Accelerating business growth in the marketplace
June 12, 2023
Market vendors and farmers who supply produce to Fiji’s 13 municipal markets recently gathered in Deuba, a town outside of Suva on the island of Viti Levu to discuss ways to accelerate market business activity. The Markets for Change (M4C) project jointly implemented by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women organized a four-day Market Business Fair (MBF) to share information, learn, network, and share best practices that will boost their market business, promote gender equality, and economically empower market vendors with a focus on the needs and aspirations of women market vendors.
The MBF directly benefited 50 market vendors and farmers who supply to municipal markets, of which 14 were men, demonstrating that women play an important role in the region's local markets. Women account for around 90 percent of vendors in Vanuatu, 80 percent of vendors in Samoa and Solomon Islands, and 70 percent of vendors in Fiji. As a result, marketplaces are the primary source of income for many women (especially rural women) and their families, serve as an important social and community institution, provide the foundation for domestic food security, and serve as a crucial safety net in times of crisis.
UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Resident Representative a.i Dawn Del Rio said this is the beginning of more opportunities for learning, sharing ideas and networking. “It’s an important event under the M4C project, as it brings together representatives from financial institutions, investment organizations, the Ministry of Agriculture and 13 municipal markets to share best practices that will help to accelerate business growth,” she added.
Sofia Nisha, a fish vendor, and a member of the Savusavu Market Vendors Association had decided to step down from the market business a few weeks before she was invited to be at the MBF due to financial challenges. “I told the Savusavu MVA president that I was going to step down from running the business because I couldn’t do it anymore. In a business you need money to run your business and buy your stocks because if you don’t have any money, you will not be able to do anything.”
However, the MBF was timely as she was able to network with others and learn from the stakeholders who spoke at the fair. “After I listened to the stakeholders on the first day of the session, I went to our MVA President and told her I will continue with the running of my business because the Fiji Development Bank (FDB) gave me an opportunity to apply for a Grant that will benefit women SME’s and I’m confident that I will get it.”
The mother of two was eligible to apply for an FDB Loan for Women Entrepreneurs who have been in operation and have a registered MSME business for more than three years who require capital or need to expand their existing business.
Waisea Makulau, a farmer, canteen operator and a market vendor for over 10 years in Labasa thanked UNDP for pushing and encouraging other vendors to step out of their comfort zone by realizing the importance of digitalization in our world today. “We cannot continue to be living in the past by doing things manually, we have to make use of the digital apps and technology that exists today.”
The father of four also intends to open a coffee shop in Labasa, as he has identified this as a need in the northern town. "I would like to thank UNDP for being inclusive and introducing this 'household approach' to educate not only the women but also the men and children because this is one way that broadens the mind and mentality of children because when they look at us together, they will come to know and understand that this will benefit the family,” he said.
The MBF will strengthen UNDP's commitment to supporting inclusive growth policies and strategies that aim to expand financial inclusion and reach vulnerable groups such as rural women market vendors and farmers.
51-one-year-old Hakik Mohammed, a farmer and one of Nadi’s largest suppliers to its municipal market said this was a good opportunity for vendors to leave their stalls and work together to increase their market activity. “I will go back to Nadi and take all the learnings from here and educate other farmers in my area.” Mr. Mohammed also operates a barber shop in Nadi town and a herd of 47 goats and 18 sheep.
Anaseini Adireki of Votua Ba, who began selling fresh juice in 2016 after her husband's retirement, now owns a fiberglass boat used to assist in catching prawns for market sale. She said that since attending UNDP-sponsored Financial Literacy training, her savings account has grown, and she has opened investment accounts. "Some people see me selling juice from small glasses and assume I'm making less money. I always tell them to be grateful for whatever amount of money they receive in a single business day, whether it's 20 cents or 10 cents, because the amount of money they have, will depend on their ability to save.
UNDP recognizes the private sector as a critical partner in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment through better workplace practices and decent work.
Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission (FCCC) General Manager Corporate Vinitesh Kumar emphasized the organization's desire to assist market vendors on their path to economic empowerment and make them aware of the assistance the organization can provide. “Some of the key concerns brought to our attention included unfair practices, lack of access to resources and financing, and the need for improved consumer awareness. We also had a robust discussion regarding consumer protection regulations, particularly on misleading advertising and display prices, which showed the vendors' genuine interest in operating in compliance and creating a better environment for consumers.”
Fiji Development Bank's Manager of MSME, Emmaline Spring, thanked UNDP for the continued collaboration, “The UNDP Team was able to assist us further with the registration of 12 new applications online from the women entrepreneurs who participated on the day, and managed to send five business referrals to the FDB’s various branches for their assistance,” she said.
This year, UNDP signed a five-year partnership with UN Women to continue its efforts to increase the income and productivity of women market vendors and farmers, thereby improving their standard of living.
The partnership will ensure that urban and rural market vendors and farmers have access to the resources they need to continuously learn new ideas, methods, and techniques to better serve their families, communities, and the nation.
The Markets for Change 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 (MVAs), civil society organizations and UN agencies.
The M4C is implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNDP and the Governments of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
For more information, please contact:
Akosita Talei, Communications and Research Officer, Inclusive Growth Programme, UNDP Pacific, firstname.lastname@example.org