The Palladium Group Supports “Happy Chicken Project” in Fiji.

In February 2017 the Palladium Group provided funds to KYEEMA to support the “Happy Chicken” program at the Sustainable Livelihoods Farm in Fiji. The project is being implemented by the NGO “Sustainable Environmental Livelihoods for the Future (SELF)” with support from KYEEMA in Brisbane.

Poultry ranks second to seafood as the most important protein source for South Pacific Nations. However, the industry is dominated by commercial factory-type farms completely reliant on New Zealand breeding farms for broiler and layer chicks. The imported chickens are poorly suited to village conditions, require expensive imported feeds to ensure productivity, and do not breed well in local conditions, which maintains dependence. Localizing the industry, at least to meet rural community demand, will increase both food security and prosperity.

The project aims to meet the increased demand for climate-adapted chickens for cyclone rehabilitation and food security in South Pacific communities. Village farmers have well-adapted local breeds, but they are not very productive. Flocks are small and chicks are almost never available for sale. SELF has succeeded in crossing imported layers with local roosters to produce chickens that are both productive and well adapted to village-level and free range conditions; able to thrive by foraging on locally available foods. Continued breeding work will further improve the productivity of these local breeds. An upgraded hatchery will be established for SELF’s new breeding facility to increase production to meet the immense and urgent needs across a wide regional area. SELF has hatched and distributed over 20,000 chicks to poor rural people across Fiji since 2013. With the additional funding, SELF hopes to increase production to 10,000 chicks per year.

Austin Bowden-Kerby’s Suva TEDx talk on coral farming in Fiji.

Austin Bowden-Kerby, the founder of SELF, with workshop participants from the far interior of Naitasiri Province in Fiji. They will be working together to promote happy chickens, to provide much needed protein to inland communities which often experience chronic protein deficiency due to their remoteness. Austin is an avid supporter of sustainable livelihoods.

SELF also intends to build capacity for breeding climate-adapted chickens at community level, in order to build self-sufficiency and longer term food security. The project will hold training workshops to stress the importance of flock diversity and a long term strategy of self-sufficiency through the careful selection of second generation roosters. Communities will also be trained in improved poultry husbandry including protection of chicks from predators, proper housing for the adults (getting them out of the trees), and a proper high-protein diet using locally available feeds, including moringa, leucaena, coconut, and composted garden waste.

The SELF Sustainable Livelihoods farm is well established and already serves as a regional training centre for the conservation and development of climate-adapted indigenous chickens. The farm can house up to 30 students for workshops, targeting NGO and aid personnel from Fiji and the region, as well as community trainees, with demonstrations of free-range poultry systems for chickens, ducks, and geese, farm-based poultry feed production systems, duck/fish pond systems, and diverse farming and permaculture methods.

The Palladium funds will also support the testing required to get biosecurity certification. This will ensure that chicks supplied both regionally and locally are disease-free. Thus far biosecurity tests have indicated that the SELF flocks are free of all communicable poultry diseases.

SELF also supports rural women, who are mostly responsible for managing the household chickens. Inclusion of disadvantaged peoples is also ongoing in the Sigatoka valley, with SELF targeting poor landless families near the Sustainable Livelihoods Farm. Families are trained, given chicks and starter feed, and lent a rearing cage.