10 Facts About Sanitation in Fiji
Travelers all around the world know Fiji’s islands as picture-perfect tourist locations. Although translucent aqua waters gleam in the minds of tourists, Fijians do not always picture it as a resource let alone a source of leisure. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Fiji.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Fiji

  1. Contamination: The University of Otago’s 2018 report on the typhoid problem in the Pacific, and perhaps the first one to investigate modes of transmission of typhoid fever in Fiji, illustrates the severity of the disease in Oceania. Many now think that the area is the global region with the highest incidents of typhoid fever. Typhoid in Fiji most likely spreads through the consumption of contaminated surface water and unwashed produce.
  2. Open Defecation: People still practice open defecation in some areas of Fiji. Human waste that people would usually flush down toilets ends up in metal drums which are just above the surface of the ground. Toilets can often be too expensive and when they are affordable, flushing them could cause an endemic spread of waterborne diseases like typhoid.
  3. Toilets: Flushing toilets are not ideal in the areas that are closest to the tide and to hurricanes. When disaster strikes, many do not advise flushing frequently. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “it can overload already weakened electrical systems that power municipal and regional sewer systems.” Fijians’ options are between pressing and pour-flushing and then disposing of the waste in the metal drums.
  4. Natural Disasters: Among this list of 10 facts about sanitation in Fiji are natural disasters because typhoid outbreaks often follow them due to the practice of open defecation. According to Dani Barrington, a research fellow at the International Water Centre and Monash University, the tidal inflow mixes with industrial waste and waste from the metal drums.
  5. Typhoid: Certain water-borne illnesses look similar to others, but require different treatment options, further exacerbating typhoid’s impact. It is not uncommon to have patients presenting to the clinic with one disease and sent home to return with another, especially when there are no diagnostic laboratory tests with 100% accuracy to detect either disease. As a result, treatment decisions are usually based on how severe the symptoms are. According to the short version of the Fiji national typhoid fever treatment guideline, medical professionals often treat typhoid with Ciprofloxacin or Cipro for short.
  6. Vaccines: The NCBI notes that typhoid vaccines are not readily available in endemic regions citing several reasons. Though, the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation reported that the measles vaccine is available free of charge in Fiji’s nearest health facilities, it is unclear whether Fijians have access to typhoid vaccines as well. Fiji seems to echo NCBI’s sentiments that there is a lack of sufficient evidence concerning the vaccine’s effects on certain populations and insufficient data on the disease’s severity. In particular, limited information pertains to the lack of health care access in the poorest communities affected by typhoid.
  7. Main Exports: A positive aspect of this list of 10 facts about sanitation in Fiji is that water is one of Fiji’s main exports. For anyone who has ever wondered, the brand Fiji Water actually does come from Fiji. This means that Fiji exports much of its clean water to developed countries, yet the country’s poorest citizens do not have access to it. On the other hand, Fiji Water provides its citizens with good jobs. “The product itself is a little silly,” said journalist and “The Big Thirst” author, Charles Fishman, “but what’s interesting is that it benefits Fijians in a way that’s not silly at all.”
  8. Improvements: Fiji added clean water as a right in the constitution in 2013. UNICEF reported, “The Government’s commitment is also reflected in the National Development Plan targeting 100% access to safe drinking water by 2030 and 70% access to improved sanitation systems by 2021.” A 2011 Columbia University blog post stated that only 47 percent of Fijians had access to clean drinking water and a 2018 article by Fiji Sun reported that 78 percent of Fijians have access to a proper water supply.
  9. Portable Water Testing Laboratories: In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF assisted Fiji in developing its water quality surveillance system by providing technical guidance. The two organizations donated portable water testing laboratories and kits, Potalab and Potatest respectively. In addition, they trained environmental health officers of the Ministry of Health & Medical Services (MoHMS) in ensuring the equipment met international microbiological and chemical standards of water safety and quality. The equipment will ensure higher levels of accuracy, sensitivity and reliability in routine water quality surveillance. In addition, the equipment cuts down the amount of time needed to test water supplies after disasters.
  10. A Decrease in Poverty: In Spring 2018, the World Bank reported that poverty rates in Fiji were among the lowest in the Pacific. One should note that one can use different poverty lines to measure different poverty rates. The upper-middle-income class poverty line determined that close to half the population lived in poverty. This is the highest poverty rate in Fiji, however, whereas cases of extreme poverty are lower in contrast.

