Teklay Abreha, 45, a father of three, had been a driver for the past 15 years. The career, which used to pay him with 1,500 Br a month, came to an end, in May 2012, when a doctor told him to give up his job due to asthma.
He stayed at home for 45 days, in Keye Sefer, near the Kaliti Drivers & Mechanics Training Insititute, in Akaki Kaliti District. He did nothing but think about what he could possibly do next, to earn a living and support his family.
He opted for pig breeding, and bought a pregnant pig from a friend, for 7,000 Br, in June. September brought the birth of nine piglets.
"I did not expect this many piglets to be born at one time," Teklay said.
The pig is considered unclean by many religious followers, within the Islamic and Orthodox Christian faiths. When Frederic J. Simuns, author of the book, Eat Not This Flesh, visitedEthiopia, in 1963, to conduct his doctorate thesis, no one at all ate pig meat in this country.
"I did not see a single pig in the country," he recorded in his book.
Many people still think that there are few pigs in the country, only to be surprised when confronted by the numbers.
By international standards, it is true that there are indeed very few pigs inEthiopia.Chinahas half of the world's one billion pigs, and together with the European Union andUnited States, boasts 85pc of the entire population. The world slaughters 23 million of them each week for food.
Fifty-seven years after Simuns visited Ethiopia, the Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO) says that the pig population in the country has reached 29,250. Ten years ago, this figure was 25,000.
That may be viewed as only a small growth, considering the size of the litter one pig can give in a single delivery, even inEthiopia.
Arnold Krul, a preacher turned pig farmer fromHolland, expects an average of 20 piglets every time his pigs are pregnant. He turned to the business, in 2010, after seeing the gap in demand and supply.
Krul now keeps 300 pigs in his farm, in Debre Zeit, where he has two hands helping him.
Teklay was encouraged by the number of piglets his first pig gave him. In October, he acquired a second pregnant pig, using 7,000 Br he had obtained from Iqub, a traditional financing scheme. This one recently gave birth to a further litter of six piglets.
Keeping pigs is not a practice that makes the neighbours very happy. Teklay's neighbours, and other people in the area, did not welcome the foul odour or even the mere sight of the pigs in their neighbourhood. They took their complaint to the wereda administration. The pigs were becoming a kind of socio-cultural debate.
Teklay used to be intolerant of Teshome, a neighbour and friend who kept pigs, until he was out of job and had to buy one of his pregnant pigs for himself. He personally, however, avoids eating pork, for religious reasons.
"I keep my pigs in a clean area to ensure quality and to limit the bad smell," says Krul.
The officials decided to take measures and started a partial registration of the pig farmers in the area. They came up with a list of 14, according to Meskerem Endale, trade and industry officer, at the wereda.
The officials, surprised by the number, decided to register all involved in the business and, also, to provide training.
"Since this was within the city limits, I really did not expect this many pigs in the wereda," Meskerem said.
The surprise was also shared by other people Fortune talked to.
"I am really surprised, because I believed that most Ethiopian Muslims and Christians were forbidden to eat pigs," said a customer who was buying mortodella at Shi Solomon Supermarket, when hearing for the first time how many pigs there were inEthiopia.
A detailed census has not been taken, but an official at the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) estimates that theAmharaRegionalStatemay have the largest number of pigs, followed by Oromia. The biggest pig farm is found at theAlageAgriculturalCollege, in the Eastern Shoa Zone of Oromia, which currently has 3,000 pigs.
The return from the pig business is high, inEthiopia. Krul says that a 100Kg pig sells for 222 dollars inEthiopia, compared to 112 dollars inCanadaand 135 dollars inHolland.
The reason for significantly higher pig prices, inEthiopia, is due to the lack of supply, caused by small litters, and due to the limited scope of pig farming, according to Zenawi Tibebu (PhD), who studied animal science.
Teklay was negotiating to sell two piglets, for 700 Br and 800 Br respectively, when Fortune found him, on the afternoon of December 19, 2012. He expects to make a total revenue of 45,000 Br, from the 15 pigs that have been born, thus far, to the two females.
Teklay spends 970 Br monthly on feed for his entire herd, feeding them three kilos a day. He complements this further by letting his animals loose in the streets to rummage for food.
Although the litter size is a direct result of the quality of care that a pregnant pig receives. Krul, who has so far sold 500 pigs, for between 4,000 and 4,500 Br each, spends around 1,800 Br per pig. He has 30 mother pigs, which he expects will yield 600 offspring over the course of the next year.
In the 2011/12 fiscal year,Ethiopia imported 17tn of pork, mostly from Italy, an increase from 15tn in the previous fiscal year.
Only 1.7tn of pig meat, however, was produced during the same year, showing a 0.7tn increment over the last ten years, on average.
Since Addis Abeba is the political capital ofAfrica, many foreigners come here, and thus pork products are popular. It is seen as delicious food in their countries and the demand is increasing fast, says Kassahun Aberu (Phd), a pig farmer and pig meat supplier.
He was supplying 30Kg to 40Kg of pork daily, a year ago, and now that is up to between 100Kg and 120Kg. He delivers to hotels, such as; the Hilton, Radisson Blu, and also supermarkets.
"The increase in demand is not only due to the rise in foreigners, but Ethiopians are also starting to eat pig meat too, especially in towns," says Kassahun. The Diaspora are returning to their country already used to eating pork.
When Fortune visited the most known five supermarkets, in Addis Abeba, three of them had pork in stock. At Shi Solomon Supermarket, located in front of the National Theatre, the price of one kilogram of mortodela, salami and ham is 180 Br, 150 Br and 800 Br, respectively.
Pig farmers, likeAlageCollege, sell a kilogram of pig meat for 40 Br, and producers, such as Kassahun, sell the same amount for 130 Br, after processing. At the end, the packaged pork becomes available in supermarkets for between 180 and 190Br.
Even though the demand is increasing in the market, there is no package that is planned to promote pig farming in the MoA, Addis Abeba Agricultural Bureau, orOromiaRegionalState's Agricultural Bureau, Fortune learned from the respective officials.
Because of socio cultural reasons, the MoA does not have a strategy for pig farming, according to Dagnachew Beyene (Dr), an animal farming officer.
The ministry is currently conducting research, however, which is expected to reveal the demand and supply of pigs in the market. This will enable them to visualise a strategic method for developing the sector.
Officials at the wereda, Oromia and Addis Abeba Agricultural bureau told Fortune the same thing.
Teklay is one of the pig farmers who is effected by the absence of a strategic plan, at both the wereda, city and regional levels. He needs space to expand his business and to continue breeding his pigs, as he is currently only using his own residence.
"If I get a place, I will expand my business," he said. "The more I take care of them the bigger their litter."
The government should not put forth socio cultural issues as a reason not to promote pig farming. The practice has acceptance in the world and is a profitable business, Zenawi said.
If managed well, one pig has the capacity to give birth to 23 to 24 piglets at once, according to Zenawi.
Arnoldplans on getting 6,000 piglets, expecting an average of 20 piglets from one mother pig.
The basic things that you need to provide to the pigs are clean food and drink, alongside adequate floor space, in order to avoid overcrowding, says Zenawi.
For instance, a pig that weighs 85Kg requires at least one square metre of space, for eating and sleeping, and water troughs should also be provided. The floor should also have a rough finish, to prevent pigs from slipping on wet surfaces.
Even though Teklay has not yet fulfilled these requirements, he keeps the pigs in a clean area. So far he has not sought any professional support, in regards to his pigs, nor has he been approached by anyone.
Teklay learnt about pig farming all on his own. If there was a strategy that would help him, he would have been really wealthy by now, commented Zenawi.