Increased financial literacy and agricultural tools to improve market vendors livelihood
August 9, 2022
Arieta Tuimua has been planning to plant vegetable seedlings on a dedicated plot of land outside her home for several months, which is a 30-minute walk from Cevai village in the district of Tavuki in Kadavu. However, there was an irrigation issue because her family of seven had recently relocated to an isolated farmhouse with no running water. They must walk for another 15 to 20 minutes to a nearby spring for water.
All of this changed when she received a new set of farming tools - a watering can, wheelbarrow, digging fork, shovel, square spade, cane knife, weeding knife, gap/hoe with handle, and two sets of raincoats, as well as a pack of nine varieties of vegetable seedlings and a crop calendar.
“I'd like to thank the UN Development Programme for supplying us with farming tools and vegetable seedlings, as I had just prayed about it and asked my husband to invest in some tools. I was so happy to see the watering cans because we had to walk quite a distance to get water,” she said.
“Just a few weeks ago, I managed to get some seedlings and wanted to plant it but my husband advised me against it because we couldn't water the seedlings and now that it's here, I know it's my answered prayer because I want to sell vegetables and root crops on the roadside because we live by the road," Ms. Tuimua added.
The handover of farming tools is part of the Markets for Change (M4C) project support for farmers and market vendors who attended trainings and workshops in Kadavu between 2020 and 2022 and demonstrated progress in their farming and market businesses as well as a strong desire to grow further. This support was also a component of Tropical Cyclone Harold, which ravaged Fiji in 2020, and the COVID-19 Livelihoods and Economic Recovery Efforts.
This year, UNDP partnered with the Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) Bank to provide financial literacy trainings, which will improve lives by allowing farmers to better leverage business and financial access opportunities. Ms. Tuimua found that being trained on the ANZ Money Minded program was beneficial not only to her but also to her family.
"My eldest daughter is a Year 9 student at Vunisea Secondary, and I reminded and taught her about the importance of saving money before she went to boarding school, and when she returned home for the one-week school break in July, I can say that she not only listened but also practiced what I had taught her.”
Ms. Tuimua went on further to explain, “I always give her some pocket money, sometimes as much as $10, every time I go to Vunisea to sell produce and visit her, and she surprised me when she returned home by saving all the pocket money, I had been giving her, which totaled $155. She’s going to use this money to buy stationer for herself and her younger sister for the second term of school.”
Money Minded was created in 2003 to assist people in improving their financial skills, knowledge, and confidence. In 2010, ANZ adapted Money Minded and created Business Basics to teach people how to start, manage and grow their own small businesses.
"I am truly grateful for the opportunity to participate in the training because it has helped me a lot, especially on how to budget money because many times when we receive money, our priority is to spend it on food and other unnecessary things,” said Ms Tuimua.
“One lesson I learned from the training, especially for someone who was running a canteen business prior to the pandemic is that we must be brave and say ‘yes’ to obligations to which we can contribute financially and ‘no’ to obligations to which we cannot contribute financially, especially given our rural location,” she added.
The distribution supported 300 farmers and market vendors from 25 villages across five districts in Kadavu: Tavuki, Sanima, Yawe, Nabukelevu and Ravitaki. Women made up 80 percent of those who were supported. This also benefited unemployed youths and 12 of the assisted families included a person living with a disability.
33-year-old Iliesa Fiu of Lomati village in the district of Nabukelevu has been a regular supplier of root-crops and vegetables to the Vunisea market for the past eight years but has recently faced difficulties transporting supplies to the market by boat due to an increase in fuel price.
Lomati, one of the few villages at the foot of Mount Washington, is a 45-minute boat ride from Vunisea on a good day. The hike from the beach to the village takes another 15 to 20 minutes.
Mr Fiu, a father of three was encouraged to plant more vegetables with the seedlings he received because he plans to sell his produce in the capital of Suva as the Vunisea market is small. He said the February financial literacy training in Dagai village was very timely because it taught him the importance of saving money. “My advice to people my age, especially the youth, is to reduce and cut back on alcohol and kava consumption because doing so will only lead to poverty for you and your family,” he said.
“However, if you set your sights on a plan or a vision board and work toward it, you will be able to achieve it; however, if you do not have a plan set for yourself and your family, all this assistance will be useless and a waste because you will not recognise the value of attempting to achieve your plan,” Mr Fiu added.
He is looking forward to the next financial literacy trainings in Kadavu and hopes that people will benefit from them. "I'd also like to thank UNDP for encouraging spouses and families to attend trainings like this because women can always push and encourage men not to fall behind, which is a very good approach in my opinion."
Meredani Vunaki of Galoa village in the district of Tavuki fully supported her husband's attendance at the ANZ Money Minded program training in Solodamu village in February this year. Her husband made sure to teach his family what he learned from the training before leaving for New Zealand in May as part of the Pacific Labour Scheme program.
“I am thankful that my husband was a successful participant in the ANZ Money Minded training in February because he brought many takeaway lessons with him. Savings and budgeting were two things that he valued highly. We started practicing at home with what we planted on the farm including eggplants, long beans, French and English cabbage, tomatoes, and cassava,” she said.
“If I go to the market and sell a heap of cabbage for $3, I can earn $50 for one sack of cabbages, and if I sell a heap of cassava for $10, I can earn $100 for one sack of cassava. All our market earnings, combined with the lessons my husband learned at the UNDP training, have encouraged us to save money,” Ms Vunaki added.
Ms Vunaki also plans to start a poultry business on the island within the next two to five years with the money going towards her children’s education.
Joji Caudre of Nabukelevu-i-ra village in the district of Nabukelevu who recently returned to the village to care for his elderly parents and take over the running of their village canteen said the Money Minded program financial literacy training has been an eye-opener for him to save and spend wisely, as he was not good at saving money prior to this.
"When it’s time to harvest our produce, money is always wasted and spent on unnecessary things, so the financial literacy training held at Dagai village, really demonstrated the importance of spending money wisely.”
“We plan to farm, save money, renovate our house, expand our business by selling clothes, and purchase a larger solar to facilitate the sale of frozen goods in the village now that the farming tools have arrived. I hope to bring my wife to the next training because the learnings are beneficial to both spouses to ensure equal financial decision making in the family," he added.
Mr Caudre, a father of two operates one of three canteens in the village of more than 480 people.
The M4C project will continue to provide financial literacy, business management, climate smart agriculture, and value-addition trainings to the five districts of Tavuki, Sanima, Nabukelevu, Yawe, and Ravitaki.
In line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the M4C will directly contribute to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on Gender Equality, support SDG 8 – decent work and economic growth, SDG10 on reducing inequalities and SDG 11 on Sustainable Cities and communities.
UNDP’s Inclusive Growth Deputy Team Leader Patrick Tuimalealiifano highlighted that “rural women are change agents who play an important and productive role in agricultural value chains and rural lives. They collaborate with other members of the family involved in subsistence agriculture to fulfill household requirements and create surpluses for sale, as well as, increasingly, in market-oriented agriculture”.
“Women and their families will immediately benefit from the M4C support as it will enhance their engagement on the farm and boost agricultural productivity, which will address the family's food security and generate revenue,” Mr Tuimalealiifano added.
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, email@example.com