Though it may seem like Fiji has a long way to go, the country has already come so far. The progress Fijians, nonprofits and the Fijian government have made towards stabilizing Fiji’s economy and providing valuable resources is to thank for it.

– Julia Stephens
Photo: Flickr

Empowered Fijian Women
When Cyclone Winston barreled down on rural Fiji in 2016, the women left the kitchen and shouted to their neighbors to warn them of the impending storm. The women protected food in containers and buried crops to save them from the destruction. Using their phones, the women spread messages to other rural areas and warned others of the forecasted disaster. This network of women is the Women’s Weather Watch Program and it has empowered Fijian women.

The Women’s Weather Watch Program

The Women’s Weather Watch Program consists of around 350 empowered Fijian women all connected by a mobile network. The program started in 2009 following Cyclone Mick. The reason the program started was that women’s communities were excluding them from the decision making process despite their selfless efforts to protect their homes.

The base is in Fiji’s capital, Suva, and those members monitor weather reports. In the event of a natural disaster, they send a message to women all over Fiji that are part of the program. These women then warn their villages and prepare them for the worst. This unique method of preparation for a storm shows how natural disasters have empowered women in Fiji.

Femlink Pacific Empowers Fijian Women

The entire weather watch program is run by Femlink Pacific. It is a feminist non-governmental organization that uses the media to empower women. It interviews women all over Fiji about their needs and concerns. Femlink then broadcasts these interviews from its studios in the hopes that it can raise awareness for those women.

The lives of these women have changed for the better with the creation of the Weather Watch Program. Previously, people told the women to be quiet, stay in the kitchen and look after the kids. The men took power and disregarded their opinions. Now, Femlink Pacific and the Women’s Weather Watch Program have given these women a voice. They use their voices to warn neighbors and friends all over their villages and will no longer confine themselves to the kitchen. The women are leaders and now that they have a say, they are changing things for the better.

Fijian women know how to best prepare for a disaster. They know how to help their crops when drought hits. When times are tough, they are the ones who skip meals to help their families. The women find ways to get money by talking to each other and teaching each other how to survive in the face of adversity.

The progress that women have made in Fiji is remarkable. It is amazing to see how natural disasters have empowered Fijian women. The work they do truly does save lives. Less than half of Fiji is connected to the internet. There is no app on these women’s phones to tell them a storm is coming. There is no way to search online for how to prepare for a storm or how to recover after one has passed. It is the women who have taken on this important job. Without the Women’s Weather Watch Program, a severe storm could cost countless lives and the destruction of crops simply because people were not expecting it.

– Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

 

 

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Fiji
Fiji is an island that attracts tourists with its beautiful beaches and humble hosts but is one of the top 100 countries when it comes to short life expectancy. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Fiji.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Fiji

