described in Chinese literature as early as 2600 B.C. Breast-fed infants whose mothers are thiamin deficient are vulnerable to developing infantile beriberi.

Byproducts of pig production also provide important inputs in crop production in the form of fertilizer, thus also providing an efficient way of nutrient cycling to reduce environmental pollution.


Demand for pig meat continues to increase
Given the rising income and rapid urbanization that the region has been experiencing during the past decade, consumption patterns have also shifted towards more protein-based diets, specifically animal-source diets. Pig meat has traditionally been the most preferred meat in diets in South East Asia, and recent major outbreaks of Avian Influenza have induced a move from poultry meat to pig meat.  This, plus the relatively high population growth rates in the region, as compared with the rest of the world, will engender higher demand for pig meat in the coming years, with subsequent implications on the region’s ability to meet this surge in demand and to meet it in the most efficient and equitable manner.  Even in countries not normally associated with pig production, such as India, pig meat consumption is increasing and has traditionally provided a source of meat and livelihoods to many millions of people in tribal communities. Recent trends in demand for quality and food safety are also shaping the way the food supply chain is reorganizing to accommodate these market requirements.

Two key development policy questions thus emerge, namely:
(1) who will supply the demand requirements for pig meat in the region? and
(2) will smallholder producers be able to remain competitive in the changing market for pigs and pig meat?

ILRI’s pig research agenda has been shaped by these development policy issues and is aimed at providing evidence-based policy options to inform the policy debate on pro-poor livestock development in the region.  Specifically, ongoing work with national partners in the region are largely focused in improving competitiveness of smallholder pig producers in the context of changing demand for pig meat, and include among others an investigation of viable institutional arrangements that will enable smallholders to become active participants in the emerging supply chain for pigs and pig meat that are increasingly driven by consumer preferences for quality (lean meat) and safety (hygienic, chemical free), as well as niche markets for traditional quality attributes that are priced at a premium by high-income, urban consumers including special export markets, e.g., organically raised, local breed pigs.

Smallholder pig producers are constrained to effectively respond to changing market demand due to a number of factors, foremost of which is the lack of adequate resources (physical, human, financial, and social), and more importantly the prevailing bias in the policy environment that is stacked against smallholders. There is no denying that in order to meet the increasing demand for pig meat that production has to increase and in an efficient manner. This can only be feasibly done by modernizing the livestock sector through use of modern technology in all aspects of the production systems, e.g., breed, feed, animal disease control.  It is also unavoidable that policymakers usually equate modernization with large-scale industrial systems, following the models from the West. However, history shows that the Western models have also created second-generation problems that are related to important issues such as climate change and environmental degradation.  Thus, Asia could benefit from these economic development miscalculations by following a more sustainable and equitable path by ensuring that policies that will be put in place should be aimed at generating public good outcomes.

Overview of ILRI’s pig research in Asia
Improving the Competitiveness of Pig Producers in an Adjusting Vietnam Market
Many of Asia’s poor and marginalized populations keep backyard pigs in remote regions from Northeast India, Cambodia and Vietnam. ILRI is furthering its work with partners to improve the competitiveness of these smallholder pig producers in the face of rapidly increasingly demand for pig meat so that they can participate in the emerging supply chains for pigs and pig meat that are increasingly being driven by consumer demands. There are also opportunities to exploit niche markets for organically raised local breeds for poverty reduction. This project is funded by the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Improving the pig and pig market chain to enable small producers to serve consumers needs in Vietnam and Cambodia
This project is looking at the existing and potential market opportunities that can be feasibly accessed by smallholder pig farmers. Large farm/processors tend to capture high-end markets that pay premium price for quality products, while smallholders have limited access to such markets. This trend limits the livelihood opportunities of many smallholders, especially women. This project is EU-DURAS Project grant funded.

Northeast India pig systems appraisal
The expected outcome of this project is to find viable options for improving productivity of traditional pig systems to respond to increasing demand for pig meat in Northeast India. This project is funded by ILRI and the Government of Assam.

