HUGH THE HOGS, THERE’S HOPE FOR BACKYARD LIVESTOCK RAISERS

As an active leader, part of the daily activities of Elma Pena is constant communication to its associates, the local government unit, and stakeholders of the swine industry.

For a woman who was struck badly by the pandemic, the backyard raising of livestock is still a profitable venture for Filipino families. It helps provide for their household needs and even helps in sending children to school. Commonly, hog raising for swine production is a multi-million business in the country and is the largest among the livestock and poultry industries.

Sixty-two years old Elma Peña is one of the Filipinos who invested in backyard hog raising and believes that there is a bright future for the hog industry. This conviction has fueled her dream to create interventions and opportunities for hog raisers in her community.

This energetic community leader hails from Egaña, Sibalom, Antique. She is married to Domingo Peña and a loving mother to her three children.

In 1989, the family moved from Metro Manila to Elma’s hometown in Sibalom, Antique when the children were still in elementary school. Immediately, they started farming at the land being lend to them by Elma’s brother. They constructed a pigpen and another brother lend them a sow, that started their backyard hog-raising venture.

Children were also involved in hog raising. The eldest child of the family even assisted during the birthing of the sows. Eventually, the family was able to acquire a boar in addition to their hogs. This backyard raising of hogs helps Elma and her husband send their children to school.

For many years, Elma juggles hog raising and work. She has worked as a contractual employee at the Antique Provincial Population Office and the Social Security System until 1999.

Upon retiring from work, she focused on farming and treated it as a business venture. They managed to maintain 8 sow-level backyard raising, targeting 80-100 piglets a year. Income of which sustained the financial needs of their three children in college.

image
As the dynamic president of the association Elma regularly appears at the livestock market to make sure that hogs being sent to Metro Manila are all in good shape.


VOLUNTEER WORKS

Elma has a strong agriculture background and loves to volunteer for the community. As a child, she was exposed to backyard gardening and poultry raising. She remembers harvesting their crops and poultry products and selling them in the neighborhood and at school. Growing up, she become a 4Her and was involved in various activities in agriculture and fisheries development in the country.

As a woman, she also became the president of the Rural Improvement Club (RIC) of Antique - a non-government organization involving women, uplifting their living standards and making them effective and productive partners of the government in community development.

For 20 years, she served as the chairperson of the Provincial Agriculture and Fisheries Council (PAFC) of Antique and in 2020 she became the chairperson of the Regional Agriculture and Fisheries Council (RAFC). This volunteer works as PAFC and RAFC chairperson enables her to use her voice to raise the issues and concerns of her fellow farmers, particularly the livestock raisers.

During these times, Elma also improved her capacities as a volunteer and a leader by joining various training programs provided by the Department of Agriculture, particularly by the Agricultural Training Institute. She has joined training on leadership, bookkeeping, root crops processing, Community Organizing, capacity building, and various agricultural technologies among others. The latest training that she is part of is the Digital Farmers Program, which equipped her with the knowledge and skills on the use of digital tools for better farming decisions and higher income.

The voluntary work that she does has helped her become abreast of the latest technologies and interventions in agriculture and fisheries. As a chairperson, she was also able to help acquire funds for her beloved association of the hog raisers in Sibalom.

image
As the president of SILPRA, she regularly visits the municipal agriculture office to discuss possible interventions for the development of the hog industry in Sibalom.


THE RISE OF SILPRA

Livestock raising is one of the leading sources of income for farmers in Sibalom. However, middlemen take control of the prices of livestock in the area. This made the local livestock raisers suffer for farm gate prices were low. To put an end to this, Elma gathered the livestock raisers in the community and organized the Sibalom Livestock and Poultry Raisers Association (SILPRA) in 2018. The membership fee was then at Php50.00. Later in 2019, SILPRA was registered in the Department of Labor and Employment. Initially, it has more than 80 members.

Aside from getting rid of the control of middlemen in the price of livestock in the local market, SILPRA was organized to widen the livestock market, elevate the lives of the livestock raisers, and aid in the community development of the province.

image
Consolidated hogs from various barangays in Sibalom and nearby municipalities are being prepared for shipment to Metro Manila.


CHALLENGES AND WINS

In its early operation, SILPRA was faced with challenges. In 2019 the association was threatened with the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak but the association acted quickly to protect their livestock industry.

As an association SILPRA has consistently worked with the Provincial Veterinary Office (PVO), Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO) of Antique, and the Office of the Municipal Agriculture to carry out strict monitoring, surveillance, implementation of biosecurity measures, and information dissemination in the community to contain the ASF.