  1. In 2017, 25 out of every 1,000 babies died before their fifth birthday. Malnutrition is one of the primary causes of such a high under-five mortality rate. UNICEF reported that in 2004, over 40 percent of children in Fiji were malnourished and parents did not have the funds to buy their children the food they needed to survive.
  2. In 2013, 28 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. Currently, over 250,000 of the 900,000 people in Fiji are in poverty. Due to a lack of income, many people that live in rural areas moved to urban areas in order to increase livelihood and potentially live longer.
  3. Neonatal mortality was at 11 per 1,000 births in 2017. Neonatal mortality was another reason the death rate was high in Fiji. Premature births, birth defects and low birthweight were the leading causes. According to UNICEF, lack of access to food due to economical shortages contributed to early childhood deaths.
  4. Fiji had 49 tuberculosis incidents per 100,000 of its people in 2017. People who lived in urban areas were susceptible to tuberculosis due to pollution and overcrowding.
  5. In 2016, there was a 31 percent mortality rate due to heart disease, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory disease. Obesity is one of the leading causes of heart disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease. In 2016, there were 81 percent of women and 55 percent of men who were overweight.
  6. Fiji has both private and public health care facilities, but both suffer from limited access to medication. According to a survey by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, this is due to affordability, as unemployed patients can not always afford their required medication. Based on the survey, 16 out of 48 people were unable to receive medication due to lack of funds. Fiji is trying to improve this through better water infrastructure, more centralized resources and community aid.
  7. Dengue fever is a common illness in Fiji. Dengue fever is a mosquito illness that causes flu-like symptoms. The symptoms can be fatal if it goes untreated. The death rate spiked due to how common the illness is and doctors’ inability to treat patients in rural areas. Estimates determine that 100 million cases occur each year, especially during the summer. Fiji destroyed mosquito habitats and recommended avoiding mosquito bites to combat this.
  8. Statistics estimate that Fijians should live until age 73. As of 2018, rankings placed Fiji at 141 out of 223 countries, which made life expectancy in Fiji the 82nd worst country. Diseases, lack of medicine and poverty are the main reasons why Fijians do not live longer.
  9. Sixty-eight percent of Fiji’s population drink unsafe tap water in urban areas. In some cases, the people who lived in the urban areas of Fiji became sick because they had to rely on rivers for fresh water. Organizations like UNICEF and the World Health Organization worked on the development of Fiji’s water quality by training environmental health officers to test water supplies and make sure it was safe to drink.
  10. In 2016, the death rate was seven per 1,000 people. Noncommunicable diseases accounted for 84 percent of these deaths. Others included physical violence toward women, infant deaths and malnutrition.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Fiji should not be a cause for concern, because, despite Fiji’s low life expectancy, it has improved over the years. Poverty was at 35 percent in 2009 and it is now at 28 percent. As long as the government continues to find ways to increase the stability of people in rural areas, Fiji’s life expectancy should continue to increase.

– Reese Furlow
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Fiji
Fiji is a South Pacific country made up hundreds of islands that is home to just over 900,000 people. While some aspects of development show progress, there is still room for improvement in others. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about living conditions in Fiji.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Fiji

  1. Poverty. More than half the population of Fiji live below the poverty line with more than 400,000 people living on $25 a week. The elderly and those with an incomplete education are most susceptible to conditions of poverty. The United Nations Development Program has outlined nine recommendations targeted at reducing poverty in all Pacific island nations including Fiji. The report notes that it would take just 1.7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Fiji’s capital city, Savu, in order to fund a grant for all children under 5 years of age, and that such grants would lead to a 10 percent decrease in the number of households living in poverty. The UNDP report also highlights how a similar strategy targeting health care for pregnant women and the elderly would yield beneficial results.
  2. Access to Clean Water. In Fiji, 12 percent of the population or 220,000 people lack regular access to safe water. As a result, too many households are at risk of contracting water-borne diseases such as typhoid fever. The government has started a campaign to encourage safer hygiene and sanitation practices with the slogan: “Boil It, Cook It, Peel It, or Forget It.”
  3. Climate Change. In Fiji, the poor are affected most harshly by climate change. The sea level is projected to rise 17-35 cm by 2065. If this projection turns out to be accurate, that means 30 percent of Fijians live in areas that will be underwater in the next 40 years. An estimated $4.5 billion over 10 years is needed to prevent and mitigate the damage of climate change. The World Bank notes that initiatives must focus on “building inclusive and resilient towns and cities; improving infrastructure services; climate-smart agriculture and fisheries; conserving ecosystems and building socioeconomic resilience.”
  4. Leading Causes of Death. Nutritional diseases such as ischemic heart disease, diabetes and stroke are now the three leading causes of death in Fiji. The numbers of deaths that can be attributed to heart disease are more than double those which can be attributed to diabetes. The rise of heart disease in Fijians can be directly connected to activities like smoking (26.8 percent for men and 7.8 percent for women), and a lack of physical activity. However, dietary problems in Fiji (such as low-quality foods lacking vitamins and minerals) are the biggest contributing factor to Fiji’s nutritional diseases. The government has issued a food and health guideline, recommending exercise at least 30 minutes a day and the reduction of sugary drinks as easy solutions for Fijians.
  5. Financial Literacy. Over 70 percent of people living in Pacific Island countries like Fiji, do not have bank accounts. However, in recent years, there has been a big push to encourage financial literacy through initiatives like AZN’s program MoneyMinded which teaches money management skills online. The program — which is free to all users — has reached 12,000 people to date.
  6. Unemployment. The unemployment rate in Fiji averaged 7.1 percent from 1982 until 2017 and stood at 6.31 percent in 2017. In September of 2018, Hon. Jone Usamate announced the National Employment Policy (NEP). This is an initiative to create better access to credit for those who earn their living in the informal economy, promote access to overseas jobs, encourage and educate young Fijians on entrepreneurship. The program also strives to increase access to employment opportunities for mothers in Fiji. The current statistics for labor force participation currently stands at 76.4 percent for men compared with 37.4 percent for women. Of note, one in four women are searching for work, compared to one in six men. The NEP encourages educators and employers to work together to provide more marketable training for those seeking to enter the job market.
  7. Education. The government has made education a top priority in its budget allocation in recent years as educational attainment rates remain low. The National Topper Scheme (NTS), working to combat this problem by providing scholarships to students at the top of their class. The scholarship only covers areas of study that the Fijian Government considers to be a priority for its country such as medicine and engineering. About 70 percent of Year 13 students go to university with NTS scholarships. In addition to the NTS scholarship, the Fijian government also offers tertiary education loans.
  8. Crime. The most common types of crimes in Fiji are property crimes like burglary and theft. Crime is most prevalent in the city of Savu. Violent crimes are common but occur at a lower rate than they do in most American cities. In an effort to reduce these crimes, the Fijian police work with civilians in communities, and organizations, to expand their watch, to report suspicious behavior and to help improve safety. This serves to better integrate police work into the community. Murder rates have also fallen by nearly half in the past 10 years.
  9. Maternal Mortality. Maternal mortality rates have fallen from 156/100,000 live births in 1970 to 26 out of 100,000 births in 2000. There has been a 37 percent drop in the maternal mortality rate, which corresponds with a 44 percent drop in mortality for children and 40 percent for infants since 1990.
  10. Reproductive Health. According to the Ministry of Public Health, only half the population regularly uses birth control. The main problem for people is access, and Fijians in rural areas have the hardest time getting birth control. All mothers are given information about different contraceptive methods postnatally while in a hospital, and birth control and condoms have been made widely available to those who live in urban areas.

