(From left to right) Turaga Na Tui Naviti, Ratu Kitione Vuluma, Australian High Commissioner to Fiji H.E. Margaret Twomey and UNDP Pacific Office Country Director, Mr. Bakhodir Burkahnov (Photo: UNDP/Jone Raqauqau)

The Food Bank initiative which is designed to assist communities prepare for and recover from disasters, was handed over to the Naviti communities in the Yasawa group of islands in a handover ceremony that was held yesterday in Kese village. 

As the name suggests, the Food Bank is the combination of two approaches; food as a basic need for communities to survive on and the bank concept of pooling savings as deposits to prepare for a rainy day. 

The initiative was introduced and trialed in Soso and Kese villages by Vinaka Fiji Trust, the charity arm of South Sea Cruises in 2014. 

“In the context of the Food Bank initiative in Kese and Soso villages, the approach allows the community members to save or store food crops in preparation for any impending disaster whether it be cyclones or prolonged dry spells”, said Ms. Elenoa Nimacere, Manager Vinaka Fiji Trust.

“Should a disaster pass over without affecting them, the food saved or grown as a result of the food bank is then sold to nearby hotels or markets and the money is deposited in a savings account to then be used for disaster preparedness or recovery.”

Following the interest from the communities and their desire to further develop the food bank, the initiative was then supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) through its Pacific Risk Resilience Programme, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Live and Learn Environmental Education (LLEE).

The handover of the food bank today officiated by the Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, H.E Margaret Twomey along with UNDP Pacific Office Country Director, Mr. Bakhodir Bahkonov and the Turaga Na Tui Naviti, Ratu Kitione Vuluma. 

“Living here in the Pacific, we are all too aware of the risks that we face from climate change”, said H.E Margaret Twomey.

“The Australian Government is supporting actions at local, national, and regional levels to help communities adapt to, and mitigate, the impacts of climate change.” 

“The establishment of a community bank account in preparation for disasters meant that when your villages were damaged, you were able to use the food that you had stored and the money that you had collected, to begin your own recovery before outside help became available”, said the Australian High Commissioner. 

She added, “This project is a great example of how communities can be supported to become more self- reliant and I hope that it can be replicated across Naviti, Fiji and beyond.” 

Speaking on behalf of UNDP’s PRRP, Mr. Bakhodir highlighted the importance of partnership in advancing the welfare of communities to build their resilience to disasters. 

“Today’s handover event is a celebration of a resilient community”, said Mr. Burkhanov.

“It’s about communities of Kese and Soso taking charge of their development plans and identifying food banks as a vital food security measure. And it’s about people working together and supporting each other to be prepared for disasters.”

Following the successful trial in Kese and Soso villages, the Initiative will also be introduced to the other villages in the Naviti District. 

“I am very appreciative to Vinaka Fiji, the Australian Government and UNDP for giving us the opportunity to revive our traditional agriculture practices and at the same time allowing us to access a modern approach to disaster preparedness”, said Ratu Vuluma.

“The Food Bank is more than just a structure to us, we have seen an increase in solesolevaki (traditional communal gathering to help each other) which has waned over the years.”

Vinaka Fiji established the Food Banks in Kese and Soso Village in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Ba Provincial Office. 

UNDP and its implementing partner, LLEE funded the implementation of the Food Bank through the PRRP advocating for enhanced traditional food farming, harvesting and storage practices towards food security.  

PRRP works with Pacific Island nations and their people to consider the risks they face from climate change and disasters and include those risks in their routine plans for development. 

Communities can become more resilient to climate change and disasters if the usual routine of government, community and other planning takes these risks into account. This risk governance approach is delivered through a partnership between UNDP and international non-government organization LLEE, and supported by the Australian Government. PRRP is being delivered in four countries: Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

Contact information

For more information, UNDP PRRP Communications Associate, Jone Tuiipelehaki Raqauqau, E: jone.raqauqau@undp.org

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