Chickens for Change

The Rotary Club of Brisbane, Qld, has been supporting food and nutrition security in Papua New Guinea since 2018 through its partnership with the Kyeema Foundation, a Brisbane-based not-for-profit organisation implementing coral reef conservation and indigenous chicken keeping as alternative food and livelihood activities.

So, why indigenous chickens? A good question indeed!

More than 80 per cent of Papua New Guineans live a rural subsistence existence, collecting what food they grow from their gardens. It is estimated that childhood stunting in PNG is the fourth highest in the world at 49.5 per cent (Global Nutrition Report, 2016), with a key contributor being lack of protein and essential micronutrients in the diet.

Indigenous (local breed/backyard/village) chickens are an affordable source of food and nutrition security for rural communities and are an ideal solution to dietary protein shortages and dwindling wild protein sources such as fish and bushmeat. Poultry ranks second to fish as the most important protein source for our island neighbours. Unsuitable commercial chickens require expensive housing and processed food that local people can’t afford. These commercial chickens are relatively heat intolerant, do not thrive, and do not go broody, unlike the indigenous chickens. However, local breed production is currently constrained by lack of proper husbandry practices and suitable breeding stock.

“By putting financial resources in the hands of mothers, the versatile village chicken empowers women as decision-makers within the household, which can lead to improved outcomes in child education and

Local farmers have well-adapted local breeds, but they are not very productive as they are not kept in formalised farm/breeding environments.

Because of this, flocks are small, and chicks are almost never available for sale. These local chickens are an extremely valuable resource as they carry ancient genetics from the wild chickens brought to PNG by the original people who migrated from Asia thousands of years ago. They are more resilient in the local environment and reproduce well on a local diet, so conservation and development of these valuable chickens is a necessary priority.

The Rotary Club of Brisbane (RCOB) initially supported the set-up of a village chicken farm for Haus Pikinini in Wau, Morobe Province, which looks after 30 children from the local community who have no-one to provide for them. The club supported the set-up of the chicken shed and yard, the purchase of local chickens for breeding, and training in village chicken keeping.

This year, RCOB has provided funds to support the set-up of another breeding and training centre, with attached local feed gardens, in Gabagaba village, located in Rigo District, Central Province.

RCOB’s support is part of a larger project supported by funds from the Australian Government’s NGO Cooperation Program, which means every dollar provided by RCOB is matched by an additional five dollars from the Australian Government. This project also includes support of community-led no fish zones and coral reef gardening activities, with the village chicken work providing an alternative food and livelihood activity for the coastal communities on the project.

The project encompasses the establishment of breeding and training centres in Central and Morobe Provinces and extensive training activities to ensure the specialised skills needed for this work are provided, so that improved village poultry keeping and conservation of indigenous chickens can be sustained.

Families receive chickens to raise after their training session, which will provide both a source of food nutrition and income. To date, six Master Farmers have been trained in poultry husbandry, coral gardening, participatory community decision making and permaculture, in order to lead activities in PNG. Five breeding and training centres have been established (two funded by RCOB) and two coral gardening trials have
been established.