Piglets Help Improve Mental Health, Hopkins Study Shows

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Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been through a lot. Plagued by civil wars and political unrest, the central African country ranks 186th out of 187 countries in human development. But one Hopkins professor has found a simple, surprising way to turn some DRC residents’ lives around.

Pigs. No, I’m serious, pigs. Nancy E. Glass has spent the past five years giving women in the DRC baby pigs, as part of a microfinance project. Families can raise, breed, and sell the pigs as a means to becoming self-sufficient, and to provide much-needed income and financial stability. (Microfinance projects often target women, for a variety of reasons.)

Four years into the Pigs for Peace project, and the participating families have higher household incomes. They also have lower rates of PTSD and depression. How can a pig help increase peace of mind? “Using pigs is culturally acceptable and a gender-neutral intervention for the DRC, which allows men and women to work together to improve their outcomes,” Glass told the Hopkins Hub. “It provides psychosocial support to address mental health needs, and it supplements the family’s economic security. It’s really a win-win for all.” On the Pigs for Peace website, participants tell how the project has helped them build better houses, pay for medical care, and earn respect from their community.

Glass’s next project in the DRC is called Rabbits for Resilience. It provides–you guessed it–rabbits to help empower youth aged 10-15.

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