Assessing competitiveness of smallholder pig farming in the changing landscape of Northwest Vietnam
This research (PDF) by ILRI aims at identifying major constraints and opportunities in the improved integration of pig and maize production, to improve smallholder income, while making the system more environmentally sustainable by investigating more diverse and profitable crop rotations, as well as improvements to soil fertility through cycling of nutrients and organic matter. Pig raising can offer significant opportunities for improved livelihoods for many households in Northwest Vietnam. Traditionally, pigs are a key component of agricultural systems in this region and are fed with wild leaves and crop residues to produce a product at a low cost but perceived as high quality. In recent years, intensified production systems have evolved with the introduction of new pig breeds and hybrid maize varieties grown as animal feed. This has led to maize becoming a dominant crop in these mountainous areas. Research shows that pork remains an important animal-source food in the Vietnamese diet. Demand for pork has increased over time, largely attributed to population growth and rising income. Results from the field work show that the integrated maize–pig system is widely practiced by farmers. The main advantages of this system over a specialised pig farm are: 1) better control over quality and timely availability as maize feed is available on farm; 2) reduced feed costs by avoiding transport and transactions; 3) potentially producing for supplying a niche meat market for perceived high-quality pigs. The study results highlight difficulties faced by smallholders in these communes with regard to accessing inputs and services as well as more profitable markets for their pig products. Collective action could allow the smallholders to access lucrative markets. However, these organisations tend to deteriorate once external support is withdrawn. On the other hand, contract farming has by design a strong private sector component and tends to be economically sustainable, but often fails to integrate small scale farmers in more remote locations.