As these top 10 facts about living conditions in Fiji indicate, while improvements have been made, there are still a number of areas to be addressed to raise the standard of living for Fijians.

– Sarah Bradley
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Fiji
In recent years, Fiji has made gender equality in education a priority. Women and girls are encouraged to achieve their academic goals and take advantage of the flourishing community. This is great news, but sometimes, there are obstacles and growth brings growing pains. In the article below top 10 facts about girls’ education in Fiji that will try to shed light on the state of schooling and academia for females are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Fiji

  1. Fijian women and girls, especially those in rural areas, face disadvantages regarding their reproductive health. They rarely receive the education and resources to adequately care for themselves during menstruation. Twenty-five percent of primary schools in Fiji do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities and water supply, which creates difficulties when it comes to female sanitation and managing menstruation. When there are inadequate sanitation facilities in schools, menstruating students and teachers are highly impacted. Girls may miss as much as 20 percent of school days due to menstruation.
  2. In 2014, The Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Jiko Luveni, opened the Ability to Shine Production Centre. Located in Suva, the facility can produce 300 sanitary pads a week so women have access to affordable napkins. The center was also meant to make the lives of rural women easier and empower female students to attend school.
  3. Female representation in school management positions is inadequate, meaning there are very few women who are in positions in committees responsible for administering management or finances. Women occupy only 10 percent of positions on committees at schools that are in rural and remote areas. These schools are considered to be the most underprivileged and impoverished.
  4. On October 23, 2018, The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle announced that two grants will be awarded to the Fiji National University and the University of the South Pacific. These grants would help support access to higher education for women in Fiji. She explained that through work study, grants and scholarships she was able to attend university and she thinks every girl deserves the same opportunity. These grants will allow each school to run workshops that empower their female staff.
  5. In developing countries, when there is conflict or hardship, girls’ education is often times the first thing affected. In Fiji, it is a common gender stereotype or assumption that a girl is going to decide to stay home, be a mother or do housework rather than educating herself, making her education low priority.
  6. Women who completed school and received the same or similar education as Fijian men are not as prevalent in the workforce. There is only 65 percent of women with certificates or diplomas who are working, whereas 89 percent of men with the same education are in the workforce.
  7. Of the 30,000 Fijians at the three Fijian universities, 53 percent are women. Even though women make up more than half of the students in higher education, there is only a small proportion enrolled to qualify in technical occupations.
  8. Thirty-six percent of men of 25 years old and above and 40 percent of women of the same age have a similar level of education which is a secondary qualification. Secondary education lasts four years and includes courses like metalwork, woodwork and home economics.
  9. Social norms, low salaries for women and difficult transportation lead to a lack of women in the workforce. When almost 50 percent of the population is not given the same rights or opportunities as the other half, this affects children and is especially makes impactful on young girls.
  10. Fiji’s National Gender Policy was launched in 2014. This policy promotes the advancement of women’s rights and provides gender sensitization training, gender analysis and fodder for gender-sensitive language in legislation and government documents. It also includes strategies for boosting women’s participation in decision-making processes. An area of focus for this policy is girls’ access to basic services including education and health services.

