Zimbabwe’s new agricultural entrepreneurs I: pig production

In the next few weeks, I want to share some case studies from Masvingo focusing on new agricultural entrepreneurs. This links to our work on Space, Markets Employment and Agricultural Development that I have shared before – particularly through our series of films. One thing that has struck me working in the post-2000 resettlements, is what some call a ‘business mentality’. This takes many forms, and is of course not universal, but one important feature of new resettlement areas, particularly perhaps the A1 areas, is the presence of agricultural entrepreneurs. These are people who have established often quite specialised businesses to complement their on-going farming activities. In the next few weeks, I will discuss pig production, poultry and irrigated horticulture.

The numbers of people involved are small. They are usually people with particular connections, some capital and have worked out a market niche. While these have always been part and parcel of the rural production and market landscape, they have become more common. This is in part because they are filling a gap in markets left by the absence of larger scale commercial players. But they are not just replicating past patterns. They are smaller scale, reaching different markets, and embedded in different social and economic relationships. But they are producing, supplying products in demand to different outlets, and very often employing others.

One thing that they have in common is that these businesses are linked in to wider supply chains and connections to other market connections. This is where the articulation of different types of businesses, of different scales, are important. This is important, for example, for the supply of day-old chicks, or for pig slaughter or horticulture product processing. Equally these specialised businesses often need acquiring new skills – for veterinary care, for marketing techniques and so on. This means that knowledge networks – including with ‘classic’ extension workers, but also other business people in social networks – becomes important.

Business and technological innovation, credit financing and capacity issues are all important in developing entrepreneurial opportunities and this needs external support. Here the role of the state is significant in shaping innovation and business environments, but this has largely been absent.

This week, I want to focus on pigs. Pig production on a very small scale, and usually with indigenous animals has long been present in communal areas. But in our sites we have seen the emergence of more advanced piggery options, with improved breeds, and infrastructural development for sties and so on. In 2014 we undertook a survey across all our 16 sites in Masvingo, across four districts, in both A1 and A2 schemes. We found only five cases of ‘improved’ market oriented pig production among the 400 households, so this is a relatively rare occupation. Below I share three case interviews from Masvingo district, which are broadly representative of these new businesses.

Case 1: My name is NM. I am 65 years old, married and educated up to secondary school level. I am a farmer in Wondedzo A1 practising pig production. We produce Landrace and Duroc cross porkers. Production started in 2004 when we bought 4 gilts and 1 boar from a Gutu farmer. Money to start the project came from crop sales and my welding shop in Masvingo town. We did not benefit financially from any outside source. At present we have 4 sows, 1 boar and and 5 female porkers (gilts). Over the years selection of breeding stock has been internal, so no further animals have been bought in. The highest number of pigs was in 2013 when we had 58 pigs composed of 6 sows, 2 boars, 8 male porkers and 42 female porkers. We sold most of our stock due to feed and accommodation constraints, mostly to local farmers and to customers in Mucheke suburb of Masvingo town, including civil servants. We sold 13 pigs in the last 12 months. A total of USD$2050 was realised from sales. Ten pigs were sold to local farmers for USD$1620, two to Mucheke residents for USD$300 and one to a civil servant group for USD$130 . Money was used for school fees, grocery, pig feeds and medicines. USD$821 was used to buy pig inputs. We do not employ labour for the piggery. My wife and I do all the work. We only hire people temporarily to gather melons from our fields which we use as supplementary pig feed. I gained pig rearing knowledge from employment as a foreman at NKM’s Gutu commercial farm from 1983 to 1986. Diseases have been a challenge. Our current pig housing consists of brick under grass thatch but with mud floors. The absence of concrete floors has led to prevalence of tape worm and wireworm infections in young pigs. We want to build a proper pig house with 8 cubicles and a big shed for handling feeds but do not have enough capital. Financial limitations are worsened by recurrent droughts when feeds become quite expensive. Drinking water for pigs is a problem especially in dry years. Finances permitting we have plans to deepen our well. We achieve litter sizes of 8 piglets per sow. We want to expand our Masvingo markets including supplying Colcom in future.

