Once upon a real time, in a small village in rural Uganda, a pig came to live on the farm of Mary Ilero and her husband, Julius Egadu.
Mary, who was the pig’s primary caregiver, named her Friend.
Mary and Julius needed a friend. The couple argued a lot about not having enough money to feed and educate their three children. Julius worked in construction, but there wasn’t enough work.
They hoped Friend would help them, but they had no idea how much.
Friend gave birth to nine piglets in 2017. Mary knew how to keep Friend and her piglets healthy because trainers from MCC partner Action for Peace and Development (APED) taught her and Julius how to feed them and medicate them before APED gave them the pig.
Mary sold each of the piglets for about $21, using the proceeds to buy a cow that she named Patience. Patience had a calf in 2018 and began producing milk that Mary’s children can drink and that Mary can use to make yogurt, cheese and butter. She kept the calf so that it, too, could eventually produce, but she could sell it for about $160 as a yearling and about $266 as an adult if needed.
With Friend’s second litter of nine piglets, Mary bought a sewing machine. And with the productive sow’s third litter of 10, she took sewing lessons.
Now she can sew clothing for her family, including a fourth child born in 2019, and she can make clothing to sell. Once or twice a week, she makes clothing for customers.
With more income, she can buy some beef and fish to feed her children, ages 3 to 14, in addition to greens, grains and beans, and she can help pay for their school fees. She’s unwilling to eat her own pigs though. “I love them,” she says.
The gains kept growing. With funds from Friend’s fourth litter of piglets, she bought a grinder to make nut butter from the groundnuts she was already growing. In town, she can sell some 5 pounds of groundnut butter for about $2.15.
Those are my future. I can sell them. I buy what I want. I can even buy clothes for my husband. I can even tell him, ‘This Christmas, you will not buy anything. It is me.’”
With Friend’s third and fourth litter and even more piglets from Peace, one of Friend’s offspring, Mary and Julius began to build a cement block house to replace their thatch-roofed clay house. It even has a room for her sewing and recordkeeping.
“I was surprised that I now have an office from the proceeds of the piglets,” Mary says.
It’s not only her earnings that have grown. In addition to learning about raising pigs, Mary and Julius benefited from APED training on resolving conflicts. They now work together and plan together. “We join our hands together,” Mary says.
And where she once waited on her husband to provide, she now can earn enough herself to buy food, oil or other things she needs. “I have changed,” she says. She delights in surprising her husband with a juice or a wrap, known locally as a rolex, during her trips to town. She can buy material and make clothes for her husband.
“I can even tell him, ‘This Christmas, you will not buy anything. It is me.’”
Gifts of comfort and joy — Christmas giving through MCC
This Christmas, choose gifts for family and friends that change lives across the globe. Explore the MCC Christmas giving guide at mcc.org/christmas or contact your nearest MCC office.