It has been a busy but productive few weeks with our animal husbandry microfinance program, Pigs for Peace (www.glrbtp.org). Pigs for Peace is a program that brings hope, economic empowerment, and improved health to a women who have suffered and survived warfare, rape, and displacement from their home, family, and community in the DRC. Pigs for Peace will loan a pig to a Congolese family and provide a pen, veterinary support, mating opportunities, and education about pig farming. Rather than repaying principal and interest monetarily, the family gives two piglets back to the organization—one from each of the first two litters. Other piglets can be kept as meat or sold for an average price of $40 per animal.
Our goal this year is to visit each of the 186 women and families participating in the project. A home visit gives us a chance to see the pigs and their piglets and talk with women and family about the challenges and successes of the project and get their thoughts and ideas for the next step in the project.
The suggestions have been very helpful for the evaluation, such as starting a project member-led canine to purchase pig, goat, and cow food at lower cost for members and selling to non-members at a profit. Also, developing a project-led compost for members to help fertilize members fields and also a project-led seed micro-credit—after production a specific amount of seeds are given back to the project and then given to other members (similar to our model of repaying two pigs to the association to give to other members after the first delivery of piglets by the project given pig).
We are seeing a strong repayment of pigs to the project, allowing the project to grow rapidly in villages. To date we have visited 65 families—there is no better learning opportunity than to visit with participants in their home, see the pig, see the challenges in caring for a pig and the impact on the individual, family and village. For example, one participant talked about the psychological benefits of knowing she has a way to pay debts through raising and breeding pigs. Other participants have talked about using income from the project to pay school fees, to buy a bed for their children, food for their families, pay hospital bills, get a son out of prison, buy other animals to raise, such as chickens and rabbits.
We also ask in the interview with members if they think the project has impacted relations with neighbors and villagers. The responses have been overwhelmingly positive. For example, participants say they have met new people through the project, and they feel like the are working towards a common goal to rebuild their families and community. Others talk about the importance for the community when parents can afford school fees – the importance of having village children in school rather than idle.
We still have many families to visit, but the first 65 visits have me convinced of the power of low- cost, village-led development and health projects. We have 186 families involved in the program, and the average village household is eight members (parents and six children) . So we have provided a household income resource that has the potential to influence 186 x 8 = 1488 villagers for the cost of $14,000. That is an average of $9.40 per individual. I think our Pigs for Peace project has the early evidence of cost and economic impact in Eastern DRC, and I think we have a model to build on and that is sustainable. Exciting!
To learn more about Pigs for Peace, or to make a donation, visit www.glrbtp.org.