Valley’s pig keepers are not just making a living. They are also contributing to organic waste management.Pig farmers are collecting leftover foods from hotels, restaurants and boarding houses to feed their animals.
Every day, Tek Bahadur Shrestha, 48, and his son Sujan 23, wake up at 4 am. They then collect empty buckets and head out to the city on their motorcycles, collecting leftover foods from hotels, restaurants, school hostels and party venues from Sinamangal to New Baneshwor and up to Tripureshwor.
They return home with buckets full of leftover foods, which they feed to their pigs.
The Shresthas rear 120 pigs in two farms, one in Lokanthali and the other in Thankot.
By feeding chucked away food to their pigs, this father and son pig keeper duo is not only saving money but also helping the city authority’s efforts in managing organic waste.
“We need to collect around two quintals of waste every day. We try to reach the hotels, hostels and party venues as early as possible because several other pig keepers are also collecting leftover food for their pigs in the morning,” said Tek Bahadur, who has been rearing pigs since 2007 after returning from Malaysia.
Besides leftover foods, the Shresthas also feed their pigs vegetables collected from the Kalimati Fruits and Vegetable Market.
“If you get enough leftover food and vegetables, you don’t have to buy much of other food like corn, flour or soybean from the market,” Tek Bahadur added.
There are more than two dozen pigsties run on leased land plots along the Manohara river banks in Lokanthali. These farms are chiefly operated by the families living in the nearby shanties.
Tek Bahadur estimates that the pig keepers in the Lokanthali area alone collect more than 50 quintals of wasted food from the city daily.
Besides Lokanthali, there are dozens of places in the Valley such as in Nakkhu, Balaju, Gokarna, Thankot, Naikap, Jagate, Sallaghari— where families are raising pigs for commercial purposes. Most of these farms feed leftovers to their pigs.
“You don’t have to invest much in this business. I make enough money, running this pig farm, to send my two children to school. We have a dozen pigs right now,” said Silumaya Tamang, a 45-year-old pig farmer from Nakkhu.
Tamang’s husband, who works as a mason in the day, helps his wife maintain their family pig farm by collecting leftovers from the Bhaisepati area during his free time. Sanitation experts say more than 80 percent of organic waste littering the streets of the Valley can be lifted if the local governments cooperated with pig farmers.
“This is the best way to control solid waste of Kathmandu. I am amazed why the authorities are not adopting this method, ” said Sumita Amatya, a waste management expert and town planner.
“The landfill site in Sisdole is already over its capacity and carrying organic waste there means it would pollute the air in a 27-km stretch, before reaching Sisdole. Dumping them at the landfill site means leachate production, and when that gets mixed with the river water, it threatens the aquatic ecosystem,” said Amatya.
Although feeding pigs on leftovers is a centuries-old practice, it was banned by the European Union in 2001 after an outbreak of foot and mouth diseases linked to a farm that was feeding its pigs unprocessed restaurant waste.
But in Nepal, there are no such restrictions.
Director-General of Department of Livestock Services Dr Banshi Sharma said since pigs are ‘swill feeding’ animals there is no problem feeding them leftovers. “But leftover foods should be boiled before they are fed. This technique can be used all over the country,” said Sharma.
The Kathmandu Valley produces 1,000 tonnes of solid waste daily, of which 500 tonnes are produced by Kathmandu Metropolitan City alone. Sixty percent (600 tonnes) of the solid waste is organic, which can be fed to the pigs.
The department’s data shows a total of 1.3 million pigs all across the country, with an estimated 50,000 pigs being raised in the three districts of Kathmandu Valley. Using the estimates, if one pig eats 10 kg of leftovers, 50,000 pigs eat 500,000 kg (551.1 tonnes) of food waste, which is almost equivalent to organic waste produced by Kathmandu.
Hari Bahadur Shrestha, chief of the Environment Division at the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, said, he didn’t know so many people are involved in professional pig farming and benefits linked to organic solid waste.
“We have already started segregating waste from ward 12, 28 and 31. We will consult with all the 32 ward representatives to contact the pig keepers, and we will also consult with other municipalities,” he said.
The Shresthas make about Rs1 million profit from their farms in a year. “Collecting the leftovers is not easy, but if you work hard, you can earn really good money. There is no need to go abroad,” said Tek Bahadur.
While there are nearly two dozen pigsties, there is one slaughterhouse in Lokanthali, where all the pigs from the area are slaughtered. Besides that, pigs coming from Dharan and other parts of the country are also kept here, and those suppliers also collect waste food from Kathmandu.
Officials at the livestock department say, on average, only 100 pigs, especially Dharane Kalo Bungur and other local breeds, are brought into Kathmandu. The rest of the demand is met by the pig production in Kathmandu.
“Every day over 80 pigs are cut here, and their meat is supplied to all the three districts in Kathmandu Valley,” said Raju Karki, the slaughterhouse operator in Lokanthali.