Contract farming for equitable market-oriented smallholder swine production in Northern Vietnam
This project seeks to characterize and quantify the true costs and benefits of contract farming of pigs in Northern Vietnam to identify a set of policy and intervention options that will facilitate and promote profitable market-oriented livestock farming partnerships and to understand the barriers that prevent the poor from participating in contract farming and other similar marketing arrangements. The project is being carried out in three provinces in Northern Vietnam that supply Hanoi market with slaughter pigs. This project is funded by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Initiative (PPLPI).

Sweet potato pig systems

While demand for livestock products is increasing in China and other Asia countries, livestock research can help mitigate the impacts that increasing demand will have on small scale producers. With rapid change, knowledge about how to adapt farming systems is essential. Pig production accounts for four fifths of total meat production, however there are many challenges ahead including how to feed the increased number of livestock and the impact on natural resources. Mixed farming systems that integrate crop and animal production form the backbone of small-scale Asian agriculture. From 1999 to 2004, the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) collaborated with the Sichuan Animal Science Academy, the Yunnan Beef Cattle and Pasture Research Center, and national agricultural research systems in four Southeast Asian countries in a Crop-Animal System Research Network (CASREN), funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). ILRI worked with the International Potato Centre (CIP) and Chinese partners to employ a livelihoods approach to enhancing smallholder pig production in Sichuan through improved pig feeding with ensiled sweet potato vines and roots. The extra biomass that farmers have been able to conserve has radically changed the pig production system. After harvesting, the vines are wilted to reduce moisture content. The roots and vines are then chopped, mixed with supplements and stored in airtight plastic bags, providing a nutritious feed that can support pig herds for up to nine months of the year. Improved feed has also allowed farmers to keep high-yielding cross-bred pigs, replacing much smaller and slower growing scavenging pigs that spread zoonotic, diseases such as cystercercosis. Other improvements have also been observed, including better husbandry practices, animal housing, and use of feed supplements and drugs, and these have increased the weight of pigs and greatly raised farm income. The success of CASREN’s work in Sichuan, where many farm households more than doubled their incomes by adopting CASREN potato silage technologies, has led the CGIAR System-wide Livestock Program (SLP) to fund related research within China and Southeast Asia.

New pig feed technologies take off in China

Poor households in Sichuan are doubling their incomes by adopting research-based methods to store sweet potato leaves and vines to feed their backyard pigs almost year-round.

The online magazine New Agriculturist published the following article in its March 2006 issue;
Further information on this topic can be found on ILRI’s website and its 2004 annual report;

New pig feed technologiesThe southwest province of China is a world of contradictions. Amidst brand new cars like this brand new reproduction Ford Mustang and tall glass buildings, horse carts slowly wind their way through the bustle and the traffic, carting vegetables for sale. Commuters on bicycles peddle ferociously against the onward torrent of buses and motorcycles, and stop on the way to buy pancakes from a wooden stall propped up by the side of the road. The rich and poor live side by side in small cities and towns, in the growing network of China’s metropolis. But with the growth of the economy and endless construction sites has come the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

While business is booming in China’s cities, the poverty gap is growing between the urban and rural areas, with roughly 100 million rural people living on less than US$1 a day. Income for rural people has increased, but at a much lower rate than the urban industrial incomes which have underpinned a national GDP growth of about nine per cent every year since 1978. The real challenge is east-west and rural-urban inequality. The view from green paddy fields on the city outskirts is astonishing, as the speed of development merges the surrounding landscape into new high rises and roads every day. Between 40-50 million farmers are estimated to have partially or fully lost their land to development in the past decade, and that number is set to double in the next ten years.

Demand and supply
China’s rural people rely heavily on agriculture and their livestock to provide food security amidst uncertain and rapid change; it is estimated that almost 70 per cent of the Chinese are dependent on agriculture. But China also has a very strong agricultural heritage. The Chinese were the first to use an iron plough, and wereCredit:Stevie Mann/ILRI thousands of years ahead of the West in methods of winnowing grain. Today, they are leading producers of pigs, poultry, rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes. And while demand for livestock products is increasing, livestock research can help mitigate the impacts that increasing demand will have on small-scale producers. With rapid change, knowledge about how to adapt farming systems is essential.

