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 Hunger  Fiji Project #20071

Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment

by Corals for Conservation
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens make Happy Children
Happy Chickens make Happy Children

Looking Back:

As we welcome a new decade 2020, it's fitting to pause and reflect how Happy Chickens started as our first GlobalGiving project for Corals for Conservation.  Looking to our neighbors here in Fiji, we saw communities impacted by food shortages and suffering the rampages of diabetes--the highest death rate due to diabetes in the entire world.  Meanwhile, the coral reefs were being severely impacted with the effects of overfishing, higher temperatures causing corals to bleach and die, horrifically severe cyclones, and floods.  Taboo no-fishing sites had been set aside to allow the fisheries to recover, but closing the fishing grounds compounds food shortages in the beginning, as it takes three years or more before the restored fish stocks begin spilling over to the fishers.  A reliable low-cost protein source was needed.

I turned to my childhood, growing up in North Carolina, and remembering what my grandmothers had taught me about raising free-range chickens, housing, feeding, keeping them secure from predators, and breeding them, and I realized that a workable solution for the communities was to breed and provide village-adapted chickens that are good foragers- happy to be pecking about during the day on grass, worms, and local feeds like coconut and cassava. The introduced mongoose had eliminated most local chicken flocks two generations ago, and so most local chicken raising knowledge had died out with the chickens.

With determination, Happy Chickens were bred with care, and they improved with each passing year, until they finally became one of the most sought-after commodities in the town market.  We have now provided over 35 thousand day-old chicks to farmers and communities, at-cost, below cost, or free of charge, depending on the economic condition of the farmer.  If a community went through a happy chicken workshop, they were rewarded with chicks and feed and housing materials.  I now am known as "the chicken man" in the communities surrounding our farm, and I am often stopped in the market to discuss people's chickens and how big and nice they are and how many eggs they are producing- it is clear that the chickens have made a big difference to the communities and to the farmers.  I receive warm handshakes and sometimes even hugs from the children. In other areas of the country and on the coast, I am better known as "Tui Lase" or "the coral man".  Strange how chickens and corals belong together!

Happy Chickens has also played a key role in our Climate Action Fund effort.  This past year, when Corals for Conservation was awarded GlobalGiving's high honor of being one of the first of five organizations chosen for special Climate Action- Happy Chickens was in the wings.  Island villagers could live on eggs and chickens while they were letting the coral reef, river prawns, and forest birds rest.  It was truly a case of empowering local actions for the bigger picture of small actions to save the planet while improving human and animal health both, and becoming more effective with each passing year.

However, we were recently challenged and have had to slow our work down.  As we were having our chickens tested for export throughout the region, Fiji Biosecurity identified a rather serious chicken disease in one of our eight chicken flocks, and as a precaution, in November we were forced to reduce our flocks by selling off 2/3 of our hens, as they might be disease carriers.  It broke our hearts to say goodbye to our favorite birds.  We made the difficult decision to close the hatchery until we could guarantee that the chicks we produce are disease-free once again. We now have a lot to do to improve the cleanliness of the flocks and to prevent another disease from coming in.  Next month Fiji Biosecurity will return to test the chickens, and if they give the 'all-clear' we will proceed to re-open the hatchery.  Starting with quality rather than quantity, we will build up once again.

Looking Ahead:

Once we attain a disease-free flock, we will not only start the hatchery back up, but we will finally be able to export chicks to Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, and all the other island nations that cannot access such productive village adapted breeds of chickens.  No one has chickens like these!  Our plan to export regionally was how the disease was identified in the first place!

By May or June, we expect to be ready to carry out our community workshops once again, with five villages on the wait list, either with no-fishing areas already, or in the process of setting some of their coral reefs aside for recovery.  And yes, I expect to be back in the market once again, selling off surplus chicks to the farmers in order to break even, and in general making a spectacle of myself to the delight of the children and everyone who come in with their parents from the villages and farms every Saturday.  Any personal sacrifice is small in relation to all the good this Happy Chicken program has done in the past, and most certainly will do in the future.

Vinaka Vakalevu Kemuni, Nai lolma nei Taiose!

