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Pig Heaven in Bolivia

by 5m Editor
14 July 2011, at 7:43am

BOLIVIA - Juan Torrez is secretary general of the Yungas town of Dorado Chico and a community leader dedicated to preserving and promoting his Afro-Bolivian heritage.

With the help of ACDI/VOCA and the Integrated Community Development Fund (ICDF), he has also become the highest-yielding pig farmer in the area. And the farm is just the beginning of Mr Torrez's plans for his community and his family.

Community leader sets sights on pig business

A soft breeze blows and birds sing in the palms and citrus trees scattered about the Torrez’s property. No odour or noise betrays the existence, only 30 yards away, of his barn full of pigs.

The barn houses 15 or so swine in impressively clean pens. As Mr Torrez enters the barn, the largest pig snorts wildly, then quiets down as Mr Torrez offers him an animated greeting and some scratches behind the ears.

"I had been interested in having a pig farm for a number of years," said Mr Torrez. He decided to build a barn and buy some pigs, but his initial efforts turned a meager profit.

Mr Torrez realized he needed training and resources, so he turned to the ICDF, a USAID-funded project led by Bolivia’s Vice Ministry for Coca and Integrated Development (VCDI) and implemented by ACDI/VOCA.

Technical and Financial Assistance Help Farm Achieve Success

An ICDF small grant provided Mr Torrez with funds for new equipment and materials; as required by the programme, Mr Torrez contributed approximately 35 per cent of the total cost of the project. He used the funds to get a freezer, improved-breed pigs, basic equipment, work clothes and technical assistance.

Thanks in large part to his hard work and enterprising spirit, combined with the training provided by ICDF agricultural specialists, Torrez improved his production and sales levels and has become the most productive pig farmer in five communities. Typically, Mr Torrez generates about 3,000 Bolivianos ($424) in monthly sales selling pork and the occasional live pig or piglet. People in the municipalities of Coripata, Coroico and Chulumani are eager to buy his pork, as this popular meat has traditionally been transported to the Yungas region all the way from Cochabamba or Santa Cruz.

"It’s been two years now since I started working [with ACDI/VOCA]," said Mr Torrez. "I give thanks because I am able to support my family; I’m able to send money to my children who are studying outside the country."

Expansion of business holds promise for local economy

But Mr Torrez has another dream. Together with his two children, he plans to open a weekend restaurant on his beautiful piece of land, creating jobs and a wider market for his pork.

Through a VCDI programme to promote development in the Yungas, Mr Torrez’s son, Juan Alberto, received a scholarship to study business management in Colombia. As part of his scholarship agreement, Juan Alberto has committed to returning to work in the Yungas once he finishes his degree.

"My son arrives in June," says Mr Torrez, "By then he’ll officially have his degree in business management. He’s taken all the classes related to animal husbandry, accounting, etc. Once he gets here, we’re going to expand all this."

Juan Alberto and Mr Torrez will use a business model developed by Torrez’s daughter, Beatriz, who is pursuing a marketing degree in Panama. Her business model, titled Chicharronería San Benito, won first prize in a competition sponsored by the Universidad Real in La Paz.

"My daughter presented a business plan. The idea is to generate family income and create jobs, which is what caught the judges’ eye. We’re going to open the restaurant on the weekends, so that people can come, have a good time, and eat a good meal. The good thing is we have the prime material: the meat."

Farm represents one of many ICDF development successes

Mr Torrez is one of the ICDF’s model producers. A man who is happiest when working with his family and helping his community, he used a little bit of financial and technical support to make his small business successful and sustainable. And in his eyes, he’s just getting started.

As part of efforts to improve the quality of life and diversify Bolivia’s economy, ACDI/VOCA has implemented nearly 700 community and economic development activities through ICDF. To date, the programme has assisted 12 Yungas pork farms, which have generated, on average, more than $7,000 in annual sales.

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