New pig feed technologiesThere are many challenges ahead: how to feed increased numbers of livestock, the risk to public health, and the impact on natural resources. To address some of these issues, the Sichuan Animal Science Academy (SASA), has worked with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Sichuan Animal Husbandry Bureau to help farmers make the most of sweet potato as a feed for pigs. In 2001, pig production accounted for four fifths of total meat production in China. The province of Sichuan produces more pigs than any other region, and most of this is small-scale production, largely in poorer, hilly terrain. The pigs are fed on sweet potato but as a feed source the crop presents two problems: it becomes rotten within three weeks after harvest, and it can be harvested only once a year.

To address these constraints, the International Potato Center (CIP) worked to improve sweet potato varieties with Chinese institutions, and ILRI joined them to assist with feed supplementation and silage-making technology for sweet potato roots and vines. As a result, the extra biomass that farmers have been able to conserve has radically changed the pig production system. After harvesting, the vines are wilted to reduce moisture content. The roots and vines are then chopped, mixed with supplements and stored in airtight plastic bags, providing a nutritious feed that can support pig herds for up to nine months of the year. Improved feed has also allowed farmers to keep high-yielding cross-bred pigs, replacing much smaller and slower growing scavenging pigs that spread zoonotic, diseases such as cystercercosis. Other improvements have also been observed, including better husbandry practices, animal housing, and use of feed supplements and drugs, and these have increased the weight of pigs and greatly raised farm income.

Racing ahead
Over the past few decades, China has made its transition from a rural to an urban and market-based economy. The transition has occurred at remarkable speed, especially considering its population of over 1.3 billion people. The country has experienced one of the fastest rates of agricultural and overall economic growth, amid reforms leading to rapid progress in several areas, although agriculture – which was once a clear leader in reforms – now lags behind other sectors. China’s economy grew by an average of 9.9 percent between 1993 and 2004, accelerating the demand for electricity and power networks, as well as food production.

In the outline of the national programme for science and technology development between 2006 and 2020, published by the State Council, China will give priority to technological development to solve problems, including those in the environmental and agricultural sectors. As labour costs rise, and many move to the cities in search of work, the agricultural sector will face challenges. Small-scale farmers are already adopting mechanical innovations in feed processing to overcome constraints and to continue to thrive. Commenting on the work being done in Sichuan, the Director of ILRI-IFPRI Joint Programme on Livestock Market Opportunities, Chris Delgado asks: ‘What is the future of small-holders farming in this province? With the hard work of the people and their science institutions, and a little technology transfer from outside, it looks bright.”

Making the front page: Pig-people disease

Cysticercosis, a preventable disease that affects both pigs and people and is endemic in many developing countries, is showcased on the July 2005 cover of the top scientific journal Trends in Parasitology. The journal cover features a farmer from Mbulu District of Tanzania with her pigs, linked to a review article written by scientists, including ILRI’s Lee Willingham. The article assesses the burden of two parasitic zoonotic diseases – cysticercosis and echinococcosis.

Zoonotic diseases

Cysticercosis and echinococcosis are diseases that can be passed from animals to people and vice versa (zoonotic). Rabies is a common example of a zoonotic disease.

Cysticercosis is caused by the parasite Taenia solium (pork tapeworm) and is found in many developing countries in Asia and Latin America, where pig-keeping and pork consumption are popular. The disease is becoming an increasing problem in sub-Saharan Africa. It is transmitted via accidental ingestion of tapeworm eggs from human carriers’ infected faeces. People therefore do not need to eat pork or keep pigs to become infected.

Echinococcosis (hydatid disease) is also caused by tapeworms, found primarily in dogs, but also in wolves, foxes and other wild canids. Humans and livestock become infected with the larval stage of the parasite via accidental ingestion of tapeworm eggs from infected dog faeces. People therefore do not need to come into contact with the infected animal to contract the disease. It is endemic in South America, North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, Northwest China, United States, North and West Canada, India, Southern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, particularly in areas where sheep are raised.

