The social impact of…pigs?

By Anna Antoni, KF11 Indonesia

I am a vegetarian and I support pig business. How come? Well, these pigs have a social impact…

Pigs aren’t just cute when small, and always a dirty business. They are not just fulfilling the cravings of meat-crazy people. And it is not just because pigs dominated my fellowship, that analyzing the usefulness of pig loans makes sense. I would like to dedicate my final blog post to all the pigs I met in 3 months as a Kiva fellow in Bali, Indonesia and of course to all the borrowers who got a loan to purchase them. It is not easy to find the benefit of this kind of loans (let’s just call them pig loans), but these pigs REALLY have a social impact on the lives of many women I had the chance to meet.

When you lend to an entrepreneur somewhere in the world on Kiva, you probably believe that this loan has an effect, an impact on the life of the borrower. Reading in a borrower profile from Kiva field partner Mitra Usaha Kecil (MUK) in Bali that it is the borrower’s 3rd, 4th or 5th loan to buy pigs may sound like a lack of efficiency…

But effectiveness doesn’t essentially have to be accompanied by efficiency.

When I met the first borrowers at MUK I was surprised to learn that in Bali most poor and lower-income families in rural areas own one or a few pigs behind their house. It’s a time consuming business and definitely not the most profitable one (I haven’t met a borrower who could feed a whole family only through a pig business…). So my first impression was that pig loans more likely occupy the microfinance institution I got to know from the inside than provide a benefit for the borrowers. Especially because usually one pig-loan leads into another one, and another one and another one and…

And where is this glorious life-changing effect of microfinance I heard so much about and so wanted to see in my time as a Kiva fellow??

In the dirty and slowly pig-business it is well hidden, but it IS there.

In Bali pigs traditionally are women’s business. Pig breeding or fattening allows the women to still be able to handle their family’s needs all day and earn some extra money in the same time through providing pigs for the famous meal “Babi guling” (“rolling pig” over the fire) and other meat products. The women take care of the pigs so they are healthy and give birth to many healthy piglets to sell or to feed them until they are big enough to sell for about 1 Dollar per kilo. With experience and good food and shelter for the pigs they can have up to 150 kilo! Traditionally the food is self-prepared and not bought (made from banana palm tree and rice plants).

Pig enjoying his home-made food

MUK offers a special pig loan product for women groups. The loan has to be repaid after half a year (one “pig-cycle”, that’s no scientific nor a professional term) or a year (two “pig-cycles”) and not monthly, because between buying and selling pigs are about 5 months depending on the type of pig. The loan is used to buy piglets, feed for them and to improve the housing (cages- yes, also pigs must have it comfortable to live healthy and provide a profit!). MUK supports the serious leading of the businesses through requesting a specific standard of keeping the pigs and hygiene. In case of disease MUK provides free veterinary doctor’s services and the doctor surveys and trains pig groups before disbursement of the loan.

Quick insertion- for me as a “doctor for humans” it was hilarious to discuss about the differences of treating animal patients and humans, especially when he couldn’t help but giving “good” advice for female staff members’ fertility like “just take some hormones”, but ok, he could have come up with worse ideas from the veterinary reproductive medicine…

Anyways, the services for borrowers are just one specialty of the pig loans, another one that troubled me for a while is that taking a loan for pig breeding or fattening usually leads to several other loans. Even if the final goal of up to 5 loan cycles is to reach financial self-sufficiency on a higher scale of the business which can lead to a higher standard of living, it felt more like making money from the poor.

To be honest, first I suspected my MFI to have fewer social goals because it is a for-profit organization, so I thought “Ha! There it is, the proof they just want to make money from the poor!”

But I learned that the social, non-financial aspect is very strong in these women groups:

  • The members of a group that typically consist of 10-15 women build a strong community in their village.
  • They have regular meetings and support each other if there is a problem with their businesses.
  • They seriously operate their own business and contribute a bigger part to the family income.
  • This usually leads to more participation in decision making in the family.
  • Decisions made by mothers usually are future oriented to improve their children’s lives.
  • More participation in the family motivates to participate in decisions made in the community.

The spirit of the community supports the empowerment of the women who are now more independent from their husband’s income and have another standing in their family as well as in their community. They simply have more perspectives since they formed a group and take loans to improve their pig business.

Yippie, there it is: one of the life-changing effects of microfinance- I found it on muddy paths behind Balinese houses…

Borrower of a pig loan

It was awesome to be a Kiva fellow for 3 months, to get the chance to learn AND do a lot! Thank you Kiva, MUK and lovely pigs (I try to ignore the fact that they will end on plates…)!

You want a similar picture in brown instead of pink? Read the post about loans for cows in Azerbaijan from Kiva fellow Peter Marchant!

To support MUK and get more information about their work and life in Bali join the MUK Kiva lending team!

About the author

Anna Antoni