We sniff really hard. Yup, Vicky is right, this pig pen does not smell. At best, our driver Freddie and I smell sawdust. And it is about 32 degrees today.
In front of us are three pigs happily rooting about and snorting away inside their cement pen. A small metal gate keeps them in. Vicky is explaining how she studied then built a type of pig pen that does not have the characteristic odours of this rather fragrant farm animal.
Want to learn how? I knew you would…
First you dig a deep pit, about one metre below the surface. Next you fill it with sawdust, packing it down. Then you sprinkle a mixture of sour milk and molasses on the sawdust. Finally, you top it with a bit more sawdust then the pigs. A bacterial layer created by the sour milk mix breaks down the pig’s urine or water run off from the pigs.
Maintenance is simple, the pens are cleaned much like a cat’s litter box, scooping up the bigger mess and freshening up that top layer of sawdust. Occasionally, you need to put down some more of the mixture. Although an intensive labour to get started, the result is quite pleasing to the nose and not as high maintenance as the full cleaning required of a regular cement pen.
She wanted to try this as the pig pen was going to be really close to her home. If she was going to keep more pigs, they needed to be clean and less fragrant than other pens. A success for sure.
Beside the home is also a large chicken coop divided in two. I notice immediately, that the chickens don’t look like the other chickens I have seen in Tanzania. They are all black and larger than the other breeds. They look in very good health.
Vicky says they are Malawi chickens. They are stronger egg producers. These chickens also have more meat on them.
In one side of the coop are the mature birds, on the other side a small box of chicks peeps away waiting to be fed. Vicky is also working on non-electrical sources of heat at night for the chicks. The simplest solution are rocks painted black then left in the sun for the day to absorb the heat. At night, when placed in a hatching box the rocks radiate heat for several hours.
These types of simple innovations should not be overlooked. They are important projects for our women. Stronger farming techniques and animal breeds can make each dollar invested go further. Not to mention who doesn’t love a better smelling barnyard?