Apply to Join
Aug 8, 2018

Happy Chickens for Remote Highland Villages

Workshop Participants at the New TLC Pavilion
Workshop Participants at the New TLC Pavilion

On 17th June a group of eighteen arrived by covered carrier truck, for a week long training program at TLC- our Teitei Livelihoods Centre in Fiji's Singatoka Valley. Their journey from Wairuarua village, in the remote highlands of Naitasiri, included two hours down river by long-boat just to get to where the road begins, and then five hours journey by truck to the farm. 

We had a wonderful bonding experience, with campfres and singing at night and with workshops sessions and hands-on activities during the day.  In addition to Happy Chicken training, the participants learned principles of permaculture- composting, micro-terracing, intercropping, etc, as well as the making of products such as virgin coconut oil, and chocolate from cacao pods.  Cacao was introduced by government to this community in the 1960s and it now grows profusely in the mountainous and forested area, but no one helped them market it nor ddid anyone show them how to use it.  The participants left very excited and encouraged to work together to build a more resilient and prosperous community, using their newly discovered knowledge and skills.

In follow up, we have already head-started one hundred of our chicks to the eight-week stage, and the commuity has in turn built a chicken shed, and so they are ready to receive the chicks. Preparations are now being made to transport the chickens to the communities as soon as it can be arranged.  A local NGO, formed in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston, facilitated the workshop and is conducting follow-up, which will help ensure success.

The plan made by the participants during the workshop was for the chickens to become a breeding flock, but as there is no electricity, they have been taught to hatch the eggs under broody hens. They also plan to situate one of our 40 Watt 90-egg incubators at the village located at the head of the road- which does have electricity, and to form a cooperative relationship by providng hatching eggs and sharing chicks between the two communities. 

Thanks to our donors for enabling this transformative community development to happen.  These humble, poor, receptive, and extremely appreciative people are (through you), being empowered to help themselves. 

May 14, 2018

First Out-planting of Corals on Christmas Island

Newly collected corals for the nursery
Newly collected corals for the nursery

Greetings everyone,

I returned last month from the fourth trip over the past two years to Christmas Island, Republic of Kiribati, and am busy writing up the results to post online.  I will share a brief summary here.

The corals in the nursery are mostly doing very well.  The follow-up trip was originally scheduled for July, but Taratau Kiriata, the head of Fisheries for the Line Islands, who has been very helpful in providing the boats and materials, sent me an urgent request for help.  The corals on the original nursery table had grown too big and the table was bending due to the weight and threatening to collapse.  I instructed him how to shore up the table, and that I would make an early trip to begin the outplanting phase of the work- and I was able to get there just two weeks later. A one week trip turned into two weeks when a hurricane hit Fiji the day I supposed to return home, which cancelled the weekly fight.

The bleaching resistant Pocillopora corals in the nursery, which had been trimmed from the very few corals which survived the 14-month bleaching in 2015-16, had grown so big that they were growing together and beginning to compete with each other. We removed 29 colonies, each as big as dinner plates, and planted them about ten meters away onto dead corals which surround the site.  With the new space opened up on the table, we planted new Acropora and Pocillopora corals which we had located on the shallow reef flat at Crystal Beach during our last trip. These are remnants of once very large colonies growing around the edges of the dead corals.

The staghorn corals, all of which became extinct on Christmas Island during the mass bleaching, were re-introduced into the nursery last year in June, trimmed from the few that had survived on Tabuaeran Atoll, and planted to ropes suspended between the two nursery tables. All of these staghorn colonies were found alive and fairly healthy, however, while they had doubled in size, they should have been five to ten times bigger.  On close inspection, we found that each coral had multiple bite marks, having been bitten off multiple times by parrotfish.  We actually saw the parrotfish doing this. So we identified a new nursery site in the inner lagoon at Motutapu island, an area formerly dominated by staghorn corals and with fewer parrotfish, and we constructed a small nursery and moved two of the ten ropes to this new site, to see how they do over the next few months. In July, if the corals are doing better in the new site, we will expand the work there, especially for the vulnerable staghorn corals.

On Christmas Island we also met with the Wildlife department to explain the dire situation of the dead reefs and our restoration work, and they have since put in a request for the establishment of a 500m no-fishing zone around each nursery site, as an exclusion zone, to also protect the bird nesting colonies in each site. In July I will be joined by a UK volunteer working with community processes and we will initiate participatory workshops to help gain community support and understanding for the crisis. 