While some of the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Fiji are difficult to grasp, others show signs of improvement. Fiji has made strides forward when it comes to gender equality in education and the workplace. Although there is a continued promise from the government to keep pushing for female empowerment and equality, there is yet to be a plan set in stone to ensure this. The present is brighter than the past, but with awareness, the future could be even brighter.

As Joeli Cawaki, The Commissioner for the Western Division stated: “We in Fiji are fortunate that our children have been given equal rights and opportunities to attain an education. Therefore, I encourage you to make the best of this opportunity. Educate your children, especially the girl child.”

– Malena Larsen
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Fiji
Fiji is currently in the midst of altering their education system to better incorporate girls and empower them to lead more fulfilling lives. About 83 percent of students in Fiji — both male and female — complete their compulsory education; however, it has been found that girls’ education in Fiji lacks STEM subjects and menstrual health.

Fijian Culture and Views About Women

The culture of Fiji has remained traditional, and until the early 2000s, still viewed its women as inferior to its men. The World Bank reported that in 2012, young girls — although educated — were often domesticized directly after completing their compulsory education.

It was noted in the same World Bank report that boys are more likely to focus their attention on making money, while girls are expected to live almost solely within the home. As of 2016, 41 percent of women and 76 percent of men work in the labor force of the Fiji Islands.

To change the outcome of girls’ future, the Fiji government is encouraging young girls to engage more with nontraditional, ‘non-female’ education tracks like math, physics and science. Leadership works to accomplish such prioritization through altering education systems to index young girls’ early education towards these STEM subjects. However, the World Bank found that in 2013, only 3.88 percent of the country’s GDP is spent on education.

Changing the STEM Status Quo

Nevertheless, Fiji’s government has promised to alter its education budget so that primary and secondary education facilities throughout Fiji receive proper funding for STEM subjects. The purpose of pushing these subjects is to encourage young girls (and later women) of Fiji to pursue careers in technological, mathematical and scientific fields, which have historically been dominated by men.

This gender disparity in STEM fields can be seen at the Water Authority of Fiji (WAF), an organization formed by the Fiji government to provide a sustainable and effective water system for the country. As of 2017, only four percent of the engineering and technical staff and about 25 percent of the entire staff of WAF are female.

This gender imbalance at WAF can be traced back to gender stereotypes that dominate much of Fiji’s culture, and discourage women from entering male-dominated fields.

Finding Empowerment Through Education

To combat much of the traditional gender segregation embedded in the mindset of Fiji’s society, The World Bank suggests that Fiji begin to teach courses on gender, like the empowerment of women, in schools.

Fiji also has struggled to teach young girls about menstrual health and hygiene due to shaming. Fiji’s education board classifies menstrual health as a ‘women-only’ issue and therefore does not educate male students about the subject. This separation has created a divide in education amongst the students and thus the society.

Moreover, labeling menstrual health as a ‘women-only’ issue has made the subject taboo for men in Fiji. This restriction often translates to the shaming women for their education of the topic. UNICEF’s menstrual health and hygiene assessment found that the number one reason girls are dissuaded from continuing with education in menstrual health is that of the taunting they receive from their male counterparts.