In the farmer’s backyard, regular disinfection is practiced. Trucks used to transport hogs are decontaminated. The livestock market is also disinfected once a week.

Another challenge came when the pandemic started. Pre-pandemic, SILPRA delivers 300-500 heads of hogs to Boracay three times a week. When community lockdown was imposed to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus, delivery of hogs was stopped. A drastic drop in the price of hogs ensued, live weight kilo of hogs was only at Php75.00-Php80.00.

Elma is a firm believer that there is always hope despite dire circumstances. When the local market was affected by the pandemic and they had lost their local regular clients. With the help of the Department of Agriculture and the local government unit, she took the initiative to look for other markets of hogs. A buyer from Metro Manila came forward since there is a shortage of pork meat due to the ASF outbreak in Luzon. As Western Visayas is one of the regions in the country that is free from ASF, the association used this advantage to consolidate hogs for delivery to buyers outside the region, specifically to Metro Manila.

With proper coordination with the Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO), SILPRA was able to send 80 heads of hogs for its first shipment to Metro Manila and 160 heads for the second shipment at Php108/kg of live weight. Currently, SILPRA ships about 4000 hogs monthly to Metro Manila which contributed millions of pesos to the economy of the province.

With this effort, the hog industry in Sibalom started to thrive despite the restrictions brought about by the ASF outbreak and the pandemic.

image
SILPRA’s PHP7.5 million income-generating feed mill facility provides a livelihood for its members and a cheaper feeds option for the swine raisers in the community.


SILPRA’S INCOME-GENERATING FEED MILL

Aside from the consolidation of livestock, SILPRA also operates the feed mill facility that produces feeds for livestock and poultry animals. A PHP7.5-million feed mill facility was acquired by the association from the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI) and turned into an income-generating project.

SILPRA started milling feeds for livestock and poultry animals in Sibalom in October 2021 after a successful dry run in August 2021. Starter and grower feeds are milled in the facility using their formulation composed of rice bran, corn, and high protein concentrate (HPC) powder.

SILPRA feeds are sold at PHP1,380 for a 50-kilo bag of grower feed while a bag of 50-kilo starter feed is sold at PHP1,430. Their product is cheaper compared with those being sold in the commercial market. Commercially, a bag of the 50-kilo grower feeds is available at PHP1,490 while the starter feeds is at PHP1,675. Using SILPRA feeds helps hog raisers save a lot of money and gain more profit in their backyard project.
Feed products of SILPRA are available not only for its members but are also offered for other interesting livestock and poultry raisers in the province.

image
Even in her 60’s, Elma is still engaged in backyard hog raising. Currently, she raises more than 30 heads of swine including sows and a boar.


A BRIGHT FUTURE AHEAD

SILPRA has now more than 400 hog-farmer members from various parts of Antique. Elma shared that they have to modify the association’s by-laws to accept members from other municipalities in the province. Its membership extends to municipalities of San Remigio, Belison, Bugasong, Hamtic, Anini-y, Tibiao, Tobias Fornier, and Barbaza. The majority of the members are backyard hog raisers.

With the help from PAO, PVO, and MAO, SILPRA is looking forward to converting their association into a cooperative to help more farmers and raisers in the community.

SILPRA is also working on its partnership with the University of Antique for the advancement of its feeds formulation. The plan also includes supplying slaughtered livestock around and outside the region when the slaughterhouse in Sibalom is upgraded into “Class AA.” They even dream of supplying pork in a box upon reaching the “Class AAA’ in the future.

Meanwhile, in her 60’s, Elma is still an active president of SILPRA and a Chairperson of Western Visayas RAFC. She spends her time and energy to build a stable and profitable livestock industry in the province of Antique, specifically in Sibalom. Despite her busy schedule she and her husband still venture into the backyard raising hogs and broilers. For she believes that there is a bright prospect for the hog industry of Sibalom.

Despite the challenges that she encountered as a woman and as a leader, she stays confident and motivated for she always knows that better days lie ahead. She looks forward to constantly helping the members of her beloved association and the community and will continue to seek possible interventions to improve the lives of farmers specifically the hog raisers.

She vows to always stick to her goal: to give hope to the livestock raisers in the province of Antique, especially the hog raisers.

“To my fellow farmers, don’t lose hope. Be open to any ideas and new technologies to uplift our livestock industry. Keep on learning and share what you’ve learned,” was her heartfelt message to the hog raisers like her.

image
Optimistic about the future of the swine industry in her community, Elma performs her day-to-day activity with a smile and vigor.