Yer Moua is a young woman from the Hmong ethnic group who raises pigs in Xieng Khouang, a mountainous province in the North of Laos. Starting a small business is not easy for young people, but with the help of a scheme funded by SDC, Yer Mua is now able to contribute to the family income on an equal basis with her husband who grows vegetables.
The scheme, called Agripreneurs for Green Rural Enterprises and Employment, or AGREE for short, provides training and start-up funds for youth who want to start their own small business. AGREE is an on-going activity of the Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service (LURAS), a program implemented by the Lao Department of Agricultural Extension and Cooperatives and Helvetas, a Swiss NGO.
After graduating from Xiengkhouang Technical and Vocational School, Yer Moua got married and needed to find a source of income for her new family. Pork is an essential part of Hmong feasts that are used to celebrate important events in the family and community, with the result that the meat fetches a good price but breeding animals are expensive. The AGREE scheme gave Yer Moua the support she needed to get started.
Yer Moua explains how she has adapted what she learnt to make her pig farm as healthy and sustainable as possible.
“The AGREE scheme provided me with the capital I needed to start raising local pigs. Through the scheme, I also got to do internship at a pig farm too. However, the pig farm that I went to was an industrial one, using lots of hormone and industrial feed. I didn’t like this. For the feed, I make my own mixture of feed using maize, soybean, cassava etc, trying to use as much local products as possible.”
“I also noticed during my internship that the cement floors hurt the heels of the pigs and you could not keep the manure as it would get washed away when cleaning the pig sty. So I decided to put rice husk on the flooring of my pig sty. This not only help to collect the manure but also reduce the bad smell too. My husband uses the manure to make organic fertilizer for his vegetable gardens and we are able to sell any that is not needed.”
Within 18 months of joining the AGREE scheme, Yer Moua was able to earn nearly 28 million kip from her pig farm, more than twice the amount she received as a grant. All of which happened at the same time as having her first child! Not surprisingly, Yer Moua is happy with her new business, which continue to expand.
“I am now able to earn more income and support my family. My mother-in-law and sister now live with me and help raise the pigs. The training provided by the AGREE scheme has given me more confidence. I used to be very shy but now I am a trainer for the next batch of AGREE and am happy to share my knowledge with other youths.”