Female Under-Representation in Leadership

As a result of the inadequate girls’ education in Fiji, there remains a major under-representation of women in senior positions of power — in parliament, managerial roles, deans of education and many others. The Human Rights Commission found that in 2016, only 16 percent of Fiji’s parliament was made up of women.

Moreover, as of 2004, only five percent of directors of publicly listed companies were women, 14 percent of legal partnerships were held by women, and about 15 percent of professors and associate professors at universities in New Zealand were female.

Much of the inconsistencies amongst genders comes from the cultural norms of New Zealand. The norm of New Zealand is that the woman cares for the home and the children, while the man works. As a country, New Zealand has struggled to shake the idea of the “domestic woman” and the “working man” from its public perception. Consequently, women’s jobs, girls’ education and overall female opportunities have suffered.

Attaining Equality for Girls’ Education in Fiji

Fiji has strived for equality and has recognized that their major setbacks — particularly in girls’ education — are hindering them from reaching such a goal. These setbacks are large and are deeply rooted in the cultural norms of the country.

Nevertheless, the fight for girls’ education in Fiji has remained firm in ensuring that the government’s promise — to provide female students with equal opportunities — is pushed through to completion. It remains to be seen, however, how Fiji’s government will further drive the equality agenda, and how much of a priority equal education will continue to be.

– Isabella Agostini
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in Fiji
To many people around the world, Fiji and its hundreds of islands are known as a peaceful Pacific vacation getaway. While Fiji certainly profits from its lively tourism industry, life for the more than 900,000 citizens of the island nation is much more complex. Read further to learn more about credit access in Fiji.

Fiji gained independence from the U.K. in 1970 and has gone through intermittent periods of political strife since then. Despite this, Fiji’s natural resources and tourism potential have helped make Fiji become one of the most developed Pacific island nations. Not every Fijian enjoys the benefits of this development, though. Nearly a third of Fiji’s citizens live in poverty. Part of the reason for this high number is the ongoing struggle to achieve credit access in Fiji.

Managing Credit in Fiji

Developed and developing economies alike rely on banking and credit to drive innovation, investments, infrastructure and purchasing power. Fiji’s is no exception.

Fiji’s banking system is overseen by the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF). The RBF provides services to the government as well as licenses to the six banks that do business in Fiji. It also regulates how much those banks can dip into their deposits which enables the RBF to maintain the delicate balance between not allowing enough credit and letting it go unchecked.

While the infrastructure for banking exists, credit access in Fiji is simply nonexistent for many citizens. This stifles chances for the country’s economy to grow and for Fijians to lift themselves out of poverty. The government recently started taking steps to address this problem.

Tapping into Fiji’s Wealth

The government is partnering with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to implement secured transaction reform. Such reforms would allow Fijians to use their non-monetary wealth (such as vehicles, goods or crops) as collateral for loans.

In a country where accessing loans is difficult for many people and businesses, the ability to access non-monetary wealth opens up new avenues for credit access. While these collateral loans could be risky for some individuals, it will increase the lenders’ confidence and help stabilize the growth of the Fijian economy.

Fiji’s Financial Literacy and Innovation

The national government is also taking internal steps to pursue the goal of widespread credit access in Fiji. In 2010, it formed the National Financial Inclusion Taskforce (NFIT). Its purpose is to encourage long-term economic growth and help lift Fijians out of poverty by providing better access to banking.

NFIT has had an uphill climb right from the start. Even after four years of progress, there were still 150,000 unbanked Fijians in 2014 and a full third of Fijians are underserved by banks.

A significant part of NFIT’s efforts have been aimed at improving citizens’ financial literacy. Especially in rural areas, many Fijians lack the basic knowledge they need to engage in the banking system. The same year it was formed, NFIT launched a nationwide campaign to ensure that the broader access to banking achieved would not go to waste. The campaign even has a mascot—a turtle named Vuli the Vonu.

One of the more encouraging developments in the process of spreading credit access has been the rise of digital financial services which Fiji launched in 2010. For the first time, Fijians could digitally bank, pay bills and even transfer money to businesses and families across islands. Digital banking covers 80 percent of Fijians’ financial needs and provides access to financial services even on remote islands where there aren’t any physical banks.

