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Feb 12, 2018

Our Approach is Finally Gaining Recognition

Fish help maintain a coral nursery
Fish help maintain a coral nursery

Last week we met with the Fiji Ministry of Commerce- they had requested the meeting.  They were interested in our approach of gardening bleaching-resistant corals, as a way of helping coral reefs adapt to a warming ocean.  The ministry is considering including our strategy in their National Adaptation Plan. Hopefully that would include funding for sites, training, and staff. The vision I am proposing to them is for each of the more than 100 resorts in Fiji to be given incentives to hire trained coral gardeners to carry out the propagation of bleaching resistant corals- to create patches of hot water adapted coral reefs throughout the country, with the resistance spilling over to other reefs as the corals reproduce and send out their larvae.  

Along those lines, I will be conducting our very first ''Coral Gardening Certification Training'' for six university students and graduates, funded in full by Plantation Island Resort. The resort has agreed to take on one of the trainees as a full-time staff member to implement the strategy. This is a major breakthrough in mainstreaming the project.  In June, a second training will take place, also sponsored by the resort.  

In January, Mr. Taratau Kirata, the Director of the Line Island Fisheries Division, Kiribati, and host of the Christmas Island coral restoration project, visited us with his wife and daughter, staying with us for three nights at our Happy Chicken farm here in Fiji.  During their stay we consulted on many aspects of the work and planned the next phase of the project for Kiribati.  The first major trimming of the corals in the nurseries will take place in June, with the resulting coral fragments out-planted to reefs destroyed by the mass bleaching.  We also plan on unveiling the site to the local and national level government officials at that time, with a public meeting presentation and a field trip to the nursery site- which has become quite impressive after three trips and nearly two years of work.  

Tourism operators in New Caledonia will be funding the first coral restoration workshop for that country for April, and as Vanuatu is on the way, I will follow up with the three sites there a week or two beforehand.  The airfares of the last Vanuatu workshops last September were also covered by another NGO, so donations to the project are being maximized. 

It is the middle of our summer here in the South Pacific, the most dangerous time for corals.  Reports from the Vanuatu and Kiribati coral nurseries indicate that while some minor bleaching is happening in some of the corals, most of the corals are thriving despite the warm temperatures.  I returned yesterday from the most vulnerable of the Fiji nurseries- located on a very shallow reef flat, and while two of the corals are partially bleached, all of the others were not.  We are learning that not all of the corals we have in the nursery are as bleaching resistant as we had hoped, and so the more sensitive corals need to be returned to cooler parts of the reef to make space for more bleaching-resistant ''super corals''.  This Coral Coast site, only 45 minutes away, has the potential to become a valuable testing site for thermal tolerance in corals, due to the extreme temperatures of the site, even during non-bleaching years.  

A reminder that all of our work is donated, with no one in the organization taking a salary, so this work is truly from the heart.  Accommodation in the field is also mostly being donated, so the funds you have donated have mostly paid for workshop expenses, local transport, and materials for the nurseries.  We have accomplished so much through the support of so many small donations. 

A warm thank you to you all... 

Vinaka vakalevu i kemuni.

Fish hanging about....
Fish hanging about....
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
 
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