Assisting recovery by improving food security

cash for work
Makarina Dreka and the Vunayasi cash for work team. Photo: UNDP/Tomoko Kashiwazaki

“We are farmers. We clear the land and plant again when heavy rain knocks down our crops and vegetables. But it is more difficult now to manage it because rains are unpredictable and heavier.”

Like Makarina Dreka, villagers in Vunayasi settlement in outskirts of Nadi, have been struggling to overcome the severe damage on their farms caused by the twin floods that occurred in early 2012.

FACTS

  • First time that Cash-for-Work (CFW) implemented in Fiji.
  • 168 participants (68% Women) received Agriculture training and 177 participants (84% Women) received financial literacy training.
  • 14 communities out of 29 communities established a small-scale community oriented farming ventures after the programme.
  • Five out of 14 communities initiated recovery activities on their own in response to the Cyclone Evan which struck Fiji in December 2012.
  • AusAID provided financial support: AU$90,000 to expand the Cash for Work project to Nadi benefit 865 individuals.

The agriculture sector was hard hit by the floods in the Western Division of Fiji in January and March last year. Families whose livelihoods depend heavily on subsistence or semi-subsistence agriculture and sale of produce were the most affected.  Farmers are still recovering from the damage caused by Cyclone Evan that hit in December of the same year.

Following the floods, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership ILO and UN Women, implemented the Cash-for-Work (CFW) Programme, targeting 27 affected communities in two districts, Rakiraki and Nadi. It was jointly funded by UNDP and Australian Aid.

The programme assisted the financial recovery of flood affected men and women by providing a temporary source of cash income in exchange for work related to livelihoods and improving preparedness for future floods. In Rakiraki, 288 women were amongst the 343 individuals who were employed for 20 days through the Cash-for-Work pilot programme. In Nadi, 605 women were amongst the 865 who were employed in through the programme. A total of 22 hectares of land was cultivated and an assorted variety of vegetables and fruits were grown and later harvested for domestic consumption and retail. The initiative indirectly benefitted the wider population in the two districts, totaling more than 47,000 people.

“We took the opportunity provided by the cash for work programme and planted cabbages, eggplants, sweet potatoes, long beans, French beans and more. The seeds were provided by the Department of Agriculture and UNDP.  We made a nursery, too. We learnt a new method of insect control using Neem tree leaves. It reduced the use of and expense for chemical pesticide,” said Makarina who led a team of 27 women and eight men under the programme.

Farm supplies food to families, particularly in the low income bracket, and provides surplus or disposable income which allows them to meet essential needs such as children’s education, health etc. within their meager budgets.

“The findings of the review undertaken after the CFW was completed in Nadi demonstrated that the programme has helped to restore livelihoods and led to increased food security and even indirectly supported access to health and education services of the participants and their families,” UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Knut Ostby said.

“The Australian Government is proud to have partnered with the United Nations Development Program in piloting the Cash for Work (C4W) Program as part of our assistance to communities affected by the severe flooding in Western Viti Levu in March 2012.  The C4W Program has proved successful in promoting food security by supporting replanting of agricultural crops. It has also provided beneficiaries with much needed cash support during a time when their families faced extreme financial pressures caused by the loss of their livelihoods and household assets,” Joanne Choe, AusAID Counsellor Development Cooperation (Fiji & Tuvalu) said.

After completion of the CFW programme, the farmers in Vunayasi settlement started a small-scale joint agriculture venture.  The savings accumulated from the sale of harvested crops was invested into the rehabilitation of farms after the Cyclone Evan.

One of the strategies under the Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation policy area for the Fiji Government is to “promote and strengthen food security programme to enhance community based disaster reduction initiatives”. UNDP continues to provide support to the people of Fiji in livelihood recovery in the aftermath of natural disasters.