October 7, 2010 / 9:50 AM / 7 years ago

Rwanda's happy hip-hop pigs help combat poverty

<p>A pig listens to music inside its pen at a farm in Nyirangarama in Northern Rwanda, September 28, 2010. REUTERS/Hereward Holland</p>

NYIRANGARAMA, Rwanda (Reuters Life!) - Edmund Ndizeye, self-styled pig DJ, stoops to adjust the amp at a farm in the wrinkled hills of northern Rwanda.

The wires leading from his room feed a varied diet of hip-hop, reggae, R and B, love songs and local music to his pink curly tailed audience who, according to Ndizeye’s boss, are thriving on the beats and melodies.

“Human beings like music so I asked myself, why not for animals?” said Gerard Sina, director of Urwibutso, a farm attached to a popular truck-stop. “We have to select music which can satisfy my animals.”

As the honeyed lilt of Shania Twain wafts over the pig-pens, Sina says he discovered the technique in Belgium six years ago and claims he’s seen dramatic results.

“I have a sample which have been reared with music and another without. Those reared with music double their yields in terms of number of offspring, the quality of the meat and their weight,” he tells Reuters.

Feeding the pigs on leftovers from his restaurant and fruit juice processing plant, Sina says his enterprise is fully organic and sustainable -- nothing goes to waste, including pig excrement.

His litter of musical swine also helps combat poverty using a traditional method of wealth distribution.

He gives away around 150 piglets to local families every month. The first-born is returned to Sina, the rest of the litter stays with the foster family, while the mother is passed on to another family.

“It can easily reduce poverty and food security in this region. This is a way of eradicating unemployment,” he says.

BALLADS FOR DIGESTION

<p>A worker carries piglets from their pen at a farm in Nyirangarama in Northern Rwanda September 28, 2010. REUTERS/Hereward Holland</p>

Despite Sina’s efforts, many of Rwanda’s 10 million-strong population remain hungry.

According to the World Food Program website, Rwanda’s crowded hillsides and rapid population growth have led to deforestation, soil erosion and have hurt agricultural productivity.

Half the population is highly vulnerable to food insecurity while over 50 percent of children are chronically malnourished.

Slideshow (3 Images)

Still, Agriculture and Animal Resources Minister Agnes Kalibata, is optimistic Rwanda can achieve the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

She says three years ago Rwanda was extremely food-insecure, but now a government drive, which trebled agricultural spending as a percentage of gross domestic product since 2007, has propelled sector growth at more than 6 percent.

“In those three years we’ve got it down to a level where farmers are worried about the excess food they have in their houses,” she told Reuters.

The main elements of the government programme are land consolidation and the distribution of high-yielding seeds fertilizer and, like Sina’s philanthropic venture, livestock.

“We have a one-cow per family program where we’ve reached 90,000 families. The results have been tremendous in terms of family income,” she said.

After feeding, Ndizeye plays soft ballads to help the pigs relax and digest, like Celine Dion or Bob Marley. Later he plays more aggressive dance tracks to perk them up such as legendary American rappers Jay-Z or 2Pac.

“When we want to make them pregnant we have to put on strong music, so that the males can be strong and virile,” Sina says, helmeted guinea fowl and piglets mingling in the dust behind him.

Editing by Steve Addison

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