Cysticercosis is not transmitted directly from pigs to people. Instead, people become carriers of the highly contagious T. solium tapeworm parasite through ingestion of raw or undercooked infected pork, but this does not cause them to contract cysticercosis. The disease is passed on from people to pigs and from people to people through accidental ingestion of highly contagious pork tapeworm eggs through contact with infected human faeces. It is estimated that millions of people in Asia, Latin America and Africa are suffering from cysticercosis, where it is known to be one of the main causes of acquired epilepsy due to cysts in the brain (neurocysticercosis), which can result in death. The Trends in Parasitology article explores the losses in human and animal productivity as a result of cysticercosis and echinococcosis, and reviews how to assess the extent and full burden of the diseases on people and animals. Given the high levels of morbidity, some mortality, and the animal production losses, the authors argue that control of the diseases should be given higher priority because they are easily prevented. As a result of effective controls, many industrial countries are now free from porcine cysticercosis. The article concludes that more research would help scientists arrive at better estimates of the full burden and costs, which in turn would strengthen the political will to provide adequate technical and financial resources to combat the diseases. The article is available online to Science Direct subscribers at: Reference: Methods for assessing the burden of parasitic zoonoses: echinococcosis and cysticercosis. Trends in Parasitology, Volume 21, Issue 7, July 2005, Pages 327-333. Hélène Carabin, Christine M. Budke, Linda D. Cowan, A. Lee Willingham and Paul R. Torgerson. Further information on the ILRI website: For more information about cysticercosis – how it is transmitted and how the cycle of infection and reinfection can be broken – see ILRI’s Top Story Epilepsy, brain cysts and tapeworms. For the latest news updates on cysticercosis, see ILRI’s Livestock in the News Pig-People Disease page.

