Saving the Ifugao native pig: an alternative and sustainable livelihood in the rice terraces

In the olden times, the Ifugao native pigs roam freely in the rice terraces. But along the way, as the rice terraces and habal (swidden farms) are being abandoned, the native pigs also start to disappear.

Like native chickens, native pigs occupy an important role in the economic and cultural landscape of a typical Ifugao village in the past. Communities use pigs during rituals, weddings, birth, and even after death. Their bile were read like books during rituals by the mumbakis.

Today, most of the indigenous rituals are disappearing but not the value and use of pigs. Many families still spend thousands of money to purchase pigs during occasions. Sometimes, pigs are bought outside their communities and even outside the province during peak seasons. The need for pigs especially in the local villages is a practice that will stay for more years.

At Ifugao State University (IFSU), the Ifugao native pigs found an ally. Dr. Elpidio Basilio, Jr. an associate professor at the College of Agriculture is an expert on Ifugao native pigs. He studied its genetic components and established the Nucleus Herd for the Ifugao Native Pig at IFSU as an offshoot of his PhD dissertation.

In his research, Dr. Basilio found out that at least five strains of Ifugao native pigs are rare and unique species when he compared these genetic samples from Kalinga and Taiwan native pigs. Currently, Dr. Basilio, Project Leader of the IFSU native pig, is conducting further tests and experiment to improve the Ifugao native pig breed.

According to Dr. Basilio, saving and modifying the Ifugao native pig breed is important. “Our native pigs have been part of our culture. Family and community rituals and occasions are always performed at the expense of the native pig,” said Dr. Basilio.

Dr. Basilio added that another important feature of the native pig is, it is adaptive and resilient to harsh conditions in the Ifugao villages. “With these positive characteristics, we collected the five strains of our Ifugao native pigs to purify and multiply their number in our IFSU Nucleus Herd,” added Dr. Basilio.

“Once we complete the process of purifying and increasing the number of Ifugao native pigs in our Nucleus Herd, we will dispose and distribute them to our local farmers and communities as an additional source of livelihood,” reiterated by Dr. Basilio.

In conclusion, Dr. Basilio said that, “Our purified Ifugao native pig is also low cost in maintenance and noncapital intensive. Farmers can use local and available materials for housing, food and other maintenance for the native pigs.”

Dr. Basilio hopes that the Ifugao Native Pig Project will help farmers to have an alternative source of livelihood while having less input in the rice terraces communities.#