Where Money Walks on Four Legs

“IN OUR area a pig is a major family asset, so raising one is a big responsibility,” says Enmarie Kani, a 17-year-old girl who lives in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. “When my father asked me to look after a piglet, I was excited but anxious. It was so tiny that I thought it might die.”

How did Enmarie care for her little pig? And why are pigs as important as money to the people who live in rural Papua New Guinea? Here is what she told Awake!

Please describe where you live.

Along with my parents and four younger siblings—two girls and two boys—I live in a small bush house with a thatched grass roof in a remote mountain village in the Western Highlands. The village has about 50 inhabitants, all of them my relatives, and we live beside a small river that winds its way through thickly forested rolling hills.

Off to the garden

Most people in our village farm for a living. My family has a large vegetable garden, where we grow sweet potatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, coffee, and other crops. I love growing vegetables and enjoy physical labor. I also care for other chores, such as cleaning house, washing clothes and, of course, looking after the family pig.

How do you care for your pig?

Time for a wash
When Dad bought our pig about a year ago, it was so tiny that I could hold it in my hands. Each day, I fed it a mixture of powdered fish mixed with mashed sweet potato, water, salt, and sugarcane juice. At night, when the highlands get quite cool, it slept in an empty rice bag that hung from the ceiling near the fireplace in our house. I slept on the floor near it. As a result, the pig not only survived but also thrived!

 I never gave our pig a novel personal name. I just called it Pig, and that became its name. I cared for Pig as if it were my own baby—feeding it, washing it, and playing with it for hours. Pig became fondly attached to me and followed me everywhere.
Time for play

When Pig grew bigger, I introduced it to a new routine that we still follow. By means of a rope, I lead the animal down to our vegetable garden—a 15-minute walk from our house. There I attach the rope to a tree and let Pig dig around in the garden bed all day. Using its powerful neck and leathery snout, it digs for roots and worms, at the same time tilling and fertilizing the soil. At day’s end, I lead it home, where I feed it raw and cooked sweet potatoes before settling it down for the night in its wooden pen.

Why are pigs so important to highlanders?

We highlanders have a saying, Money is pig and pig is money. Long before regular currency arrived in the highlands, people used pigs for money—a practice that continues to this day. For example, a car dealership in the highlands once offered a live pig with every new vehicle purchased. Tribes often settle their disputes by exchanging money and pigs. And many grooms give pigs to their bride’s parents or clan as part of the bride-price.

It sounds like eating a pig is like eating an investment!

You are right! Since pigs are so valuable, we usually eat pork only on special occasions, such as funerals and other important ceremonies. That said, some highland tribes feast on hundreds of pigs at large ceremonies designed to show off the tribe’s wealth or to repay past favors.

What will your family do with your pigs?

“Pigs” is correct, for Pig has had a number of piglets, one of which we recently sold for 100 kina (nearly $40 U.S.). We used the money to travel by bus to the annual district convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the nearby town of Banz. Dad will likely sell Pig’s other offspring to care for our family’s everyday needs.

Why not raise more pigs so that you can make more money?

Our goal is, not to get rich, but to have what we need in the way of food, clothing, and shelter. Our family is focused more on spiritual things. This includes serving our God, Jehovah; attending Christian meetings; helping other people where we can—materially or spiritually—and doing things together as a family. We live a simple life, but we are close and happy.

Nowadays, in fact, I do secular work—gardening and raising pigs—but only part-time. My main occupation is serving as a Christian evangelizer, sharing Bible truths with my neighbors. This work, which Jesus commissioned his followers to do, keeps me busy several days a week. (Matthew 28:19, 20) I hope one day to work at the Port Moresby branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses, where Bible literature is translated into local languages. But even if I do not reach that goal, I know that I will always find the greatest happiness in serving Jehovah and keeping spiritual things to the fore. And I am thankful for the material support I have received from the money that walks on four legs.


● The island of New Guinea is home to at least two million domestic pigs, about 1 for every 3 inhabitants.

● More than half the rural population own pigs.

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