Rwanda media report that the country has started a pilot project to use drones to deliver swine semen to veterinarians for use in artificial insemination (AI), to facilitate farmers’ access to improved breeds and boost the pig industry.
The Rwanda-based newspaper The New Times spoke to Fabrice Ndayisenga, head of the animal resource research and technology transfer department at the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB). He said that the initiative started in January through a partnership with Zipline Rwanda, a medical products delivery company.
Under the Rwanda Livestock Master Plan, launched in December 2017 and laying out a plan for the following 5 years, the pig industry is expected to be a major contributor to Rwanda’s meat production. Ndayisenga told the newspaper that the main challenge related to AI in pigs is to transport semen from to the breeders. Pig semen requires rapid delivery in order to be effective.
It takes some 45 minutes for a drone to deliver pig semen from central Muhanga district (where an AI centre is located) to Nyamasheke district in the south west of the country. That is a distance of about 180 km, in Rwanda a car journey of 3 hours.
Ndayisenga said pig producers can now order the semen, and a vet could come to inseminate their pigs. This would be an alternative to keeping boars on-site, which is expensive and could be a biosecurity liability.
The newspaper also spoke to Jean Claude Shirimpumu, chairperson for the Rwanda Pig Farmers’ Association. He said that there are 5 centres for pig semen collection and AI, yet farmers far away from those centres would run into difficulty.
Currently, 1-dose semen costs 6,500 Rwandan franc (€ 5.51) from collection centres, before transport costs. Shirimpumu said that in case the pilot phase proves successful, RAB will sign a memorandum of understanding with Zipline which will include that cost.
According to the Rwanda Livestock Master Plan, the overall target is to raise pig meat production from 19,945 tonnes in 2016/17 to 67,076 tonnes by 2021/22 – an increase of 239%. The Agricultural Household Survey of 2020 put the pig population in the country at 1.2 million.
The original article was published at the New Times Rwanda by journalist Emmanuel Ntirenganya. This edited version was published with the permission of the author.