Demand for pork is secondary to chickens in Myanmar for meat consumption. Although the swine industry has the potential to improve, several factors— including feed, diseases, and poor genetics— have been identified as limits to mass scale pig production in the country. Individual pig farmers in Mandalay requested Farmer-to-Farmer’s technical assistance to conduct a training on general swine production management. In June 2016, Dr. Halina Zaleski and Dr. Rajesh Jha from University of Hawaii at Manoa, traveled to Myanmar to provide the requested training.
During their time as volunteers, Drs. Zaleski and Dr. Jha trained the farmers on the general concepts of pig farming. Particularly, the farmers gained increased understanding concerning the importance of genetic improvement for maintaining the pig’s resistance to diseases and increasing pig production. They quickly grasped that artificial insemination (AI) is crucial to improving genetic potential as well as improving biosecurity measures of the pigs. The volunteers’ technical training connected to the farmers’ experiences of Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome (PRRS) outbreaks in 2011 in which the breeding boars quickly spread the disease among the swine.
The volunteers did not expect the farmers to adopt the concept of AI so soon after the first training. AI is a relatively sophisticated technique, the F2F volunteers and the Myanmar Livestock Federation (Mandalay Region) re-oriented their training to focus more specifically on AI.
Beyond expectations, one of the trainees, Ko Pyae Sone Kyaw from Mandalay, began AI not only as a farmer but also as a startup service provider. Kyaw sold his fattening pigs and then started a breeding farm by growing gilts (young female swine) in late 2016. He selected 5 gilts to breed and worked with commercial companies and other breeding farms to get boars with good genetic potential. The technical information for breeding strategy obtained from the Farmer to Farmer training was extremely helpful to him. “In addition to the training information on breeding strategy, I still needed to know how to transport semen with very limited facilities, especially limited cold storage along the transportation route. I contacted Farmer to Farmer and the volunteer Dr. Zaleski. The volunteer was very patient and she explained what I should do,” Kyaw said. Now, this entrepreneur has working relationships with commercial companies and government breeding farms which enables him to breed his sows and produce hybrid piglets.
Kyaw also has helped his friends and relatives in different townships near Mandalay to try AI on their pig farms. “I still remembering the volunteer suggesting that we look at the pig industry as a whole” he stated. Now Kyaw is convincing other farmers to use AI as a tool to reduce diseases, improve the gene pool of their pigs, and increase production. He also intends to be a service provider for pig farms wanting to use AI. He has already used AI in 2 villages and some of them have already littered.
Kyaw continues to share the knowledge he acquired from the training with Farmer to Farmer volunteers. Most notably, he shares information regarding how to manage litters of piglets. He also trains other farmers on the correct amount of feed, how to cut the teeth, how to provide and maintain a proper environment for piglets to thrive in.
The impact of Farmer to Farmer training directly effects the participants, while also indirectly impacting members of the participants’ communities. As the participants share their training with neighbors, friends, and family, each person receives information that may improve their farming practices and increase their income.
Beyond the expected impact, this Farmer to Farmer assignment gave this Mandalay community a hero and innovator. The volunteers’ continued support after their assignment ended, a direct reflection of Farmer to Farmer’s “people to people” policy, encouraged Kyaw to become a service provider for AI. Kyaw feels proud that he can help other farmers and he looks to the future. “I hope we can produce the quality piglets ourselves to interface with the monopolizing commercial companies,” he concluded.