Aug 13, 2018

Offering a Helping Hand to the Great Barrier Reef

Austin presenting at the Cairns meeting
Austin presenting at the Cairns meeting

As you may already know, an estimated half of the corals on the Great Barrier Reef of Australia bleached and died in a double bleachig event in 2015 and 2016.  These corals died when the water got too hot in the Australian summer-  directly tied to global warming.  Some scientists believe that the GBR will be dead by 2050- but we believe otherwise, and based on our work in Kiribati and other places. 

But the reef does need our help to get past this serious hurdle.  The stategy needed for the GBR is exactly the strategy that we are carrying out elsewhere- to identify, protect, and propagate the corals which did not bleach, and the to replant patches of these hot-water adapted, bleaching resistant corals back to the reef so that they can reproduce and send their babies and algal symbionts throighout the wider reef system. 

In February, I applied to the Great Barrier Reef Challenge with our approach, but the application was turned down in favor of projects in cloud brightening to cool the reef, 3D printing of artificual reefs, and installing large fans and artificlal upwelling to cool the reefs. They told me that they were only funding new approahes, not existing (proven) ones!   

In July, the first symposium on the restoration of the GBR was held in Cairns, and the organizers paid my airfare from Fiji so that I could present.   This presentation is now on the internet at   

I also gave an interview for Radio Australia's "Pacific Beat" program.  In my talk and on the radio program, I emphasized that coral gardening can only help save coral reefs to a certain point- that it buys us time- perhaps 80 years or so- but that if CO2 continues to be released into the atmosphere at such high levels, that ocean acidification will become so bad that it will kill the oceans and destroy all of our progress.  Australia and all nations must reduce and evenually eliminate most fossil fuel use- that is the stark reality we face.  

The day after the Cairns conference, I was able to visit Austraia's first coral nursery at Fitzroy Island. Stewart Christie and his team at the Reef Restoration Foundation are doing a wonderful job, only having gotten a permit for the work last November.  A big problem preventing action now is that permits must clear five differenct agencies for approval, and they are restrictive in what they allow.  I was shocked and horrified by the stark reality that no one has been collecting corals on the most heavily impacted reefs in order to protect and propagate them - and so with each passing day more of the bleaching resistant corals that survived the bleaching are being killed off by COTS and snail predators.  With the present rules and regulations of the GBRMP set so strongly into law, it may take years before changes can be made so that our strategy can at last be applied widely to the Great Barrier Reef.

However, we discoverd a way round the permitting process- If we work outside of the marine park, on the 10% of the GBR under indigenous control, and with the permission of these indigenous leaders and directly involving the communities in the work, then we can begin the coral work immediately!   This is wonderful news, as this extreme north area of the reef was among the most horrifically impacted.  Our goal now is to attempt to put the indigenous peoples of Australia in the forefront of saving the Great Barrier Reef.  We are following up with contacts already made at the Cairns meeting and hopefully we will have some work to report by November.

Because we have succeeded in getting a small grant to help with the restoration work on Kiribati, with a three-week trip scheduled for January, it looks like we do have the resources needed to divert our attention to the GBR, at least with a small beginning.... all that is missing now is to identify the appropriate aand interested local partners.  And we will need more resources, and so we have begun seeking funds from other sources. For now this plea on GloblGiving is all that we have. We thank each of our donors for assisting- please do spread this message to all who might support this important work. 

I find that it is interesting that involving the indigenous peoples in this most important work will in fact be fulfilling biblical prophecy:  "The first shall be last and the last shall be first." 

We do this work to help ensure that future generations will inherit a bountiful and beautiful world, where coral reefs contiue to thrive. "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth."  

Blessings and light to you all.




GBR Bleaching and the Torres Strait Islands
GBR Bleaching and the Torres Strait Islands
We were the topic of other's talks
We were the topic of other's talks


Aug 9, 2018

Abundant Cuteness- Chicks Hatch by the Hundreds!

Nicole the Happy Chicken Hatchery Manager
Nicole the Happy Chicken Hatchery Manager

The hatchery is again fully operational, with 250-300 chicks hatching every week.  A big obective is to continue improving the local chicken breeds through selective breeding.  With that in mind, all of the breeding roosters were changed in April, as the one-year olds were getting too big (4-5kg), and their long and sharp spurs were beginning to hurt the hens.  All hens are kept as layers for at least three years. The diversity of feather color and egg color is amazing, the eggs range from brown to tan to white, to light blue and dark green.  Eggs- clearly from our chickens- are now appearing for sale in the markets. Productive and happy chickens are making a real impact on the communities and farmers.   

Farmers from all over the area want the chicks, which are now clearly recognized as being much better than anything that is available imported from overseaas, or locally hatched.  The people come on foot, by car, even on horesback, to purchase the chicks, sold at $2. Fijian = $1 USD each, which is helping make the project more self-sustaining.  About 20% of the chicks contiune to be donated free of charge to workshop participants and to the poorest farmers- widows, disabled people, the elderly, etc. Materials for pens and feed are also donated to workshop graduates, selected from the poorest communities and those impacted by the recent hurricanes and floods.  We have also sent seven small incubators out to the comunities and we there is a need for purchasing more. 

The last week-long workshop, with 18 participaants was in late June.  We have since raised up close to 100 chicks to the eight-week stage, and they are now ready for sendng to the interrior vllage of Wairuarua, Naitasiri.  Additional chicks are being raised for the trainees from Beqa Island, and fertile eggs are being sent to Koro Island to support the small hatchery we helped establish there.

The big news is that with our increased prosperity from farm sales, we have been able to provide a stipend for a full-time hatchery manager, Mrs. Nicole Raivoka, 23 years old and a graduate of Environmetal Studies at the University of the South Pacific.  Nicole is gaining work experence, and she loves the chickens. We are so thankful for the much needed help. 

More news!  We have secured funding for installing solar power to the hatchery!  This will be a BIG help as the power goes out so often at the farm, and for days on-end, during floods and after cyclones.  We need to get this done and dusted by November when the cyclone season begins.... for now we are in a drought and eperiencing very cool weather down to 13C (57F) at night.  But it is good for the chickens, as they are thriving and  producing over ten dozen eggs a day, about 2/3 of which go to the hatchery.  Any eggs that are too small, too big (double yolked), deformed, cracked, or dirty are used for food.     

Thanks so much to our donors for your generous support, which makes this all possible.   

Chicks for Wairuarua just love morniga leaves
Chicks for Wairuarua just love morniga leaves
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. 

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