Growing chickens for a living

Lae News, Normal


SHE is semi- literate – can read a bit of English – but not much more.
But she understands the language of growing commercial chicken.
She knows what it takes to grow chickens to the standard required by the major poultry producer Tablebirds owned by the Lae-based Mainland Holdings company.
Miriam Nalau is her name and she comes from Labu-Buttu village near Lae.
She is one of the many village farmers who grow chicken for Tablebirds under the company’s out-grower programme.
Mrs Nalau and her husband Asulu Nalau started growing chickens commercially for the company in 1993.
Their chicken shed consisted of a bush material that houses 2,000 chickens.
Under her supervision, they soon extended the shed to cater for 3,000 chickens.
The shed was further extended for 4,000 chickens then another extension for 5,000 chickens.
The couple now has two chicken sheds each holding 5,000 birds and is planning on a third one.
Mrs Nalau runs the chicken project with an iron fist.
She follows the Tablebirds policies like the Ten Commandments and would not deviate from them.
“My family’s life depends on the chicken.
“We live because of this project,” she told The National at her farm.
When her two adopted sons completed primary school she told them to stay home and run the chicken farm.
“I told my two sons, money is right here in front of them.
“I told them to work hard for their own future.
“Money is here and if they look after the chickens then the chickens will look after them,” Mrs Nalau said.
The husband rarely argues with his wife.
For him she is the boss and whatever she says must be  done.
They have a good understanding between themselves as husband and wife.
Their focus is to make a success of their chicken farm to raise their family.
Mrs Nalau went as far as Grade 6 exams in her primary school education.
She cheated on Grade 6 and never completed it despite strong pressure from her late father for her to go to school.
Today she looks back to those days: “I had good grades but did not want to go to school.
“My father insisted on me going, he would hit me and tell me repeatedly to go to school.
“He said he was concerned about my future and wanted me to get a good job that would earn  good money before he died.
“But I refused to go to school. 
“I would pretend to go to school but would end up staying with relatives the whole day and then come home when the rest of my school friends came home.
When my father asked if I had gone to school my friends would lie to him that I did.”
She continued: “I would have been wearing high heel shoes now if I had I listened to my father and gone to school.
“My father wanted the best for me but I did not see things the way he saw them at the time.”
Mrs Nalau is the last in a family of five – three boys and two girls.
Despite her little education she learnt from her father to be tough and take on the challenges of life with an iron fist.
“I can read English but I don’t understand big words,” she said.
During his youthful years, the late Esatu Osia was a man feared by many.
He spoke up strongly on many issues and was never afraid to stand up for things he believed in.
When Betty speaks, her relatives would always remarked that she spoke like her late father.
She speaks with an iron fist bust the heart of a lamb when it comes to helping the community around her.
It is known that Mrs Nalau and her husband have spent their own money to help their people in times of need.
They have done so without asking for anything in return.
Often she would refuse to help when asked to help but would then change her mind and help.
Chickens gives her the money she needs to raise her family.
But she is not sitting back and waiting for chicken money.
Her family grows taro, banana and vegetables which they eat and also sell for additional income to support themselves.
Many women with little education go through many hardships trying to find the means to look after their families.
This has forced many of them into poverty and other social problems.
However, for Mrs Nalau and others like her the Tablebirds out grower programme which enabled them to grow chicken for the company had empowered them to beat poverty.
Illiteracy or semi-illiteracy may be a handicap for her but Mrs Nalau is a fighter.
She fights all odds to ensure there is food and money
for her family.
With the backing of a humble husband she had beaten all odds to come out a winner.
The money she and her
husband earn from their chicken business go straight into helping to improve their family’s living conditions.
“ I know what I want for my children and I have told them what to do for their future should anything happen to me,”  Mrs Nalau said.