Meet Alex, the Chicken Consultant

Alex Salamat plays an interesting and important role in our Better Food Better Health Project in Timor-Leste.

A fun title for an important job

When it comes to job titles, Chicken Consultant is about as unique as it gets. But that’s exactly what Alex Salamat goes by as a contractor in our Better Food Better Health Project  in Timor-Leste.     

The project, funded by the Australian Government, aims to improve the nutrition of mothers and children under five. It promotes better health and nutrition behaviour, while also increasing household incomes and the availability of nutritious food.

Perhaps surprisingly, chickens comprise an important element of the project’s strategy. They’re part of an incentive package offered to community health volunteers, known as PSFs.

Through the project, we support 126 PSFs to run parent clubs and visit households, so they can share vital health and nutrition messages. We also train PSFs in superfood production. In turn, they train parents and farmer groups in improved agricultural techniques.

Yet the PSFs do all of this without payment. “[The PSFs] are volunteers, so we realise that they are actually working quite a lot with a very minimal income,” says Margy Dowling, Grants Manager, World Vision Australia.

This is where the chicken incentive package – and Alex’s expertise – come in.

The chicken incentive package

The chicken incentive package is a practical way to help motivate the PSFs to continue their valuable work. Raising chickens gives them an opportunity to earn income – in a way that also supports improved nutrition among the wider community.

“Part of that program is around increasing their opportunity to earn income, through growing chickens and producing eggs, because we know that eggs are a really great source of protein and iron, which is what is lacking in diets, and so we can see more eggs being sold in community and eaten in community to improve health,” Margy explains.  

One of Alex’s key mandates as the Chicken Consultant is to oversee the construction of 180 chicken houses – one for each PSF and the remainder for community farmers across the project areas. The coops are large and robust and have separate areas for breeding, brooding and growing, which helps to maximise survival rates.

Alex also manages the procurement of chickens to fill the houses with. Each PSF will receive a rooster, 10 hens and chicken feed.

“The benefit of these chicken houses for the PSF is to level up the survival rate of the chickens, to achieve the goal of increasing the productivity of eggs and meat,” Alex says.  

Under Alex’s leadership, a team works on the construction of a new chicken house in Aileu.

Sharing expertise in raising healthier chickens

As well as organising chickens and chicken houses, Alex also shares his expert knowledge with the PSFs. “Part of the package is providing ... educational development and skills to improve chicken management,” he says. 

Chickens in Timor-Leste are often malnourished and not producing as many eggs as they could, so the PSFs’ healthy chickens will serve as examples for their communities. Other families will be able to see how to build better chicken houses and learn how to increase egg production. 

In Aileu, Joana is one of the PSFs with a newly-completed chicken house. Most people in her community only have very small chicken coops, which are often not secure. “These chicken coops are very good for us because it’s safer for the chickens; no other animals will come and destroy them,” she says.

Joana thinks the chicken incentive package is a great idea. “Through this, eggs are very good for my children’s nutrition and easy for us to get.” She enjoys helping her community as a PSF, and the chicken incentive package will provide extra motivation to keep up her important work.

And for Alex, as well as having a very special job title, the work is an opportunity to apply his unique skills to widespread benefit – improving health and nutrition for communities across Timor-Leste. 

In fact, his expertise is so sought-after through the project that another position has now been created to provide additional support: PF Chicken, for chicken project facilitators.  

Top: Joana in her new chicken house. Bottom: Joana’s eight-year-old son Caleb is keen to help his mum look after their chickens.

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