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Nov 13, 2017

Steady Advancements in Fiji and Vanuatu

Tanna Incubator Training and Turn-over
Tanna Incubator Training and Turn-over

In late August I was able to travel to Tanna and Efate Islands, badly cyclone impacted areas of Vanuatu, with travel funded by another NGO.  While there I was able to folow up with both of the livelihoods trainees, Iopil and Joel, which had been trained last year in Fiji. 

I also carried with me two small incubators, and conducted small workshops in their use.  Life in the cyclone impacted areas is for the most part back to normal, with crops coming in, homes repaired or rebuilt, and many trees bearing fruit again, however coconuts are still scarce, and there is a need for replanting for long-term prosperity.  So much energy and so many resources have been used to rebuild the communities, and so much was lost, so that widespread poverty prevails, however a sense of relief has come over the island in comparison to last year.  Whie locally grown food is available, protein is particularly hard to come by.

As we still had not been able to get permission from Vanuatu Biosecurity to import the tropical-adapted, and highly productive ''happy chickens'' which we have established through selective breeding in Fiji, we arranged to meet with the Director of Biosecurity in Port Vila, the capital.  The outcome of this meeting is that we can now proceed to apply for the required import and export permits. Fiji Biosecurity has since visited our Fiji farm and hatchery and has tested the chickens for disease, and have declared the flock disease free.  We are now planning for a January export of both day-old chicks and fertile eggs to Vanuatu.

News from the Fiji Cyclone Winston affected areas- in September we conducted a workshop for nine women from Naviti Island in the Yasawas, and we sent back with them fifteen dozen chicks, feed for a month, and the materials to build a large hen house and chicken yard. Our community officer Simi Koto has since vsited them for follow up and encouragement. Moringa leaves are stressed as a high protein human and animal feed, and many cuttings have been distributed in both Fiji and Vanuatu by the project.  

Another group of women from the badly impacted Bua province on Vanua Levu Island, stayed at the farm fro four days just last week to learn poultry farming- and they too have now begun rearing chicks.  They brought back to their community one of our small incubators and 90 fertile eggs, as solar pwer is available in their community, in addition to ten dozen chicks. They called just today to let us know their progress, and that all the chicks survived the long boat ride back and are growing well.

We plan to continue with this poverty alleviation strategy through livelihoods training, as the best way to offer relief to a wider group of people in the affected areas, and to build food security and community resilience- including getting the chickens out of the trees and into safe hen houses where they will not be blown away or killed by exposure in future storms, with the chickens properly trained to return to the security of their house for laying and for sleeping.

Thanks again for your support in helping with this imporant work in helping communities get back on their feet.

Blessings in all that you do for the betterment of the planet.

Austin   

Tanna Community Living Conditions
Tanna Community Living Conditions
Tanna Free-range Chickens
Tanna Free-range Chickens
Eliod with her beautiful corn
Eliod with her beautiful corn
Tanna Elder on Woven Coconut Mats
Tanna Elder on Woven Coconut Mats
Happy Dance- Bua Women's Training at the Fiji Farm
Happy Dance- Bua Women's Training at the Fiji Farm
Nov 13, 2017

Amazing Coral Restoration Workshops Carried out in Vanuatu

Imanaka Tabu Area- New Coral Restoration Site
Imanaka Tabu Area- New Coral Restoration Site

Dear friends,

Three amazing coral restoration workshops were completed in late August, actively involving indigenous ni-Vanuatu communities and representatives from several Vanuatu NGOs.  The workshops took place in areas where the traditional coral reef owning communities have set aside reef areas into no-fishing ''Tabu'' areas.  Unfortunately, because the corals are mostly dead on these reefs from recent hot-water bleaching events followed by coral-killing crown of thorns starfish outbreaks, the fish have not come back as quickly as had been hoped.  Corals are indeed fish houses, and without corals, fish have less habitat. 

The goal of the three workshops was to address this low coral cover- to identify bleaching resistant corals, to establish nurseries for rapid cultivation of these ''super'' corals for the coral replanting work one year later, when the biomass of the corals will have increased by ten-fold or more so that the communities can begin restoring their reefs with thermally tolerant corals. 

