Guy Bassangui has just been awoken by the grunting of his boar and three sows, one of which has just farrowed three piglets. After doing a few stretches to get the tiredness out of his body, Mr. Bassangui says to the pigs, “Yes, I know you’re hungry. Be patient, I’ll bring you your food.”
Mr. Bassangui lives the suburb of Mbota, north of Pointe-Noire, in Congo-Brazzaville. After cleaning out the four stalls in which the pigs live, Mr. Bassangui starts to prepare their rations. The 40-year-old farmer mixes shovels-full of wheat flour, crushed maize, and ground bran meal with some smoked herring heads and pieces of stale bread, and then adds a half-litre of water. The pigs’ breakfast is ready, and the animals start to eat excitedly.
Mr. Bassangui says: “I barely spent 7,500 Central African francs [US$12.50] on these ingredients. If I had bought feed from livestock feed manufacturers, I would have spent more than 20,000 francs [US$33]. There’s enough here for one week. It costs me only 30,000 francs [US$50] per month to feed my pigs, and that’s why I make my own feed for my animals.”
In Pointe-Noire, like elsewhere in Congo-Brazzaville, livestock farmers consider imported, pre-made animal feeds to be very expensive. Therefore many have started to make their own feeds for their animals.
Blaise Dourou is a rural development agent. He says, “This is an unfortunate circumstance—it is impossible for farmers to buy cheaper livestock feed.” He explains that, while it is not illegal for farmers to produce their own livestock feed, manufacturing animal feed demands specific skills.
Mr. Dourou says: “Only a trained technician can accurately control the nutritional content of the ingredients to prepare food that is properly balanced to meet animals’ dietary requirements. Most of these farmers, unfortunately, are not trained.” He adds that training could be provided but this would also be costly.
Dodo Moutsinga also raises pigs. He explains: “I cannot afford to buy livestock feed. I have to make it myself.” Like many other farmers, he and Mr. Bassangui lack any kind of formal training in how to mix feeds.
Mr. Dourou thinks that an animal feed factory should be built near Pointe-Noire. He says, “This factory could produce quality feed locally which farmers could buy at a lower cost.”
Farmers like Mr. Bassangui welcome Mr. Dourou’s proposal. Mr. Bassangui says: “This is what we all expect. If technicians can make the food, it would of course be better for our animals’ health. Just like humans, animals may be exposed to potential diseases with a poor diet. Fortunately, for now, my animals are very healthy—just like me!”