People-Centered Community Development in Fiji's Namara and Vugalei Districts

June 14, 2024

Responding to the needs of the community, the Markets 4 Change project conducted training programs in Fiji's districts of Namara and Vugalei in the province of Tailevu.


The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is making strides in Fiji with the second phase of its Markets for Change (M4C) Project. This project is dedicated to improving the socio-economic security of women market vendors, a commitment that is being realized through a series of strategic interventions.

A Commitment to Gender Equality and Economic Empowerment

Phase One of the M4C Project laid a solid foundation for gender equality and economic empowerment of rural women market vendors in Fiji. This was achieved through the provision of financial and social services, which have demonstrated positive impacts to project partners and donors alike. 

The commitment to progress gender equality and the economic empowerment of rural women market vendors in Fiji is evident with the increase in women market vendors participation in the informal sector.

Responding to the Needs of the Community

In the past year, the M4C team received requests from the Mata-ni-Tikina (District Head) of Namara for training on organic farming practices and the production of organic manure. The last engagement with the district was back in 2020, when local social enterprise, Loving Islands, conducted training on value addition and raised awareness on the benefits of organic farming.

Mata-Ni-Tikina, Sekaia Mua.


“The more workshops we can implement to broaden their minds in finance and how to keep and use money, although the district is not below the poverty line, it will help them move further away from it. 

The main source of income for the district is divided between land for four villages that are more inland, and sea, for two villages along the coast, their income is heavily dependent on the weather.” - Sekaia Mua

Namara is a district, or “tikina”, located in the Tailevu Province of Fiji. The district consists of six villages, and two settlements that are heavily dependent on fisheries and agriculture as a source of livelihood. Most of the community members trade from the nearby Korovou Market, Nausori and Suva Municipal Market. 

Despite challenges, the community has shown resilience and a strong desire for improvement through community development approaches, such as the M4C Project by UNDP, as crucial in addressing the challenges faced by communities like Namara. These initiatives empower the community members and create stronger, more networked communities. 

They also play a special role in overcoming poverty and disadvantage, knitting society together at the grassroots level, and deepening democracy. Through education and empowerment of people within their communities, community development promotes equality, egalitarianism, consensus, fairness, human rights, and social justice. It is a powerful tool for societal change, fostering stronger, more resilient, and more equitable communities.

Participants of the training in Naisausau Village in Namara.


Effective Approaches to Community Development

Community development is a powerful tool that empowers individuals and groups within society to improve their lives. It is a process of positive change, rooted in values of inclusion, human rights, social justice, equity, and equality. This process aims to address imbalances in welfare and power, fostering a more balanced and equitable society. 

Namara and Vugalei District is a class example of persistence by its community leaders to request needs -based approach trainings for its community, as part of the approach to community development. This approach involves identifying problems within a community and working collaboratively to find solutions, and the inclusion of participatory approach emphasizes the involvement of community members in decision-making processes. 

This process empowers the community, creating stronger and more networked communities.

Peace Corp volunteer, Kaitlan assistance groups with cash flow activities in Naisausau Village in Namara.


Building Capacity through Partnerships

The M4C team has partnered with the US Peace Corps and the Ministry of Agriculture to conduct capacity building training on basic organic farming practices. This includes topics such as composting, value adding, agro-forestry, and cash-flow management.

The training is aimed at farmers who supply to the Nausori and Suva Market, with a focus on increasing their capacity to produce vegetables using organic farming practices, organic manure, and insecticides. It also includes value addition of selected crops and the development of value chains to connect farmers using these systems to high-value markets for fresh vegetables.

Organic session in Naisausau village in Namara, Tailevu.


Pacticum session, cooking with kumala and tavioka flour in Savu Village in Vaugalevi, Tailevu.


Target women and youths

There were 137 participants, comprising women and youth from Namara and Vugalei districts, who supply to the Suva, Nausori and Korovou markets respectively. 

Below are some impact stories shared by the women from the two districts:

Seni Batiwale, head of the village Womens Group in Naisausau Village in Namara.


Seini Batiwale, married into Naisausau village, Namara Tailevu, is also the head of the soqosoqo ni marama (village womens group). She really enjoyed the training over the two days. It was a good reminder for the i-taukei, to not take for granted the resources that they have. 

She was grateful, but also ashamed that they have forgone their traditional farming practices, and that a US Peace Corps volunteers, came to remind them that the traditional farming practices, that the younger generation are unaware of, are the best practices that are good for our health and the environment, and that we should work towards passing down the traditional knowledge, so that it is not lost. She sells root crops at the Nausori market, as well as chillies. 

One thing this training also brought to her attention was how she spends her money at the market, and it is something she is looking to improve.

Ana from Naikawaga village in Namara Tailevu


Ana from Naikawaga village, in Namara Tailevu, sells chillies, cassava, dalo, lemons and coconut, as well as turmeric from her own farm, at the Nausori market, every Saturday. She’s been selling at the Nausori market for 30 years. She says learning does not stop at school; you can learn new things every day, and she’s grateful that her husband supports her attending these trainings. 

The trainings have broadened her mind, and she only wishes she had this kind of training during her younger years. Given she is 60 years old now, she thinks that much about the useful tips she received from the training, would have helped her with her market and farming business. 

Ruci Balivalu from Visa Village, Vugalei, Tailevu.


Ruci Balivalu, from Visa village, Vugalei Tailevu has been selling flowers at the Nausori market for 15 years now every Saturday. Before Covid, she used to sell her flowers at the Lautoka market. She catches the last bus to Lautoka on Friday night, sleeps at the Lautoka market accommodation center, she sells her flowers on Saturday, then returns home on the last bus reaching home around 11.30pm. 

Her husband is a part time worker, so her market business is one of the major sources of income for her family. She is also the women’s coordinator for the Tikina of Vugalei, so she also gets a small allowance from that. The training was excellent, it gave her a lot of tips on how she and other women in the village can add value to their produce to make their work lighter and easier. 

Anare, the village headman for Naisausau village.


Anare, the village head man for Naisausau Village, has been farming and supplying coconut, banana and chillies to the market for over 10 years; he is 60 years old.

 "The training is good, it helps to build up the village and the family, to help change our mindset about how we plant and eat every day. The main source of income for the village is fishing and farming, there is one cooperative in the village, with two canteens.”

His farming business is one of the main sources of income, just enough to support him and his wife.

The M4C Project continues to work in collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture in its commitment to empowering rural women market vendors in Fiji. As we move forward, we remain dedicated to our mission of improving socio-economic security and fostering sustainable development.

The Markets for Change project aims to promote gender equality by economically empowering women market vendors in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Samoa.This project, brings together various stakeholders, offers financial literacy training that connects vendors and farmers with essential service providers. This sharing of information, raising awareness, and networking opportunities have the potential to improve the livelihoods of market vendors and their families.

The Markets for Change Project contributes to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the M4C project directly contributes to multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It supports SDG 5 on Gender Equality, SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth, SDG 10 on reducing inequalities, and SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities. The project ensures equality and economic empowerment for all, including men, women, youth, people with disabilities, and marginalized minority groups.

The M4C project is implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNDP and with support from the Government of Australia. Together, they are making a real difference and contributing to sustainable economic growth in rural communities like Namara and Vugalei in Tailevu.

For more information, please contact: 

Catherine Heritage, Project Associate, M4C Project on email and Vilisi Veibataki, Markets for Change Project Manager, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji | | +679 3227701