Rote is a small, dry climate island lying south-west of Timor. Food security is an ongoing concern for Rotinese communities - each year, the island endures a musim lapar or “hungry season” when the high seas and gales isolate the island from regular sea and air contact and food supplies run short.
Our project is in the west of Rote and centred around the small village of Oengaut.
In 2011 five families who largely survived by subsistence - palm tapping and small seaweed cultivation enterprises - formed a co-operative called the Oengaut Pig Bank (OPB) and submitted a well thought out proposal for funding for a “pig bank”. The group had established clear regulations governing group membership and pig husbandry.
Pigs in Rote are a repository of wealth and status; they are used to convert the palm syrup staple to protein, for dowry and feasting occasions and are a source of great pride. Every traditional Rotinese family aspires to pig ownership.
In 2012 indigo foundation allocated three hundred Australian dollars to buy four Banpres breeding sows for the group. The best female piglet from the first litter of each sow was to be given on weaning to the next member on the list who could meet the requirement s of membership, the remaining piglets could be sold or grown out and kept, but each member would only ever receive one piglet from the bank.
The project was a success beyond all imagination. Within the first year there was such a demand for the pigs that many were sold before they were born. The income from the project was used to send children to school, buy medicines and improve living conditions for the group.
In 2014 Western Plains Pork responded to a request from the pig bank for technical assistance. The Banpres pigs had different requirements to the small black local pigs and the piglet mortality rates were too high. Tim and Judy Croagh were asked to meet with the Oengaut Pig Bank and provide technical advice. After sharing stories and photos of the WPP experience with the group and visiting the stys and talking to the farmers Tim and Judy established that the pigs needed more water to maintain good piglet and sow health. Tim and Pak Ieri from the Pig Bank designed a water supply system which was subsequently funded by WPP with labour provided by the community.
In 2015 Tim and Judy were warmly welcomed back to Oengaut and inspired the completion of the water supply system, now in constant use, and provided ongoing technical advice to the OPB and to a new pig bank group in nearby Tuaneo village.
Currently there are twelve families in the original OPB and three spin off pig bank groups.
A 2016 visit from Tim and Judy is planned, and as their fame spreads there is now a request for them to visit and provide advice on a related project on the island of Timor!
Food security, nutrition, access to fresh water and income generation are of critical concern for communities on Rote. The partnership between the local partners, Western Plains Pork and indigo foundation has had a profound impact on the lives of many people, not only in the obvious benefits of food security and income generation, but in the improvement of group member’s confidence, leadership skills and their ability to fully participate in the community.