Thank you very much to all, sending love from Grandfather Ose

Over a dozen Happy Chicken workshops so far!
Over a dozen Happy Chicken workshops so far!
The Moala incubator hatched out hundreds of chicks
The Moala incubator hatched out hundreds of chicks
We also have provided over 700 baby ducks
We also have provided over 700 baby ducks
Climate change impacts communities but we can help
Climate change impacts communities but we can help
The Happy Chicken Man
The Happy Chicken Man

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Kopsi , Grace, and Kevin
Kopsi , Grace, and Kevin

This has been a very exciting time this past month. Last week we said goobye to six community representatives from our biggest Pacific Island nation- Papua New Guinea (PNG).  The group: Grace, Igo, Kopsi, Kefin, Malisa, and Alii, were here for four VERY full weeks, being trained in Happy Chicken methods,  in participatory methods of community resource management, permaculture farming techniques, and coral gardening to restore coral reefs and local fish stocks. 

This holistic training focused on facilitating community well-being and prosperity, through faclitating the restoration of abundant resources provided by nature: including establishing no-fishing and no-hunting marine and forest reserves, and replacing wild-caught foods with home-grown eggs, chickens, and farm products. 

The group stayed in our dormatory and helped cook the food.  Every evening we shared stories around our traditional "happy circle", before sharing the evening meal together.  Grace Manani, an agricultural extension officer with the Central Province government, was particularly good at telling interesting stories about the day, and relating things to her life growing up and living in the PNG bush.   

The days of the workshop were educational and sometimes tiring, but filled with laughter and fun. The group learned chicken feed production using local resources: cassava, coconut, and locally available plants, selective chicken breeding to produce more productive and diverse chickens, simple chicken house designs, and how to train free-range chickens to sleep and to lay in their proper place- not in the trees and bushes!  They also learned good hatchery managent skills and did planning exercises in preparation for applying what they learned in their own communities on their return to PNG.  An in-depth Happy Chicken Manual was produced for the workshop, to reinforce what the trainees had learned, and to assist them with training others back home.

As PNG does not allow the importation of baby chicks from anywhere on earth, we unfortunately could not send chicks home with the trainees.  But because of this policy, the demand for good quality chicks is very high and mostly unmet. The first task of the PNG workers will be to create their own breeding flocks, so that they can begin hatching chicks on behalf of the wider community.

The airfares and most expenses were provided by Kyeema Foundation, our wonderful partner organization in Australia.  Kyeema will be following up on the progress made by the six PNG trainees over the next few years.  On this foundation they/we plan to build up a national Happy Chicken program in PNG.  Additional workshops at our Fiji model farm and training center are being discussed for the future.  

Without your generous donations, these sorts of capacity building workshops would not be possible.  We have succeeded in establishing a functioning hatchery, and have created an improved mixed breed of productive egg laying chickens, providing over 35,000 free-range chickens to poor rural communities throughout Fiji, providing cyclone relief by restoring damaged community poultry flocks, setting up small hatcheries in four remote villages, and bringing in people for training from dozens of Fijian communities- from nine islands and from three additional Pacific countries as well (Vanuatu, Kiribati, and PNG).

Thank you again so much for your kind and loving assisance. 

 

          

Milisa in the cassava/corn inter-cropping garden
Milisa in the cassava/corn inter-cropping garden
PNG Group as the Coral Restoration Workshop
PNG Group as the Coral Restoration Workshop
Our very own Grace, a Natural Leader
Our very own Grace, a Natural Leader
The Happy Chicken PNG Team and Fiji hosts Oct 2019
The Happy Chicken PNG Team and Fiji hosts Oct 2019
Grace Extracting Virgin Coconut Oil
Grace Extracting Virgin Coconut Oil
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Makereta the technician installing the solar power
Makereta the technician installing the solar power

Greetings to all our Happy Chicken supporters.  Thanks to your generosity, Global Giving funds helped leverage a grant from the Pacific Developmenrt and Conservation Trust (NZ), and we were finally able to get solar power installed into our Happy Chicken hatchery!   

