Life insurance called “Piggy”

In Northern Myanmar (Burma) conflicts have forced thousands to leave their villages and relocate nearer to the cities. Thanks to loans for breeding pigs they can find stability again in their lives.

“Piggy” is a real beauty: the sow is big, strong, healthy and content, lying on the straw and grunting under Ma Ah Lay Mis’s house. The 51-year-old energetic woman doesn’t hold back stroking the precious animal – a true “Piggy”, which is her name for the grey pig with the sagging stomach and long ears. “Piggy ensures that my family enjoys a decent life”, she says, gently stroking the pig on her back.

Mah Ah lives in Eight Mile Village – eight miles from Myiktyina, Kachin State’s capital city in Northern Myanmar. Kachin is the country’s only state not to have agreed a ceasefire between ethnic minorities and the central government. The conflict smoulders steadily, but in recent years thousands had to flee from their villages and relocate nearer to the cities.

Since 2011 the “Myiktyina Lisu Baptist Organisation” (MLBA) has given support in Eight Mile Village. This SWISSAID partner organisation assists people who have fled to regain stability in their lives. Many have no school education; in their previous home they either worked in the mines or as soldiers for one of the parties involved in the conflict. At first, they generally find shelter with relatives, but then they have to stand on their own two feet.

Courses in pig breeding

In addition to micro agriculture the Lisu people mainly turn their hands to pig breeding. The MLBA project starts at this point; annually, it provides 20 families each with 100,000 kyats (about 75 Swiss francs) to purchase pigs. In addition, they attend courses about how to keep pigs in the climactic conditions of Myiktyina. The money must be repaid with interest so other families can benefit.

The beneficiaries select their own breeding strategy. Two years ago Mah Ah Lay Mi decided to rear a boar from the first litter to offer him to other breeders for farrowing for the sows.

This proved a lucrative business: the “farrowing service” and sale of piglets has so far earned her about 150 Swiss francs – twice the amount of the loan. The money earned from breeding is now the most important income source for her family of five, thus making it possible for all the children to go to school.

No loan default to date

To date about 100 families have been beneficiaries of a loan and all of them were able to repay the money. “Cooperation with the local organisations is particularly important in conflict regions”, Claire Light, SWISSAID Coordinator in Myanmar, explains the success. This also means that the men and women involved have personal control over the relief project because they know best what they need. “In difficult situations you can often only rely on yourself. And in conflict regions this is even more important than elsewhere”, says Light.

Project duration: 2.5 years 

Project costs: 91,166 Swiss francs 

Number of beneficiaries: 5,800 men, women and children in 40 villages