Village Chickens In Vanuatu before the Cyclone
Hi friends. The good news is that we have now raised over US$5,000 and so we have been added as permanent members of Global Giving, a great help to future funding!
We are also in discussions with Vanuatu government disaster relief management officials assigned to agricultural recovery and we have agreed to collaborate to avoid duplication and to make the work more efficient. We already share a similar vision of improved village-level production of poultry, and C4C brings to the table improved village-appropriate methods to increase efficiency. We also have an existing broodstock of over 100 diverse village-adapted hens, with 20 breeding roosters, capable of producing 8 thousand chicks per year. Eight heritage breeds of chickens will also be brought into Fiji from New Zealand in September, and within six months these chickens will be added into the breeding flock, to increase the geneic diversity and productivuty of the chickens.
So why is a coral reef conservation organization workg on community chicken farming?
The following was Modified from a post to Coral List March 2015: Dr. Austin Bowden-Kerby, 10 April 2015
Even chickens can help save coral reefs!
Poverty and a lack of alternative protein sources is directly linked to overfishing, which in turn leads to coral reef decline as species that normally control coral predators and algae disappear. A widespread and prevailing condition exists on coral reefs globally whereby coral-killing animals (cerain starfish, snails, and worms), have become plagues on the corals and where algae overgrows the reef. Reef degradation in turn leads to increased levels of hunger and more desperate acts of destructive fishing, using poisons and explosives to catch fish. Similar negative impacts can be seen on terrestrial ecosystems and to wildlife as rural communities turn to bushmeat as one of the few food resources available to them in order to survive. While many have said that we must address food security and poverty in order to break this cycle of overfishing, overhunting, and associated habitat destruction there are few projects addressing this matter.
The “Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment” project promotes small-scale backyard production of chickens at low densities (subsistence level), so that the flock is able to obtain much or most of its food by forging for worms, bugs, grass, and compost. Two to three dozen chickens per family; just enough to provide eggs for daily use and an occasional rooster or hen for the table for use during special family events. For areas with less foraging space, cut grass and vegetation can be brought in and composted to support the chickens, supplemented with root crops, coconut etc. Chicken farmng is already part of the cultural framework of these communities. The fishermen/ farmers are trained in the sustainable methods, which a modified and improved traditional backyard production system. They receive a mobile rearing pen, chick startr for 5 weeks, and two dozen improved production village-type chicks. The chickens begin laying eggs at five months, and breed a six months to produce the next generation, and the resulting chicks are cared for using the new methods, tripling the reproductive efficiency over traditional unimproved methods. The farmers quickly become self-sufficient, while becoming less dependent on reef fish and other wildlife to meet their nutritional needs. At 6-7 months each recipient farmed turns the rearing cage over to a new family, along with two dozen chicks, and the project doubles in size in this manner... the chicks are fed worms at that point grwon in compost established in the original training.
The project does not support factory farming of chickens, which we feel is cruel, and which can result in considerable waste release into the environment, plus reliance on expensive commercial feeds imported to the islands. Intensive commercial poultry production is a hazzard to coral reefs and does not address sustainable livelihoods for reef dependent communities either.
We have also made considerable progress developing low-intensity tilapia farming in polyculture with Muscovy ducks, and with geese for added security. We operate two fishponds at our Sustainable Environmental Livelihoods Farm, and have also established a demonstration site at a local boarding school, funded by Ford Motors through Global Giving.
Although small, the Happy Chicken project is up and running and is perhaps the first project of its kind. We were able to produce over five thousand baby chicks and 500 baby ducks last year and distributed them at cost to some 300 rural families in Fiji. This year Vanuatu is our main target due to the recent severe cyclone (winds gusting up to 320Km/hr), which wiped out nearly all village chickens and damaging coral reefs. The last thing damaged reefs and forests and associated fish and wildlife need is increased fishing pressure.
Another goal now and into the near future is to identify ongoing projects in need and to partner with them in order to best support no-take marine protected areas and terrestrial nature reserves with the "Happy Chicken" project, replacing the protein lost during initial project establishment as well as preventing increased fishing/hunting pressure on the remaining open areas. We are yet to find a major donor, but we have accomplished much and will continue doing so through generous smaller acts of giving. We would be happy to assist other geographic areas with startup of their own projects based on the lessons we have learned in the Pacific, and based on additonal funding.
Thanks so much to our donors, and fro haring the link to the project with others.
Austin Bowden-Kerby, PhD
Corals for Conservation
P.O. Box 4649 Samabula, Fiji Islands
Sustainable Environmental Livelihoods Farm
Km 20 Sigatoka Valley Road, Fiji Islands