This is a very important step in securing the survival of the developing chicks, as two cyclones have in the past caused widespread power failure for several weeks, and the resulting loss of over 700 developing chicks each time. The solar power also saves on our power bills and helps the hatchery become carbon neutral.

We hatched 730 chicks in July, and we are just now at full capacity, with peak laying season for the hens, and we expect over 900 chicks per month from August through October, with a gradual decine beginning in November and December and with low season in February /March as the hens mostly go into moult, changing their feahers and gathering strength for another year of laying.

We continue to sell the chicks at cost or slightly below cost to the poor farmers in the area, and we give the chicks away to needy families in the surrounding comunities. This week we sent five young breeding roosters to Tailevu, on the other side of the island, to reinforce a youth project using imported layer hens, which will be crossed to produce improved local hybrid layers, hatched in one of the small 90-egg incubators we have gotten for communities. Two weeks ago we sent 50, 4-week old pullets to Malolo Island to start a project there. 

Our next scheduled workshop is the first week of October, with six people coming all the way from Papua New Guinea to learn our community-appropriate methods, also paired with Fijian counterparts who have asked to be trained.

Farm News: Our hatchery manager Nicole, married to our farm manager Emenoni (Junia), delivered a healthy baby boy four weeks ago, and so others have been filling in to do the work, including young volunteers from Austraila and the USA.  Every time we have needed extra help, somehow it has been provided. The work is sometimes overwhelming, but the blessings are overflowing, and through you, and unseen hands the resources required are given. 

Vinaka vakalevu, loloma levu mai Viti.

(Thank you very much, much love from Fiji.)      

 

   

Installing the solar panels
Installing the solar panels
Solar to the hatchery!
Solar to the hatchery!
View of the Happy Chicken hatchery
View of the Happy Chicken hatchery
Sunrise at the farm...  the roosters are crowing
Sunrise at the farm... the roosters are crowing
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Making VCO to produce chicken feed
Making VCO to produce chicken feed

We conducted our very first international Happy Chicken traing workshop at the Fiji farm and hatchery for ten days, 9-18 April.  A group of five community representatives flew in from the remote coral atolls of Aranuka, Marakei, and Tarawa, with the transport paid for by an Australian grant to our Kiribati partner, FSPK.

An important revelation of the discussions during the week is that the fish of Aranuka Atoll have become poisonous to eat in recent years, since the corals died in the 2014-15 mass coral bleaching event, which was caused by extremely hot water due to el Nino and climate change. The fish poison "ciguatera" has worsened to the point whereby people are deprived of most reef fish in their diet, with only a few species remaining safe to eat.  This makes the chicken project all the more important to the community.  

The goal of the workshop was to learn the care and breeding principles necessary to build a successful community poultry programme on each of the atolls.  Due to the isolation of Kiribati, the projects must rely totally on local feeds, rather than imported feed. The participants learned about local plant foods, care and feeding, housing, and breeding. Incubation was also taught, using the small incubators that they already have on site.  An illustrated handbook was created that includes most of the information, and was given out to the participants.

Additional training included the making of virgin coconut oil (VCO), as a means for de-fatting coconut so that more coconut can be fed to the chickens- full-fat coconut can only be 25% of a healthy chicken diet, while defatted coconut can make up 40-50%.   Leucaena and morniga leaves, chopped kumala leaves, and chopped Vigna beach pea leaves are ideally added to the defatted coconut, which ensures that more healthy vegetable matter and complete/balanced protein sources are consumed.

Using the VCO, we demonstrated soap making to the trainees, which was very exciting to them.  Coconut oil soap lathers well in brackish water, and is better for the atolls than imported soaps. Dried seaweeds, brought to Fiji from Kiribati, were made into seaweed gel, and then used to make kimchee pickles and coconut jelly pie.  The biggest hit was the after-shower gel, made from seven parts seaweed gel mixed with one part VCO, scented with vanilla and orange oil.  Everyone took a bottle home, with plans to make their own. 

As Ruiti, the FSPK Director, had a permit for bringing seeds back, we spent time preparing and drying various vegetable and fruit seeds from around the farm. 

