The importance of pigs especially in the highlands is impossible to compare with anything in Western societies and cultures. The pig is a symbol of wealth, it is a saving mechanism, used for community celebrations, a way of paying debts, justice settlements and education, and used for securing relationships such as marriages, celebrating births and mourning deaths.
One large pig is worth about US$1000 to US$2000 when it is sold. They live in houses together with the women and children and are treated as members of the family. So you can imagine what happens when a sickness hits a village and they all die. This is what happening in several districts in Yahukimo.
The Devastation of Hog Cholera
One of the worst hit areas has been the Hupla tribe who number over 3000 people. For about 2 years now they have been hit by Hog Cholera which has wiped out their entire population of pigs. The people feel that they are very vulnerable as they have watched their entire livelihood disappear. The leaders recently approached Yasumat to see how they could help to turn the situation around. Yasumat did not have enough money to buy pigs for over 3000 people but felt that the best way forward would be for the Huplas to try to find a solution to their own problem and prevent it happening again.
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Joining together to find a solution
Through many hours of discussion leaders began to realise that they had the resources and capacity to solve the problem themselves with just a little help from Yasumat.
They discovered that if they put together small amounts of funds that existed in each village and joined them together, the churches could buy pigs which could be bred and later distributed to families.
The whole experience has been very exciting for both Yasumat and the communities as both have been able to see that real partnership can work and that development is not about providing and receiving handouts but about empowering people to find solutions and make decisions about their own lives.