By Chrispin Inambao
A Kavango woman, in concert with her husband, has bought a 30-hectare plot formerly a military base for 202 Battalion that was one of the South African army units, on the banks of the Kavango River where she currently has a flourishing pig farm.
The piggery specialises mainly in free-roaming indigenous pigs for pork.
In an area where a farmer cannot be classified as such unless they plant millet or they rear Samba cattle, this innovative woman has ventured into largely unknown territory.
Forty-one-year old Rundu-born Mukano Maria Baleka Domingo has a thriving pig farm at Cubu Farm at Kasote some 15 kilometres outside town in the Kapako Constituency.
Her stock comprises mainly of white indigenous pigs that are very hardy and scavenge for their food and are known to convert food with a low nutrient content efficiently.
The addition of Landrace bulls, a white lop-eared pig species she bought from a commercial farmer south of the Red Line at Mururani will greatly enhance her pig stock.
The Landrace is a white, lop-eared pig found in most pork producing countries.
She said she started pig farming in 2002 with a start-up stock of a mere two animals given to her through a Luxembourg-funded rural poverty alleviation scheme.
Through the scheme, prospective pig farmers received a sow and a boar for breeding, after which they were expected to give a similar breeding pair back to the scheme once their animal gave birth. And these pigs from the farmers were in turn given to the others.
Like they say, Baleka Domingo literally received a pig in a poke as she was lucky that one of her friends gave her one pig and she also bought another two from another villager who was not keen on this sort of farming which more than doubled her animals to five.
Since sows can reproduce twice in a year with each litter consisting of between five to 12 piglets, her pig stock has now swelled drastically to a 100 animals.
Pigs are generally very intelligent animals and they pick up tricks faster than dogs and they are rated number four in animal intelligence behind chimpanzees, dolphins and elephants. Piglets are known to learn their names by two to three weeks of age.
Pigs are very sociable animals that form close bonds with each other and they use grunts to communicate with each other. Domestic pigs are rarely aggressive – the only exceptions being sows with a young litter and boars that are provoked.
As they do not have sweat glands, they do not sweat and they like to roll in mud to cool their skins. Contrary to general belief, they are very clean creatures, as they are known to keep their toilets far from their living or eating areas.
Even piglets only a few hours old will leave their nest to relieve themselves. Their powerful, but sensitive snout, is a highly developed sense organ.
The number of her stock would have been higher as she often sells some pigs to government officials and to an information technology (IT) businessman based at Rundu.
Since market forces such as demand naturally dictate the price of any given commodity the present low demand for her pigs and pork resulted in some of the animals being sold for prices ranging between N$250 to N$300 each because not many seem keen on pork.
But the general consensus is she could fetch much more for her pigs with current soaring global food prices resulting in many commodities costing an arm and a leg.
Her pigs forage for food eating plants that are aplenty in the marshy area at the former military base where these omnivores feed on a free-range basis. She feeds them maize and millet husks that she sources from nearby villagers who sell her 50 kg bags for N$60.
Or alternatively this pig farmer buys cheaply similar quantities from Pentagon at N$39.
Sometimes, she buys a 50 kg bag of salt that she batters with villagers for bags of husks she uses as stockfeed for the flourishing number of pigs.
The gestation period of a sow is 114 days or three months, three weeks and three days and a piglet weighs about 1.5 kg at birth and will double its weight in just seven days.
It takes the animals six months of intensive feeding before they reach a marketable age.
Though a litter can consist of 12 piglets the number could increase to 15 if the sow is given supplementary feed and kept in a shade to reduce heat since these farm animals appear more tolerant of cold conditions as opposed to heat this seems the reason while they like to roll in mud as it generally protects their skins from the harsh rays of the sun.
Her piggery also plays a major role ensuring left-over tomatoes, green vegetables and potatoes from supermarkets at Rundu are not wasted as her workers collect these and transport them to the riverside piggery where they are fed to pigs once a day.
They are so intelligent when they hear the sound of a vegetable-laden truck at mid-day they rush to the feeding trough where they go into a feeding frenzy while squealing.
As she is not immune to stock thieves, so far this year she has lost eight pigs one of which was killed and roasted in an open area where her pigs forage for food.
A large opportunistic crocodile of near monstrous proportions patrolling the stretch of the Kavango River opposite Cubu Farm occasionally catches her pigs.
One sow she aptly named “three leg’ had one of her feet chomped off by this particular reptile but it miraculously survived the giant jaws and it has recovered from being eaten alive.
Stock thieves and the crocodile aside, her main challenge for now is to advertise her pork. Her future plans include fencing off her farm and to possibly increase her pigs from 3?