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Cash for Work

Fiji: A village forced to move by rising seas

The International Labour Organization is playing a critical role in helping a Fijian coastal community rebuild its flooded village.

Feature | 13 September 2013
VUNIDOGOLOA, Fiji (ILO News) – The villagers of Vunidogoloa on Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island, know first-hand how climate change can affect their daily lives. Their coastal community has been badly affected by rising seas, erosion and flooding – forcing them to relocate to higher, drier ground.
Simione Botu, from Vunidogoloa (Fiji)

“I have had to move my house three times over the last 30 years because of the effects of climate change,” the Village Headman, Simione Botu explains. “Every day we fear the worst, since the water keeps rising to our doorsteps. It was also very hard during bad weather. Road conditions made it difficult to walk.

Taxis and buses were not able to get through to the village. We used to take sick people on a ‘bamboo raft’ on the river, which was the shortest way to get to the nearest health centre, since the road was far and there was no transportation,” he says.

But after 10 years of persistence, the hard work is starting to pay off.

In an initiative championed by the villagers themselves, 16 homes have been built in 7 months, as part of a climate change relocation project – backed by the Commissioner Northern’s Office, the Ministry of Provincial Development, the Ministry of Labour and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Cash for work

The initiative is based on ILO’s “Cash for Work” programmes model, which involves helping disaster-affected communities get back on their feet by earning cash in return for participating in disaster clean-up and restoration activities. These projects are usually temporary, filling an immediate need while long term rehabilitation measures are put in place.

“The ILO has many unique contributions to make to "Cash For Work" programmes, which centre around programme design, decent and safe employment conditions, and specialist support and training for the wide range of skills such programs need in order to be fully successful and to provide jobs,” says Mike Shone, an ILO consultant.

If we give our lives for the good of others then we can build a better Fiji.”
Fiji’s Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment redesigned the original ILO model of ‘Cash for Work’ to include the use of volunteers – qualified unemployed people who are registered with the National Employment Centre (NEC). The ministry has named the programme, “Cash for Work Plus”.

The 12 volunteers will help build a total of 30 new homes and will also carry out other tasks, such as cleaning compounds and planting crops for food security.

The new homes will include improvements like solar power and a natural water supply system.

With financial assistance from the ILO, the Ministry of Labour has been able to buy building tools and safety equipment. Instead of cash handouts being given to the 30 affected families, the ILO has provided funding for the purchase of pineapple and banana seedlings and tops and other relevant crops, which will be planted in the new, relocated village.

This will enable villagers to generate valuable income.

The Fijian government has contributed two-thirds of the capital for the move, which includes labour, materials, finances, and design work. The villagers have been providing their labour, as well as local wood for building materials.

“I am glad that we were able to accomplish this significant task by using volunteers from the National Employment Centre, giving them an opportunity to develop their skills to secure permanent employment in the future,” says Jone Usamate, Minister for Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment. Jone Veisamasama, a volunteer who helped complete the plumbing work for the new houses, praises the programme.

“It is good because the government thinks about the unemployed and has given us opportunity,” he stresses.

“If we give our lives for the good of others, then we can build a better Fiji,” says another volunteer, Uraia Tawake.

The Labour Ministry now plans to implement the “Cash for Work Plus” programme in the Northern and Western Division, targeting a total of 100 households.

“I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the relevant authorities and volunteers engaged in this worthy cause. The ‘Cash for Work Plus’ Program is helping build a better Fiji for the people of Vunidogoloa,” Usamate added.