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