Bridging recovery to sustainability

Cash for work
Sofiya Bi at her shop with her daughter in Vunayasi settlement. UNDP/Tomoko Kashiwazaki

"I was about to open my shop, and then the floods came and destroyed everything. I was left with the payment for the groceries I bought for my shop. We were still trying to recover from the first flood when the second one hit. The flood water came as high as the roof and we could not save anything but our daughter". 

The story of Ms. Sofiya Bi is one of the others in disadvantaged settlements in the Western Division of Fiji who have been struggling to recover from the devastating effects of the twin floods of early 2012.


  • First time that Cash-for-Work (CFW) implemented in Fiji.
  • 168 participants (68% Women) received Agriculture training and 177 participants (84% Women) received financial literacy training.
  • 14 communities out of 29 communities established a small-scale community oriented farming ventures after the programme.
  • Five out of 14 communities initiated recovery activities on their own in response to the Cyclone Evan which struck Fiji in December 2012.
  • AusAID provided financial support: AU$90,000 to expand the Cash for Work project to Nadi benefit 865 individuals.

The Pacific is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world. The most prevalent are cyclones, which account for 76% of reported disasters, followed by earthquakes, droughts and floods (World Bank 2006). Disasters setback all the development efforts, however the importance of early recovery, as a way for Pacific communities to transition from emergency relief and establish a foundation for longer term development, has not been fully recognised yet.

UNDP launched a Cash-for-Work (CFW) Programme as post-disaster livelihoods recovery project to assist restoring the lives and livelihoods of the affected population and help them get back on their feet. The project has been jointly funded by UNDP and AusAID, and directly implemented by UNDP in partnership with various government agencies as well as ILO and UN Women.

The programme assisted the financial recovery of flood affected men and women by providing a temporary source of cash income in exchange for work related to livelihoods and improving preparedness for future floods. A total of 1208 individuals benefitted from the programme in Rakiraki and Nadi, of which 893 were women. The initiative also indirectly benefitted the wider population in the two districts, totaling more than 47,000 people.

The CFW programme aimed to form an entry point for sustainable recovery and development in Fiji, going beyond livelihoods stabilization to incorporating early economic recovery. It focused on strengthening women and youth entrepreneurship and leading to establishment of small businesses by flood affected households. 

“I was able to finally open my shop. I also repaired the house damaged by the cyclone in December 2012 using the savings from the cash for work programme,” said Sofiya.

“Cash for work can be a response to meet the needs bridging the provision of the immediate relief and the support for the longer term recovery and sustainability. The cash for work for livelihood recovery can be a consolidated approach”, said Knut Ostby, the UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator.

The CFW programme also facilitated access by participants to an Income Generation Programme run by an NGO, Empower Pacific to assist their small-scale enterprises. Sofiya participated and received the small loan for her small store business. “I am still struggling to become financially stable but I am hopeful that I will manage to expand my shop”, she said, watching over her three-year old daughter.

Sustainability entails social inclusion and cohesion. The community-driven recovery process provided space for the community members with diverse cultural and social backgrounds to coordinate themselves and find a way to work together.

 “I joined the cash for work programme as part of a group from Vuniyasi settlement. Some of us sewed eco-friendly bags using our old clothes and others worked on the farm. I helped their vegetable farm, too. A big achievement for us was coming together as a group, learning about different cultures and working with strength, sensitivity and sincerity, which made us feel empowered,” said Sofiya.

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