Three coral nurseries were established, one in each of the three workshop sites.  Stone and cement ''fish houses'' were also constructed for use in areas of broken coral rubble- to give the corals a firm foundation to begin growing, while providing extra fish habitat.  Building fish houses is an excellent land-based activity for school children to contribute to the project.   

The initial 'training of trainers' workshop took place over five days on Nguna-Pele Islands, and the following week, two of us focused on Pango, Efate island, while three of the trainees became trainers- taking their new knowledge to Southwest Bay, Malekula Island.  

The Nguna and Malekula workshops were both carried out without the use of GG project funds, with our contribution being the sharing of knowledge and training the participants, which was offered as a donation.  The Vanuatu NGO, Island Reach and the local communities arranged everything and covered all major expenses, incuding my return travel from Fiji.  Another NGO, HCDI covered accommodation in Port Vila as well as transport to the nearby coral nursery site in Pango.  GlobalGiving donations paid for the coral nursery materials used in the Pango site- which was quickly arranged by one of the initial trainees- at a community that had recently set aside a tabu area.  

The outcome of the Vanuatu work is very encouraging.  All of the essential elements for self-sufficiency are already in place;  local support and initiative, keen local receptivity, resource management and conservation plans in place, including no-take marine protected areas and crown of thorns starfish removal efforts.  The coral restoration work was about all that was missing. 

The plan now is for me to return next June to train the trainers on the next phase of the work- the outpanting of second generation corals trimmed from the existing nurseries, to begin the process of healing and assisting the reef to adapt to warming seas.  

Accomplishments of the Vanuatu trip

  • Presentation on the coral reef crisis and coral gardening to 54 people in a public meeting at an art gallery in Port Vila, attended by the SPREP climate change rep and NGOs
  • Conducted a four day coral gardening workshop for 20 participants on Nguna Island.
  • Establishment of a coral Nursery at Unakepu Village, Nguna
  • Conducted a two day training and established a coral nursery at Pango, Efate for the training of youth.
  • Facilitated extension of to coral work to Malekula Island 
  • Site visit to Tanna Island to the Imanaka community no-fishing area, whch has been in place for eight years, for assessment and to plan for a restoration workshop on the next visit.  Initial coral restoration trials were begun.

In other news, a major two-week coral gardening and restoration training is scheduled here in Fiji for the last half of January, directed to Pacific Island university students, and sponsored by a local resort.  Sometime in March or April, depending on funds, a return visit will also be made to Christmas Island, Kiribati to follow up and to begin the outplanting process for the hundreds of bleaching resistant corals in the nurseries, in partnership with the Fisheries Department and using volunteers from local youth groups and secondary schools.  Please drop me an email if you would like a draft copy of the scientific report on the GlobalGiving sponsored Christmas Island coral restoration work.   

Thanks again for your continued support and donations in this time of grave planetary crisis.... even with other NGOs now pitching in, without your support through GlobalGiving, the wider project would not be possible.  I have tried in vain- thus far at least- to find larger donor funds through grant applications, and I continue to do this work without pay and out of love for the planet... but what a wonderful blessing working with these comunities and in these beautiful places. 

The results may appear to be relatively small thus far, but they are truly encouraging for all those involved, and every accomplishment helps establish coral gardening as a workable solution for helping coral reefs adapt to a warming seas and to survive into the future.  I am confident that one day our unique approach will be taken more seriously and adopted widely to help save coral reefs all over the planet.  We must first demonstrate a working model, and you- as contributors and supporters, are a vital part of getting this accomplished.  

Blessings and hope,

Austin  

  

  

Pango, Efate Island, Vanuatu- Youth Workshop
Pango, Efate Island, Vanuatu- Youth Workshop
Pango Coral Nursery Helpers
Pango Coral Nursery Helpers
Happy Coral Planter, Malekula
Happy Coral Planter, Malekula
Coral Workshop, Vanuatu
Coral Workshop, Vanuatu
Making Fish House Habitats for Planting Corals
Making Fish House Habitats for Planting Corals
Nov 13, 2017

Remote Island Communities begin Hatching their Own Chicks

Bua Workshop- Wild Plant Feeding Demonstration
Bua Workshop- Wild Plant Feeding Demonstration

News continues to come in from our trainees in remote communities.  The 23 dozen chicks we initially sent with the 11 trainees from Moala Island are doing very well in six village communities.  Unfortunately a small tragedy occured with the chicks at the district boarding school- most of the the five dozen chicks they received were killed by stray dogs which broke into the rearing pen. This problem is now being addressed in community meetings and by the traditional leaders, and the starter pens have in the mean time been reinforced to keep the little chicks more safe.  We have also purchased a much stronger gage wire for the mobile chick rearing pens, and will use that in all future sites. 