Case 2: I am 57 yrs and formerly I worked in the army. I used some money from my pension to kick off the piggery project in 2005. I gained experience in pig rearing while working on the army’s farming projects. I started with just two pigs, a large white boar and an indigenous ‘mukota ‘sow. I get advice from the Dept of Veterinary Services officials. I need fast growing pigs therefore I am in the process of replacing indigenous sows with large whites. I want to start afresh.  Earlier in the year I had 20 pigs composed of two boars. five sows, six male porkers, and seven female porkers. At present I just have four pigs, a boar and three gilts all to be replaced by August 2014.

Project costs incurred in the last 12 months are in the table below:

Input type Amount Cost USD$
Labour Sty construction, feeding, watering, melon collection 300
Dipping chemicals 2 litres 24
Procane penicillin 100 ml 10
Pig starter 100 kgs 72
Pig concentrate 100 kgs 74
Sunflower 12 buckets 60
Maize 24 buckets 187
Total   427

Dip chemicals were sourced from the Vet Dept in Masvingo town. I bought starter and concentrate from Farm and City and National Food shops in Masvingo town. During the past rainy season the pigs were affected by sores all over the body but Procane penicillin effectively contained the problem. I sold 16 pig units in the last 12 months (see table).

Market Pigs sold Amount usd
Masvingo town 6 male porkers 240
Masvingo town 4 female porkers 160
Masvingo town 3 sows 240
Masvingo town 1 large boar 130
Masvingo town 2 young boars 160
Total   930

Income was used to buy farm inputs (fertiliser), pig feeds and some dollars were spent on purchasing a car. In future I want to build proper brick and roof pens for the pigs. At present it is a pole construction and grass roof. I want to build 10 pens to house expected bigger litter sizes than the current 6 litters per sow. This will be achieved through changing over to pure bred pigs. The pigs must have ample drinking water so I want to dig a deep well. On the market front I want to supply Colcom and private butcheries in Masvingo town.

Case 3: I am in my late 50s, married and work for Zimbabwe Railways in Harare, and have an A2 plot in Bompst farm. I copied the idea of pork farming from Mr M a farmer in Wayne who keeps porkers. Before taking up the project I had a goat project, selling goat meat to Masvingo townships and to Chevron Hotel. I erected four pens with bricks, poles under roofing and started the project in 2011 with three landrace gilts and a Duroc boar. 140 usd was spentconstructing the pig pens in the last 12 months. At present I have15 pigs composed of six sows, four male prkers aged three months and five piglets aged three weeks. I have one permanent worker and casuals at the farm and proceeds from sale of pigs help to pay them.

Inputs purchased in the last 12 months are reflected in table below:

Input type Amount Cost USD$
Dip chemical 1.2 litres 30
Systamex 800ml 26
Megapen LA 200ml 16
Pig concentrate 600kgs 384
Home crushes 300kgs 150
Pig Pen construction
Builder and materials 140
Total   746

I am into horticulture so I supplement pigs with garden left overs. Most feeds and drugs are sourced from Masvingo town shops especially Meno Maviri and Musa Hardware. I own a butchery in Mucheke township where I sold 8 pig units in the last 12 months. Butchery pig sales in last 12 months.

Number of pigs sold Average weight per carcasse Price per kg Total amount
3 40 5 600
2 45 5 450
3 30 5 540
Total 1590


Apart from helping to pay farm workers, proceeds from pig sales also helped buy horticulture inputs. Challenges faced with piggery include recurrent droughts and diseases. Droughts cause food shortages and increases in feed costs. Internal parasites such as tapeworm are a problem in young pigs but can be controlled through dosing and good hygiene practises. Mange is the common external parasite but can be controlled through regular dipping and scrubbing using brushes and soap. In future I want to open more butcheries in Masvingo town as well as expanding pig infrastructure in order to accommodate more pigs.

