Temporary employment boosts early recovery from Fiji floods

19 Apr 2012

imageMarket vendors in Rakiraki selling produce. Photo: Shobhna Decloitre/UNDP Pacific Centre

Suva, Fiji - Market vendors whose livelihoods have been washed away by the floods in Fiji earlier this month will be employed in a special “cash-for-work” scheme starting this week.

The temporary employment programme will initially support 260 flood affected in Fiji—70 percent of them women—hiring them for an initial period of 20 working days to help rebuild their livelihoods and directly involve them in their communities’ recovery efforts.  

From 30 March to 4 April heavy floods affected dozens of thousands in the South Pacific island nation with a population of 890,000. Five people were killed and more than 15,000 were sheltered in over 150 evacuation centres at the height of the flood.  

The cash-for-work initiative, funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with support from UN Women and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), is being implemented with the Government of Fiji to focus initially on market vendors in Rakiraki, one of the country’s worst affected districts, located halfway between the capital Suva and the western town of Nadi.

“The cash-for-work programme in the form of emergency employment is about the dignity of the women and men to be involved in recovery who then decide on how to use the money earned,” said Knut Ostby, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative. “Such programmes also provide quick visible impact in the affected areas giving hope to the women and men to move forward and build towards the future.”  

UN Women and UNDP have conducted research and recently compiled the socio-economic profile of market vendors in Fiji, showing that about 80 percent of market vendors in the western part of the country are women, with incomes ranging from US$71 and $141. With the UNDP-supported temporary employment scheme market vendors will be able to earn up to three times more.

Approximately 60 percent of market vendors grow their own produce for sale and mainly sell vegetables, root crops and fruits, working 10-hour days, six days a week.  The recent rain and floods caused major disruptions to food distribution in the island nation—and drastic reductions in vendors’ and farmers’ income.

“Markets in Fiji are economic hubs which contribute significantly to the local and national economies, in addition to vendors, supporting also employment of transport industry workers, council worker, farmers and law enforcement,” Ostby added. “The cash-for-work programme for the market vendors combined with a timely investment in market rehabilitation and re-stocking would kickstart a wider economic reactivation in this hard-hit area of the country.”

The cash-for-work programme, a first for Fiji, is part of a larger UNDP project targeting livelihoods restoration following recurrent floods in Fiji and has a budget of US$100,000.00.  UNDP is seeking additional funds to expand this programme to other affected areas in western Fiji.