Rural communities in Fiji and the South Pacific rely on subsistence farming and fishing for most of their needs. With cyclones becoming increasingly severe, coral reefs and tree crops are damaged, and food has become scarce. We assist communities to adapt: diversify farming, setting aside no-fishing recovery zones, and farming chickens adapted to local free-range conditions. The >30,000 chickens hatched so far provide an alternative protein to reef fish and fertilizer for community gardens.
The poultry industry of the S Pacific is completely reliant on imported fertile eggs and chicks from New Zealand, with >20 million brought in every year. The breeds are adapted to factory farming and do poorly in village conditions. Village chickens are very hardy and thrive by foraging, but they are small and produce few eggs. A lack of protein at community level has resulted in over-fishing and over-hunting. Improved chickens provide an alternative, helping prevent wildlife decline.
We have crossed local breeds with imported breeds to produce highly productive birds that are well adapted to local tropical conditions. They thrive by forging, and the "happy chicken" methods take advantage of this, with access to wild and local feeds thrown into the chicken yard and with the birds let out to forage for much of the day. Improved housing allows the birds shelter for rainy days and hurricanes, while providing a good environment for laying and chick hatching.
The cyclones have destroyed important traditional food sources. Restoring the chickens provides high quality protein in the form of eggs and meat and thus improve the nutritional status of at least 5,000 poor rural families or 20,000 people in Vanuatu, Kiribati, and Fiji that have been severely affected by cyclones. Improved island-type chickens is our focus, as these birds are excellent foragers and reproduce well on their own, resulting in restored chicken flocks and lasting change.