My Dear Friends,
Progress has been made with a Happy Chicken manual being created for Vanuatu and the Pacific Region. The planned Vanuatu trip and workshop has now been delayed due to super-cyclone Winston which hit Fiji in February with winds even stronger than Cyclone Pam which hit a year ago in Vanuatu- sustained winds were in excess of 250 km/hr, the strongest storm on record for the region and only 5km weaker than Typhoon Hainan which hit the Philippines two years back. The focus for now has shifted to Fiji.
I just returned from the Motuiki Island Fiji site. I am still in shock. I got off the boat and rushed back for the big weekly disaster committee meeting that is coodinating the relief efforts of the various NGOs. Each org was taking turns telling what they had accomplished. I told the story of the destruction and suffering that I had seen and got all choked up and could not even finish. Houses I had stayed in and where I had eaten lunch and had coral workshop meetings were just GONE, or they only had one or two walls left standing. The waves washed over the three villages and reached far inland and the wind blasted the houses that were on higher ground. We know these people well on a first name basis and know the kids since they were babies and it was just so hard seeing this. Tai and Joe's house in Daku was smashed, Jone and Kasa's house is a pile of concrete rubble, Timoci and Kesaia's house in Uluibau has one standing wall but the kitchen where Kesa made donuts and delicious food for us somehow survived! The fisher woman who used to help us with the coral reef project every time (Lavenia) had her house completely erased by the waves, along with everything she owned. Fortunately noone was killed- because the storm hit in the daytime, and even some village chickens survived! But there are a lot of injuries and with clean water hard to come by, skin diseases and infections are becoming common.
Four Fiji based NGOs have now expressed great interest in introducing the project into their community sites as a food security measure post cyclone, as free range chickens can find most of their food, unlike pigs; which we are advising people to sell now as they will eat food that humans will need in the coming months. Coconut trees are down or badly damaged and while there are plenty of fallen nuts, they will soon be used up. All other food crops of the communities are badly damaged or destroyed, and so they are existing on donated food rations.
So many trees down and brown piles of vegetation and very little rain so the danger of wildfire is inceasing as well. One thing I do know is that this is the site most needy of our efforts, and where we will implement all three projects. We delivered three chain saws and will return next week with some two week old Happy Chickens for the women to care for (good for mental health at this time as many need to focus on somethng positive), sweet potato cuttings, corn and pumpkin seeds, etc.
Another NGO, Global Vision International has set up on the lovely reef island of Caqalai, which escaped most of the damage and they are providing transport to and from the villages and a place to sleep and eat, so we are not a burden on the frail village infrastructure. They also will be head-starting the chickens for us and will only transfer them when they are 3-4 weeks old and when the communities have the chicken houses completed (built from the materials of former homes).
We also will run a three-day wokshop in early April from our farm and hatchery in Sigatoka (which escaped most of the damage), plus visits to advanced Happy Chicken village sites, with selected women from Moturiki plus representatives from other organizations. Trainees will become community resources for the project. I will personally invite the women mentioned above (Kasa and Levinia and Kesaia), to the workshop due to their leadeship skills and past volunteer spirit. Thanks again for making all of this work possible!