Van­u­atu Farmer-Ven­dors In­spired For Change in Fiji

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Ru­ral and ur­ban mar­kets in Van­u­atu are cen­tral to the liveli­hoods of the peo­ple es­pe­cially the poorer house­holds who de­pend heav­ily on the in­come they earn from their small scale mar­ket op­er­a­tions. These op­er­a­tions are dom­i­nated by women, 23 of whom had an op­por­tu­nity to travel to Fiji for the first time to gain knowl­edge and prac­tice to im­ple­ment in their home farm and mar­ket in Man­galilu vil­lage, Van­u­atu. The ex­po­sure visit to Food Pro­ces­sors Fiji, the Koronivia Agri­cul­ture Re­search Sta­tion and Nau­sori Mu­nic­i­pal Mar­ket helped them see the great po­ten­tial of mar­ket­ing and agro- busi­ness in Van­u­atu. The lo­cal ar­range­ments for the visit were sup­ported and co-or­di­nated by the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP) while the women took their own ini­tia­tive to visit Fiji at their own ex­pense. Le­rina Kal­song and her fel­low vil­lagers were sur­prised and im­pressed by how the lo­cal pro­duce can be pack­aged for ex­port, how pest and weed can be con­trolled, and how lo­cal mar­ket can be op­er­ated ef­fi­ciently. Ma­jor­ity of mar­ket ven­dors in Van­u­atu pro­duce crops and vegeta­bles in their gar­dens to sell at the mar­ket and earn for their fam­i­lies. Many were un­aware that co­conut leaves turn­ing yel­low and the fruits that look with­ered can be pre­vented, and many were un­aware that ch­est­nut dur­ing its sea­son, can be sold to gen­er­ate in­come. Mar­ket ven­dors did not see their daily task as a busi­ness with the po­ten­tial to grow big­ger. The train­ing pro­grammes on fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy, ba­sic busi­ness skills and farm man­age­ment were pro­vided to the mar­ket ven­dors who are also pro­duc­ers in Van­u­atu by UNDP in part­ner­ship with the Shefa Provin­cial Gov­ern­ment Coun­cil (SPGC), Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment, UN Women and the Na­tional Bank of Van­u­atu. The train­ing aimed to im­prove the so­cio-eco­nomic se­cu­rity and rights of mar­ket ven­dors es­pe­cially women mar­ket ven­dors through im­prov­ing fi­nan­cial and busi­ness skills, in­creas­ing ac­cess to fi­nan­cial ser­vices, and in­creas­ing pro­duc­tion and in­comes. The train­ing top­ics were de­signed to meet the needs of lo­cal mar­ket ven­dor-farm­ers and train­ing ma­te­ri­als trans­lated into Bis­lama, one of the of­fi­cial lan­guages of Van­u­atu. Ms Kal­song was among the 35 mar­ket ven­dor-farm­ers par­tic­i­pated in the train­ing con­ducted at Man­galilu vil­lage in June. After Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Pam de­stroyed their gar­dens, the women had started re­build­ing again. They earned some in­come by clear­ing de­bris and sell­ing fish, and as they har­vested, they went to the mar­ket to sell their pro­duce ev­ery week. “We learned from the train­ing that sell­ing at the mar­ket is busi­ness - pro­duc­ing vegeta­bles and crops, sell­ing them, mak­ing profit and sav­ing. And now I saw it in this mar­ket, both women and men work­ing equally and so ef­fi­ciently,” Ms Kal­song shared after talk­ing to ven­dors at the Nau­sori Mar­ket.

De­spite their cen­tral role in the lives and liveli­hoods of many house­holds, mar­kets in Van­u­atu are fairly ba­sic op­er­a­tions. Food wastage is high, there is lim­ited prod­uct dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion, prod­ucts sold are very sea­sonal and there is lim­ited value-added through ei­ther pack­ag­ing, pro­cess­ing, or con­scious mar­ket­ing of a range of re­lated prod­ucts.

Gain­ing fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy and ba­sic busi­ness skills from the train­ing, mar­ket ven­dors are more aware of their po­ten­tial, ea­ger to learn more and try new ideas. “We want to pro­duce our lo­cal crops and pro­mote our prod­ucts just like Fiji. We want to change our mar­kets, we want to im­prove our mar­kets,” said Kal­song. The train­ing pro­grammes as Con­tin­u­ing Mar­ket Busi­ness Ed­u­ca­tion (CMBE) and In­creas­ing Agri­cul­tural Pro­duc­tiv­ity and In­come of Ven­dor-Farm­ers (IPI-VF) have been con­ducted in Fiji, Solomon Is­lands and Van­u­atu and con­tinue this year tar­get­ing more ru­ral women mar­ket ven­dor-farm­ers in those coun­tries. CMBE and IPI-VF train­ing ac­tiv­i­ties are im­ple­mented by UNDP in part­ner­ship with the lo­cal govern­ments, UN Women and re­gional banks, as part of the Mar­kets for Change project. The Mar­kets for Change project is a six-year, multi-coun­try ini­tia­tive that aims to en­sure mar­ket­places in ru­ral and ur­ban ar­eas of Fiji, Solomon Is­lands and Van­u­atu are safe, in­clu­sive and non-dis­crim­i­na­tory, pro­mot­ing gen­der equal­ity and women’s em­pow­er­ment. A UN Women project, Mar­kets for Change is im­ple­mented in part­ner­ship with UNDP and sup­ported by the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment.

The visit to Food Pro­ces­sors Fiji

Le­rina Kal­song at Nau­sori Mu­nic­i­pal Mar­ket

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