This page in:

FEATURE STORY

In Mexico, an “odorless” pig farm protects the environment

October 31, 2013

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The World Bank offers technical and financial support to help agricultural businesses to use sustainable technology.
  • There are already about 800 projects across Mexico.
  • They reduce contamination but also save money and improve the wellbeing of their communities.

While it may be difficult to imagine a clean pig, it is even harder to imagine a pig that helps to protect the environment.

Nonetheless, a pig farm in the state of Morelos, Mexico, has achieved both, with a positive ecological impact through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Both the workers and animals at the Tlaquiltenango farm contribute to this goal as part of one of several green initiatives transforming Mexico into a regional leader in environmental protection. By 2050, the country hopes to have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by half.

Workers and visitors must shower and don a khaki jumpsuit and boots before entering the open-sided roofed area where the animals are housed.

Unlike other pork production facilities, here the animals look clean and are not in direct contact with their feces, although the farm does still smell of pig.

The intense sun in this region increases the smell. But it is now tolerable, natural even; an odor that is to be expected in the countryside if not on a pig farm.

"Previously, there were many complaints (from neighboring communities) about the smell and the flies," says Farm Supervisor Angie Vega.

Open Quotes

After the digester was installed, a municipal board was created so that people both from the community as well as producers could learn more. There are no more disputes. It doesn’t smell anymore since there aren’t any animals, flies or rodents. Close Quotes

Angie Vega
Tlaquiltenango Farm Supervisor

What changed?

The farm installed a biodigester, a closed tank where the waste from the farm’s  17,000 animals is stored. The tank prevents some six thousand tons of methane –a far more powerful contaminant than CO2– along with other greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere every year. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of 1,200 gas-powered vehicles.

Fortunately, methane is combustible. Consequently, the gas that the biodigester produces can be used to produce electricity, or simply burned to prevent contamination.

While the Tlaquiltenango farm still does not produce electricity, it has, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, managed to notably improve the environment for the community and its workers.

“After the digester was installed, a municipal board was created so that people both from the community as well as producers could learn more. There are no more disputes. It doesn’t smell anymore since there aren’t any animals, flies or rodents,” says Vega.

For several years now, the World Bank has provided technical and financial support to the Shared Risk Trust (FIRCO), an entity created by the Agricultural Secretariat to offer partial financing and advice to agricultural businesses about reducing contamination and using sustainable technologies and practices.

Similarly in Morelos, a greenhouse growing tomatoes and cucumbers, also supported by FIRCO has managed to decrease its electricity costs and reduce its polluting emissions by installing solar panels.

 “We also have to ensure that producers see this as an investment rather than an expense. It is an investment where they will recover the payment for adopting the technologies,” said Miguel Valderrábano Pesquera, President of FIRCO-Morelos Operations.

By June 2013, FIRCO was already partially financing or advising some 800 projects across Mexico. Together, these clean technologies prevented 589,000 tons of CO2 being released into the atmosphere, equivalent to the annual emissions of 294,000 vehicles .

With these and other initiatives, such as one to regular light bulbs with energy-saving ones, another to ecologically remove  refrigerators and tto replace electrical appliances, Mexico aspires to become a country that truly reflects the green found in its national flag.