These cases from Masvingo district are similar to others we have collected in other areas of the province. A number of features emerge:

  • Technological upgrading: from indigenous to ‘improved’ varieties, or crosses, although limits on continuing to improve the quality of stock due to lack of financing and access to genetics.
  • Infrastructural upgrading: including the development of new sties and also wells for watering
  • Skill development: learning from other farmers and from past jobs.
  • Labour: these are all small scale operations, and mostly family labour is deployed, but some hired labour is important in larger operations.
  • Farm-business linkages: including the planting of crops for supplementary feeding
  • Input supply: hooking into Masvingo based suppliers was essential. These businesses are embedded in much wider set of businesses
  • Disease management: veterinary drugs and disease control have been crucial and support from state supplied services, notably from the Veterinary Department have been essential.
  • Market linkages: Most have started out linking to informal market networks, but ambitions exist to link to larger market outlets, notably Colcom. Access to this has not always been straightforward, as these larger operations are not yet geared to local small-scale supply chains. In one case, a vertically integrated approach has been adopted to their own butchery business.

In all these cases (and indeed all the others involving pigs), these businesses were run by older men. This was because they had the finance capital (such as from a pension) to invest in starting up. The businesses once they got going were maintaining a profit, allowing for reinvestment. But piggeries are not a business opportunity for everyone. Next week, I look at broiler production, which is both more common, and with a wider array of business models, and wider participation.

This work was undertaken under the Space, Markets, Employment and Agricultural Development project, and the field research was led by BZ Mavedezenge and Felix Murimbarimba.

  This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared first on Zimbabweland


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12 responses to “Zimbabwe’s new agricultural entrepreneurs I: pig production

  1. tinotenda shambira

    you r doing great guys

  2. sibanda.s

    I would like to start pig farming in a small scale at first. I do not have a plot, but live in rural area of INSUZA between Umguza and Lupane. Our source of water is a borehole which is constantly broken. Can somebody honestly advise.

  3. Chenai mukumbuzi

    I love Wat you are doing.please jeep it up.would be lovely if you guys can help out with the linking between farmers and hopefully field days as well.

  4. takunda

    l love what is happening here. l am concentrated in those who are into broiler management. contact me on 0777785797

  5. Tinashe Mapfump

    I am a recent graduate. Studied Mechanical Engineering and would like to start pig farming. Can someone please advice on how I can go about it. And when can one start making good profit? how many pigs are needed to start with and a typical structure that is needed. Thank you

  6. Forget Shareka

    How are you Tinashe. I am a student, studying agriculture science at Earth unvirsity in Costa Rica, Central America. I am a zimbabwean. Currently my collegues and i we are doing an agro-business course and our project is of raising pigs for a year. i would advise you to make a business research in which you can evaluate things like nutrition, market,social impact of the business, strategies and ways of marking or raising adquate funds or rather can i say capital to start your business, required labour meaning to say skilled or semi skilled. to mention but a few. then after having all these assements i think you will be ready to get into your venture. why all these process? simply to avoid loses and make profits instead. if you are helped or want to ask more you are free to contact me on facebook. Forget shareka

  7. trinnie68

    Hello Guys… im really challenged with what i see here.im already doing a study in pig production,what i researched is really motivational.im looking forward to commence this project as soon as my funds can curter for all the expenses so as to produce the best results ,…thank you for all encouragements.Information is POWER,

  8. alex

    Where can one buy piglets for a bargain.Needing them A.S.A.P

  9. nesbert mahanya

    helo varimi i am looking for large white piglets for breeding three females and one male. (0027)787969153. i wish to do this project in zimuto masvingo

  10. My name Mercy Moyo and I am Zimbabwean currently residing in UK.I am really interested in starting a small Piggery project in Wedza in Mashonaland East in Zimbabwe .I am looking for mentorship .


    piggery is my blood …how can i access the youth empowerment funds to kick start my project
    if any 1 has information on a farm to rent which has erected styes please contact

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