Epilepsy, brain cysts and tapeworms

Ten pigs went to market, some pigs stayed at home, all pigs ate human faeces… and so a deadly tale begins. Poor sanitation, poor hygiene practices, poor pig husbandry and poor meat inspection all fuel a vicious cycle that is destroying lives and livelihoods in many developing countries. A potentially deadly parasite, Taenia solium, known as the pork tapeworm, is being transmitted from pigs to people, people to pigs and from people to people. The disease Cysticercosis has been dubbed one of the neglected diseases of neglected populations. It is considered by the World Health Organization to be one of the few potentially eradicable diseases, yet it is now an emerging disease of eastern and southern Africa. Awareness and training activities are being organised in eastern and southern Africa to help combat the parasite that causes intestinal taeniasis in humans, cysticercosis in pigs and humans, and the potentially deadly human disease neurocysticercosis, which is the formation of (T. solium) cysts in the brain. Neurocysticercosis affects millions of people in Asia, Latin America and Africa. It is rarely found in industrialized countries or in countries where pork is not consumed for religious or cultural reasons. However, even in these countries more cases are being seen due to immigration, increased travel and importation of domestic workers from endemic countries. It is a disease associated with poverty and underdevelopment, and is endemic in many developing countries where raising pigs and eating pork are popular. Neurocysticercosis infection may remain non-symptomatic for years before manifesting as seizures, severe headaches or other neurological problems. It is also a major cause of acquired epilepsy in developing countries. It affects agility, concentration and in severe cases can result in death. The true extent of the problem is not known because tapeworm carriers often do not know that they are carrying the parasite. It can lie in the human gut for years without causing any symptoms. Major advances are being made in the diagnosis and treatment of people and pigs infected with pork tapeworm, but these diagnostic tools and medical treatments are not yet widely available in many endemic countries. A vaccine to prevent pigs from contracting the disease is also being developed. How it is spread Since the mid 1990s, more and more people in rural areas in eastern and southern Africa are keeping pigs, fuelled in part by a significant increase in the consumption of pork in both rural and urban areas. To poor smallholders in these regions, pigs represent a new opportunity in livestock keeping worth exploiting. In Africa cattle are highly prized, but they can be problematic – protecting them from disease and theft requires constant vigilance and sometimes round-the-clock surveillance. Pigs, however, are comparatively easy to manage, and are therefore becoming increasingly popular and important, especially in rural smallholder communities. Pigs, like so many livestock, can serve as a 'mobile bank', with one adult pig fetching upwards of US$100 at markets in this region. Many farmers will keep between one to three pigs and sell an adult pig at the beginning of the school year to provide for school fees. However, the increasing number of pigs being kept in eastern and southern Africa is raising its own set of problems, with a vicious cycle of infection and reinfection. This is not just a problem for rural areas, where most pigs are kept, but it is also a problem for urban areas where infected pork can be consumed, and where human carriers of the parasite can infect other people. Most worrying is the fact that people do not have to eat pork or keep pigs to become infected with cysticercosis. They can be exposed to the eggs from a human tapeworm carrier. Disease and poverty go hand in hand. Poor sanitation and poor hygiene practices all increase the risk of contracting diseases. In many developing countries, particularly in rural areas, human waste is generally disposed off in a pit or out in the fields, or in some cases it is simply thrown into the garden. In many poor areas, livestock keeping is rudimentary and pigs, like many livestock, wander about freely. When the livestock keepers and family members go out to the fields to defecate, their pigs will follow. Pigs like to eat human faeces and will trail out to where people have defecated to eat the stool. If these people are carriers of the tapeworm they will produce thousands of highly contagious eggs in their stool. These eggs are hardy and may survive more than eight months in the environment, particularly in tropical conditions; the climate in Africa is ideal for the parasite to thrive. This presents a health hazard not only for pigs, but also for people. If pigs ingest the eggs, they develop into the immature larval form of the parasite (cysticercosis) that can result in the formation of hundreds to thousands of cysts in the muscles of the animal. In areas where meat inspection and control is lacking, infected pigs are often slaughtered and the pork sold for human consumption. Eating infected raw or undercooked pork can cause people to become infected with the adult tapeworm form of the parasite (taeniasis). The parasite will remain in their gut, but eggs of the tapeworm will be expelled through their faeces. This does not, however, cause neurocysticercosis, which requires transfer of the contagious eggs from the infected person’s faeces to the same or another person. If humans come into contact with infected human stool and accidentally ingest the eggs, the eggs develop into the larval form of the tapeworm, which targets the muscles, the eyes and most commonly the brain (neurocysticercosis), manifesting as cysts. This may occur through direct contact with a tapeworm carrier’s infested stool, by putting contaminated fingers in the mouth, or through ingestion of water or foods that have become contaminated with the infected faeces. Awareness and control Pig traders have become aware of the heightened problem of cysticercosis in pigs. Many were finding that when the pigs they had purchased were slaughtered and inspected, they had cysts and were therefore condemned. As a result, some pig traders have become extremely vigilant and now routinely carry out checks on pigs before purchase. Examining the underside of the pig’s tongue is a quick, easy and cheap way of checking for positive signs of infection, but may only detect about 50% of the pigs infected. Visual observation of the pork meat can also be used to determine the presence or absence of the parasite. However, in areas where livestock and meat inspection are not so vigilant, infected pigs can be slaughtered and sold for human consumption. The increasing consumption of pork in urban areas means that infected pigs can be transported into densely populated areas, where the infected pork finds its way into human diets. These unwitting consumers then become carriers of the parasite. In poor rural communities where people are carriers of the intestinal tapeworm and pigs are allowed to roam and consume human faeces, it is likely that pigs will become infected with the parasite. For these poor livestock keepers, their losses are threefold – they lose the income they expected to receive from the sale of their pigs; they and their families lose a valuable protein source when the pig carcasses are condemned, thus increasing the likelihood of family malnutrition; and their own health and productivity are at risk from cysticercosis infection. There is also the risk of tapeworm carriers transmitting the parasite to other people. Prevention Cysticercosis can be prevented by interrupting the life cycle of the parasite at one or more points. Good pig husbandry, including preventing pigs access to human faeces, is one way to break the cycle. Total confinement of pigs is a possibility but only sustainable if integrated with other management practices such as housing and feeding with locally available materials and feedstuffs. Strict meat inspec

tion and control also helps to break the cycle, preventing infected meat from being consumed by people. Good hygiene practices and thorough cooking of pork can prevent people getting infected, or reinfecting themselves and/or infecting others. These measures require education and training of all involved, including pig keepers and their families, pig traders, meat sellers, and the general public – whether they eat pork or not.