Informal Economy

Uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 presents an opportunity for Vanuatu entrepreneurs

With COVID-19 still ravaging the Pacific, the UN Joint Informal Economies Recovery Project has arrived at the ideal time to assist businesses, entrepreneurs, start-ups, community projects, youth and women's groups, innovative and creative solution developers, and others who are threatened by future uncertainties, finances, supply chains, and traditional social practices.

Article | Port Vila, Vanuatu | 15 October 2021
Contact(s): bernard@ilo.org
Lissy Andikar standing at the door of the half fenced chicken coop she built after the training.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji is working with a network of experts and partners including Fiji and Vanuatu, to help island nations develop comprehensive, long-term solutions that benefit both people and the environment.

UNDP has assisted 478 farmers in Vanuatu with their livelihoods through the joint Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) project, which began with a Business Fair in North Pentecost and Santo Province in March and August. Financial literacy, business management, and value addition trainings were among the services offered. Farmers in Santo were given tools and seeds, while fishermen in North Pentecost were given fishing gear and other equipment.

The UNDP mission team spoke with one of the recipients, Lissy Adikar, a 24-year-old market vendor from Nambauk village in Santo who has been a member of the Northern Islands Market Vendors Association for the past three years.

Ms Adikar, a single mother of one, is able to support her family with the little money she earns in the market. She is also able to pay for her son's education, church dues, and save for his future. “After earning some money from selling my produce at the market, I put a little aside as savings” she said.

Ms Adikar recently started a poultry farm with 30 chickens but has been having issues because they roam the yard freely. She learned the importance of putting up fences for animals to prevent them from damaging gardens and farms while attending the agriculture training in Naonetas in March. Following this, Ms Adikar has spent an average of $150 (15000vt) on chicken wire and hopes to complete it with a further investment of $600 (60000vt), with plans to sell eggs and live chicken to supplement her income.

“Once the fence is completed, I will work on a small fence in the chicken coop to separate the chickens that lay eggs from the meat birds for better productivity.” For the time being, she is concentrating on constructing a proper chicken coop to accommodate the growing number of chickens she intends to raise.

Ms Adikar attended the second training in Stonehill in August and was especially interested in the Value-Addition session, where she was encouraged to step outside of her comfort zone and make use of the cassava from her garden by making cassava chips, which she began selling at the Luganville municipal market in September, earning an extra $100 profit.
Lissy Andikar selling cassava chips at the Luganville Municipal market

She said, “I am glad to have attended the value-added training, as it has helped me earn extra income from cassava that is plentiful in my garden.”
Following the training, another recipient, Sally Andrew of Lolij, South Santo, started a ginger tea business after seeing the benefits it had on her family's health. This not only provides additional income for the family, but it also allows her to improve the health of the people in her community. Because the ginger is from her own backyard, business has been unaffected. She believes the value-added trainings have also taught her how to improve the presentation of her goods when they are sold in her community. This has also enabled her to start other businesses in her village, such as selling doughnuts and recharge cards.

Sally Andrew packaging instant ginger tea
Another lesson she learned was to use seasonal fruits and vegetables and to consider food preservation of abundant fruits and vegetables. “There is usually a lot of food wastage when fruits and vegetables are in season, now I have learnt skills that will allow me to earn an income by value adding them and selling new products such as jams and pickles in the market”.

This has also inspired her to share her knowledge and lessons with other women in her community. “The training has taught me to be confident with myself and with my value-addition business and I hope to instil this to other women” she said.

The Informal Economies Recovery Project has greatly aided the informal sector's progress in dealing with COVID-19 challenges, as well as significantly contributed to the achievement of SDG goals. 80 percent of the 478 farmers supported by this project were women, who received vegetable and root-crop seedlings as well as basic farming tools.

The Informal Economies Recovery Project is funded by the UNCOVID Multi-Trust Partnership Fund, jointly implemented by ILO, UNESCO, UNDP, and IFAD.

For additional information, please contact Communications & Research Officer - Inclusive Growth Unit, Akosita Ratumaimuri at akosita.ratumaimuri@undp.org