Each participant was sent home with an efficient coconut grater, a strong bucket, watering dishes for baby chicks, a roll of 1cm wire mesh for making a mobile rearing pen (7 meter x 75cm), a 500 gram bottle of caustic soda for making soap, and ample chick starter feed.

We will send the baby chicks via plane to Kiribati next week, and FSPI will follow up on the atolls.  We are also planning for follow up visits, as resources allow.  

The former president of Kiribati, Mr Anote Tong, visited the farm to view the project last week, right on the heels of the Kiribati workshop.  This historic visit was filmed by Netherlands TV, and will be aired in several countries in Europe. This visit was a great honor for the Happy Chicken project and the farm staff, and we hope the filming will result in some good exposure as well.  

Thanks so much for your support in making this vital work happen.

Tebbi hugging a Kabir cross rooster
Tebbi hugging a Kabir cross rooster
Seeta and Ata-ata working in the hatchery
Seeta and Ata-ata working in the hatchery
Tebbi loves the new hatched chicks
Tebbi loves the new hatched chicks
President Tong visits the farm to learn more!
President Tong visits the farm to learn more!
Workshop participants with C4C staff
Workshop participants with C4C staff
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Rahul with his happy chickens on a rainy day.
Rahul with his happy chickens on a rainy day.

The Happy Chicken project reached another milestone in January, with over thirty thousand chicks produced and distributed over the past six years.  In 2018 we conducted happy chicken workshops at the training centre for communties from the remote islands of Taveuni, Kadavu, and Beqa, and from two communities from the province of Naitasiri.  

Our first workshop of 2019 started yesterday, with seven youth coming five hours by bus and carrier from the remote interior village of Nandelei in Tavua.  As always we have head-started chicks to the two-month old stage, so they have a high probability of survival and will begin laying in only four more months.  The community will take over a hundred of these back with them to grow into their own breeding flock.

Our hatchery is closed for two months as we are installing solar power thanks to a grant from New Zealand. Also the number of eggs laid is down to a tenth of what we get in the high season, as most of the hens are undergoing their annual molt, changing their feathers and building up resources for another year of laying.  All the hens free-range and have constant access to forage, their pen doors are open all day, which can be a problem at times with chicken poo on the doorstep or hens sometimes trying to hide a nest and hatch their own chicks.  We had three such renegade nests thatch last year, only seen when the mother hen parades her chicks into full view.  We quickly put the hen with her brood into a mobile rearing pen to protect the chicks from hawks and mongooses.   

We continue to be improve our diverse mixed breed by rearing up a hundred or so chicks every year, and then selecting the largest roosters, and changing the older roosters for the younger males, selling off the older roosters to the neighbors during the New Year holiday when relatives come calling.  The hens lay for 3-4 years, and are retired only when they begin stop laying well.  Our eggs are distinctively diverse in color, ranging from dark brown, to tan, to white, to cream, and even to light blue and green, and we have seen these eggs for sale manay times in the Sigatoka market this past year, which is a good indicator off project success. 

I will close with a story of Rahul, pictured below with his Happy Chickens.  This is the boy who became the head of the house when he was just 14- caring for his younger sister and unmarried aunt.   His mother died of cancer in 2015, and his father, a bus driver, was shortly afterwards imprisoned for five years, all because a young teenage passenger on his bus jumped from the bus unexpectedly and as killed.  Without going into detail on this injustice, we have been helping Rahul in several ways, including happy chickens.  Two years ago, Rahul successfully raised up several dozen chickens, selling the eggs.  He recently he sold off the older birds to help support the family, and he is now is raising up another lot of chckens as he continues developing his small business.  His father wil be released in January, 2020.  Which will be a big relief, and Rahul will graduate from secondary school in 2021.

Thank you all for making these works of love possible.

Junia teaching the trainees
Junia teaching the trainees
Pausing for reflection during the lessons
Pausing for reflection during the lessons
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Organization Information

Corals for Conservation

Location: Samabula - Fiji
Website:
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Project Leader:
Austin Bowden-Kerby
Samabula, Fiji
$30,224 raised of $40,000 goal
 
289 donations
$9,776 to go
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