MORE NEWS: 

In February a one-week training of university students in coral gardening took place, funded by Plantation Island Resort.  Six marine studies students were trained, five from Fiji and one from Papua New Guinea.  A full-time job was created at the resort for one of the trainees.  Two coral nurseries were created to cultivate what is assumed to be bleaching tolerant corals, collected as fragments from larger coral colonies living in thermally stressed shallow waters.  Stress tests of the corals will take place in the hot season January-February, and only those corals which prove to be bleaching resistant will become part of a rehabilitation and adaptation project sponsored by the resort for the Malololailai MPA.  A future report will highlight this activity.

I have been invited to present at the Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns, Australia in July, and they have offered to pay my airfare.  This is a big step, being able to share lessons learned with new coral reef restoration practitioners on the Great Barrier Reef.  On my way there, a stopover in Vanuatu is planned, to save funds while following up with the coral nursery work on Efate and Nguna Islands, as it is time to trim the staghorn corals on the ropes and to teach the communities how to do that and to outplant second generation bleaching resistant corals back to the reef.

A very exciting development is that the Tuvalu Government, funded through the UNDP, has asked for a project proposal to begin coral reef adaptation work there as a paid consult, and if approved that will expand the work, and at no cost to the project.  Ultimately we hope that every government of the region will support the coral adaptation work, using qualified and locally trained coral gardeners, so that the funds needed for this vital work will finally be available.

Things are moving along well and on a shoe-string thanks to local counterparts offering accommodation, local transport, and sometimes help with airfares.   Thanks again for helping make this work possible, at this critical time when other sources of funding are not yet in place.

Vinaka vakalevu!

Austin

Cook Islet Nursery and Restoration Zone
Cook Islet Nursery and Restoration Zone
Coral nursery, two tables with ropes in between
Coral nursery, two tables with ropes in between
Corals growing on ropes
Corals growing on ropes
Crowded corals ready for outplanting
Crowded corals ready for outplanting
Corals planted onto cement 'cookies' at 11 months
Corals planted onto cement 'cookies' at 11 months
May 11, 2018

One Hatching Season is Finished and then Another Season Begins

Some chickens have been hiding nests in the bushes
Some chickens have been hiding nests in the bushes

The hot southern hemisphere summer is now over and the nights are at last getting cooler here in Fiji at the Happy Chicken Hatchery and farm.  This is important as the weather makes a big difference to the fertility and abundance of eggs,and so to the hatching of the chicks. Of course that affects our interactions with the community.  

The hatchery was closed down for the off-season in early April, as many of the hens were taking their annual "vacation", no longer layng and going into "molt"- where the old feathers are replaced by new ones and the hens build up fat reserves so that they can begn another season of productive laying, about two months later. Their hoildays are filled with foraging and scratching for bugs and worms around the farm- a happy existence, and such a contrast to the life that caged hens experience.   

Just as we were considering closing the hatchery in late March due to a shortage of fertile eggs, a hurricane passed by, and we had major flooding in the surrounding community- we are fortunately situated on a high hill.  We lost power for two days and with that, we lost 300 eggs/ developing chicks, which were incubating, impossible to keep the generator going for that long.  Then in mid April, another hurricane passed by even closer, and we lost power for six days, so we were thankful that the hatchery was at that point closed. These last two major power outages have inspired me to put in a proposal to try to get the funds to install solar power to the hatchery... we shall see if it succeeds.

We hatched out 104 chicks this week, the first of the new season, and another hundred or so expected net week.  During peak season in July-October, we get about 300 chicks hatching per week, with workshops and training sessions being conducted and with chicks distributed far and wide around the country to farmers and communities. A very active time, and frankly we were rather exhausted and have enjoyed the off season.

We have planned six community Happy Chicken workshops for the coming months, focusng mainly on women's groups and facilitated by Peace Corps volunteers.  Another donor has agreed to pay for the workshops, so that your donations through GlobalGiving will pay for chicks, starter feed, mobile rearing pens, transport costs for the materials, and a bit of follow up support.  No one is being paid for this work- it is all service, and from the heart, and so your donations go directly to supporting the trainees and their chickens.     

I leave you with some photos of our truly happy chickens... whose very existence is dependent on you.  So far the flocks have produced over 25 thousand baby chicks for the communities, giving hope to the poor and helping improve the lives of many people. 

Vinaka vakalevu (thank you very much).

The proud father rooster!
The proud father rooster!
Happy chickens forging in the dry season
Happy chickens forging in the dry season
 
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.