Community Entrepreneurs Empowered by a Sustainable Approach
September 20, 2023
Suva, Fiji – Communities in Kadavu have gained knowledge relating to the benefits of cooperatives for local development. This approach falls in line with the Government of Fiji’s strategic approach to achieving sustainable economic growth, social progress, and community empowerment.
This past week, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Trade, Cooperatives, Small Medium Enterprises, and the Itaukei Affairs Trust Board delivered a five-day information and awareness session across four districts in Kadavu. The session was attended by 220 farmers and business entrepreneurs (140 women and 80 men) from Sanima, Tavuki, Yawe and Nakasaleka Districts.
The sessions re-emphasized the Government of Fiji’s supports toward the establishment of cooperatives in communities, as a means of:
- Economic Empowerment: Cooperatives provide a platform for local entrepreneurs, farmers, artisans, and small business owners to join forces, pool resources, and access markets that would be challenging to enter individually. This can result in increased income and economic stability for community members, ultimately contributing to local economic development.
- Rural and Agricultural Development: In a country like Fiji, where artisanal agriculture plays a significant role in the economy, cooperatives can work well for the development of rural areas. They can improve agricultural practices, provide access to finance and technology, and help farmers negotiate better prices for their produce, thereby bolstering the agricultural sector and rural livelihoods.
- Poverty Alleviation: Cooperatives often prioritize equitable wealth distribution. By ensuring that profits are reinvested in the community or fairly distributed among members, cooperatives can help reduce poverty and income inequality, which is essential for overall development.
- Community Building: Cooperatives foster a sense of community ownership and participation. Members have a say in decision-making processes, which can enhance social cohesion and engagement. This sense of belonging and cooperation is vital for local development.
- Sustainability: Cooperatives often emphasize sustainable practices, whether it's in agriculture, fisheries, renewable energy, or other sectors. They can promote environmentally friendly methods and help communities reduce their ecological footprint.
- Resilience: Cooperatives can make communities more resilient to economic shocks and natural disasters by providing a safety net for members. In times of crisis, cooperatives can support recovery efforts and ensure that livelihoods are protected.
- Capacity Building: The government's support for cooperatives includes training and capacity-building programs for members. This investment in human capital will increase skills and knowledge, contributing to local development.
- Inclusivity: Cooperatives are often structured to be inclusive, ensuring that marginalized groups, including women and minorities, have an opportunity to participate and benefit from economic and social development initiatives.
During this informative session, participants had the opportunity to learn more about the Government of Fiji's commitment to fostering local economic development at the grassroots level.
The importance of having a Business Continuity Plan was re-emphasized by the Government, this plan to safeguard business from natural disasters or unforeseen circumstances, allowing them to thrive even in challenging times.
Along with knowledge sharing, members of the communities engaged in a programme to improve practical financial and business management skills for entrepreneurs provided under the Markets for Change Project.
Ms. Losena Vunivalu, among those participants at Namuana Village, was appreciative of the whole programme provided.
“I am so happy that I was invited to attend today’s session. I realized the importance of registering my business, and proper record keeping of my daily business activities. The cooperative functions will also help me grow my business and access grants that are provided by the Government,” she said.
The sessions highlighted the importance of the long-term sustainability of Kadavu communities, which the Markets for Change Project aims to contribute to. This was made possible through a collaborative partnership with the Ministry of Trade, Cooperatives, Small and Medium Enterprises and the Itaukei Affairs Trust Board.
The Markets for Change (M4C) project promotes gender equality through the economic empowerment of women market vendors in Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. It brings together governments, market vendors and market vendor associations, civil society organizations and UN agencies.
The M4C project is implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNDP and supported by the Governments of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
For more information, please contact:
Vilisi Veibataki, Markets for Change Project Manager, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji | firstname.lastname@example.org | +679 3227701
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