Climate change is not only causing glaciers on mountains to disappear but is also making the piggery business less profitable and affecting the future of the tasty delicacy that is pork.
According to experts, pigs have small lungs and do not have sweat glands meaning that pigs require support to grow and thrive in the changing climate.
“Animals experience heat stress when subjected to a series of conditions where the animal’s body is overheating. Pigs are more vulnerable to heat stress because they do not have properly functioning sweat glands. Heat stress distorts the pigs’ feed intake, growth, and reproduction and makes pigs vulnerable to diseases.”
This is contained in a research policy brief of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The policy brief is titled Reducing Climate Induced Heat Stress in Pigs in Uganda: Policy Actions.
The impacts of climate change and heat stress cause economic losses and also affect food security and nutrition.
“Pig farming is important for income generation and nutrition for a large population in Uganda with 4.2 million pigs being kept in 2017,” according to the CGIAR research policy brief.
However, future projections indicate that domestic pork production will not be sufficient to meet the increasing demand. This situation is likely to be aggravated by climate change and heat stress.
The report also pointed out that there is a gradual shift towards more severe heat stress conditions experienced in most parts of the country. However, to remain sustainable, adaptation of these systems to heat stress should be a priority.
According to UN FAO statics, pork is second to beef in production. However, pig rearing and production are not given as much attention as the dairy and beef sector.
Juliet Sentumbwe, commissioner of animal production and acting director animal resources in the agriculture ministry said livestock rearing has a big potential to improve the economy.
“Livestock has a big capacity to generate a multiplier effect in the economy,” said Setumbwe who pointed that every dollar (Sh3,700) invested in livestock has a return of $9 (Sh33,000) in the economy.
She also said meager resources have restricted Ugandans to strategically prioritise dairy and beef but the country has not forgotten about the production of pigs.
“We have policies, some outdated but most of them are not enforced,” she said, adding that the Ministry of Agriculture keeps on providing capacity to the law enforcement agencies but enforcement remains poor. “They allow pigs to travel during the day.”
The Ministry of Agriculture, according to Setumbwe does not have reliable statistics. “We cannot talk about development when we do not know what we are producing and where it is,” she said.
In addition, pigs have big potential to change the livelihood and fortunes of smallholder farmers, according to Mathias Kasamba, MP of the East African Community and chairperson of the agriculture and natural resources committee.
Dr Emily Ouma, Senior Scientist and co-lead at The More Pork project under the International Livestock Research Institute, said they have been working with selected farmers to increase production and productivity but farmers have not been taking up the technologies.
“We have good linkages between the producers and the buyers of pigs,” said Ouma, adding that this could be done through agreements.