Suva, Fiji – The Pacific Response: Sustainable Livelihoods Challenge, launched on 24 April 2020, came to a successful conclusion on Friday 22 May 2020, with several innovative social impact projects emerging as winners. The initiative provides technical and financial support to local entrepreneurs and experts in Fiji and Vanuatu in developing and implementing solutions that will assist the most vulnerable individuals or groups cope with the adverse socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The selected projects will work towards reducing the negative effects that the pandemic has on communities, specifically issues such as unemployment, the volatile economic situation affecting small & micro enterprises, and food security. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will provide a seed fund of up to US$10,000 each, as well as technical assistance to the locally led social impact solutions in Fiji and Vanuatu.
Among the selected initiatives are five Fiji-based enterprises and NGOs:
- Green Thumb – Model farm in the Western Division;
- Rise Beyond the Reef – Economic empowerment for women in rural communities;
- Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises & Development (FRIEND) – Incubator and seed fund for start-ups by those losing their source of income;
- Smart Farms Fiji – Home-based hydroponic farming kits (supported by UNDP Accelerator Lab Pacific);
- Pacific Blue Foundation – School farm in Beqa Island (supported by UNDP Accelerator Lab Pacific).
The Vanuatu selected initiatives include:
- Alternative Communities Trade in Vanuatu (ACTIV) Association – Platform to connect small businesses and farmers with consumers;
- Next Limited – Mobile fundraising solution;
- Village de Santo – Community farming for early recovery;
- SH Products and Services – Grocery packs for minimum wage workers (supported by Accelerator Lab Pacific).
The Deputy Team Leader for UNDP Pacific Office Inclusive Growth Programme, Patrick Tuimalealiifano said, “Entrepreneurs, start-ups, community projects, youth and women groups, and innovators are facing many uncertainties as financial systems, supply chains and usual social practices are being shaken up.”
“However, it is these local groups that have the insight and passion to develop solutions to help mitigate the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic at the community level. We are working with the local groups, together with development partners and local economists to bring their ideas to life,” he added.
The Challenge received 93 applications from Fiji and Vanuatu in a span of two weeks. The selected initiatives were identified in two stages: the initial screening and evaluation of online proposals and the virtual pitching events held on 20 and 21 May 2020. The panel of judges were represented by UNDP, ANZ Bank and the Fiji Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport who selected the Fiji winners based on the criteria of Problem Impact, Viability & Sustainability, Innovation, Team Capability & Progress.
The Pacific Response: Sustainable Livelihoods Challenge is a UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji initiative through the Inclusive Growth Programme in collaboration with UNDP Accelerator Lab Pacific, V-Lab incubator, the Fiji Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, ANZ, StartSomeGood, and supported by the Australian Government (DFAT). The initiative is part of the socio-economic response to COVID-19 pandemic, affecting Pacific island countries beyond health due to loss of tourism-related income, closure of businesses and reduced hours of work, and rising unemployment. Border closures and social distancing measures directly and indirectly affect local businesses, organisations and communities. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, 26 percent of jobs in Fiji were in travel and tourism industry in 2019, while Vanuatu had 36 percent. A recent survey by the Fiji Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport revealed that more than 500 businesses in Fiji have indicated they may face bankruptcy, if the COVID-19 crisis continues for another six months.
Evgeniya Kleshcheva, Inclusive Growth Team, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji; email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: +679 738 5067
Learn more about the Pacific Response Challenge at Solevaka.org/PacificResponse.