Despite this setback, the Moala school has had a new and very exciting success- an entirely new stage in the wider Happy Chicken project- with a small local hatchery being established.  The 90-egg incubator we sent in August has already produced two successful hatches, and yet another hatch is due next week.  The fact that the school has 24-hour solar power has made this possible.  Until the Moala chickens begin laying, we will continue to send fertile eggs by boat and plane, to keep the incubator stocked. The trainees hope to produce chicks for all seven villages on the island and to spread the impact of the project widely.  By December, self sufficiency will be attained as seven breeding focks of happy chickens will begin laying, fully localizing the project, with eggs hatching in the incubator every three weeks, and with additional eggs hatching underneath broody hens.  Trainees will keep the largest, healthiest roosters for breeding, one rooster per eight hens, and to offer any excess high-quality roosters for a local rooster exchange program with existing farmers, to improve existing local flocks and to incorporate local diversity and adaptations into the chickens.  Thus far, Moala Island has become our most successful site, and a model we are now using for other areas.  One factor in this success is the fact that a US Peace Corp volunteer couple is facilitating the work on site. 

Since September, three addtional workshop groups have been trained at the farm in Sigatoka, each group with a facilitating Peace Corps volunteer; Naviti, Yasawa Islands, Beqa Island, and Bua, Vanua Levu- the big island to the north.  A total of 20 people- mostly women participated in these trainings.  Each community found their own travel funds to get to the farm and each of them took back with them 2-3 dozen chicks per participant, enough feed for a month, materials to build a mobile rearing pen, plus the knowledge to feed and house the chickens using locally available materials.

The Peace Corps volunteers of Beqa and Bua had identified additional funding to build their own commuity chicken houses and pens, however, the Naviti group, being affected badly by Hurricane Winston the year before, had fewer resources, so we paid for those materials.  We also sent our community officer, Simi Koto, on a folow up visit to Naviti to help ensure that things were advancing on schedule.     

Just last week we hosted a women's group from Bua, and they took back with them over a hundred 4-week old chicks, a mobile rearing pen, feed for a month, plus an incubator and fertile eggs, as they have a dependable solar power source in the community.  Additional training took place on the use of the incubator, and we have promised to send fertile eggs every month until March, when their own chickens begin laying.  Unfortunately the Beqa and Naviti communities do not yet have reliable solar power, but the Peace Corps facilitators are looking into small systems to run the 40 watt incubators. 

In June our old main incubator finally died, a major problem as it was filled to capacity with 500 incubating eggs.  However because we had the ten small incubators on hand, we were able to rescue the eggs from the broken machine and put them into the smaller 90-egg machines.  In early August the new machnes finally arrived, and we are presently hatching fifteen dozen chicks per week, and at a higher hatch rate than in times past. Chicks are either raised to the 4-5 week stage for distribution to workshop participants, or sold at cost to small farmers in the Sigatoka market, and funds used to support the project. 

Many other things have happened since our last report- another NGO paid my way to Vanuatu, where I was able to follow up at the two Happy Chicken sites, which included setting up two community hatcheries.  Vanuatu Biosecurity has finally given us the green light to export day-old chicks and fertile eggs from Fiji to Vanuatu- a major breakthrough.   Fiji Biosecurity, in preparation, tested our flocks for disease in October, and found the chickens to be disease free. Once the paperwork and permits are completed, we will carry out this important activity.  

Thanks again for supporting this project, and be sure to visit the Happy Chicken facebook page for updates and additional information.

Bua Women's Group Trainees
Bua Women's Group Trainees
The small incubators save the day...
The small incubators save the day...
Training in the use of small home incubators
Training in the use of small home incubators
Bua women doing their happy dance....
Bua women doing their happy dance....
Chicks ready to travel to the remote islands...
Chicks ready to travel to the remote islands...
 
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