There is room for improvement in Fiji’s credit system, but it’s certainly encouraging to see that steps are already being taken to stimulate growth and provide tens of thousands of poor Fijians with access to banking.

– Josh Henreckson
Photo: Flickr

the Kubulau Community
The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), an environmental non-profit based out of Oakland, CA, is working to protect the world’s coral reefs and the people who rely on them. Fiji, an archipelago over of 300 islands in the South Pacific, is one of four major regions where CORAL works. Fiji is of particular interest to CORAL because the island is home to 42 percent of the world’s coral species and contains upwards of 10,000 square kilometers of coral reef.

CORAL and the Kubulau Community

In 2005, CORAL formed an alliance with the Kubulau Community located on the island of Vanua Levu, north of Fiji’s principal island Viti Levu.  The Kubulau Community sought CORAL so as to improve management of the Namena Marine Reserve between these two islands and project the incredible biodiversity of the Fijian coral reefs.

Namena is the largest no-take marine protected area (MPA) in Fiji as it covers part of the traditional fishing grounds (or “qoliqoli”) of the Kubulau community. The people of Kubualu and CORAL recognized the environmental, cultural and economic benefits of ensuring longevity for their coral reefs. Over-fishing and poaching in their traditional fishing grounds, as well as an overall lack of management, threatened the livelihood and cultural values of the Kubulau people.

Alicia Srinivas, the Associate Program Manager for CORAL, described the deep connection between the coral reefs and the people of Kubualu, saying, “Coral reefs and these communities are inextricably linked; you can’t have one without the other.”

The creation of Namena and the fishing restrictions that accompany it — parts of it are no-take zones and in parts limited sustainable fishing is permitted — have ensured the area will remain a viable fishing source into the future.  Also, the protected marine environment attracts tourism, specifically scuba divers, which brings a new source of revenue to the Kubulau people.

 

An Alliance that Benefits the Community

With the support and assistance of CORAL, the Kubulau community formed the Kubualu Resource Management Committee (KRMC) in 2009.  This community-run committee works to protect the sea’s invaluable resources and also works to ensure that the Kubulau people themselves directly benefit from the Namena Marine Reserve.

KRMC and CORAL created a sustainable community fund, to which visitors to Namena are encouraged to donate.  In 2015 alone, visitors donated over $20,000 to the fund. The money goes toward environmental management as well as to the Kubualu Education Fund, which helps Kubulau children attend school. To date, scholarships have benefitted over 200 students.

Rebuilding after Cyclone Winston

Cyclone Winston hit Fiji in February of 2016. The largest tropical cyclone ever recorded, Winston’s damage was unparalleled with wind gusts topping 190 miles per hour. The Kubulau Community was particularly hard-hit; over 80 percent of homes there were destroyed.

The values of community and sustainability, and the money and resources of the improved management of the Namena Marine Reserve, helped the Kubulau community recover after Winston in a way not seen in most other Fijian communities ravaged by the storm.

Immediately after the storm ended, KRMC mobilized all able-bodied members of the community to begin clearing roads, assessing the damage and rebuilding homes. The community was able to begin rehabilitating their destroyed community before receiving any outside assistance because of the unity, organization and monetary resources brought by the creation of the Namena Marine Reserve and the KRMC to their community.

KRMC provided the leadership necessary for Kubulau to start rebuilding after the storm must faster than other Fijian communities without the same leadership or resources. In addition, revenue saved over the years from the voluntary dive fund — as well as $5,000 supporters of CORAL sent to Kubulau — helped the community finance its rebuilding.

Looking Forward

CORAL hopes to replicate the incredible relationship it has with the Kubulau Community elsewhere in Fiji. In 2016, CORAL began working at three additional Fijian sites: Waivunia (on Vanua Levu), Ra (on Vita Levu) and Oneata (on a small island East of Viti Levu).  Srinivas says that CORAL is trying to create win-win situations for both the environment and the people of Fiji.

The win-win situation is evident in Kubulau where the Namena Marine Reserve is protecting coral reefs and issuing in a new era of fiscal and community stability for the Kubulau community. The Kubulau’s success in rebuilding after Winston is further proof of CORAL’s profound impact on this community.

– Abigail Dunn
Photo: Flickr

How the US Benefits from Foreign Aid to FijiThe U.S. is a powerful, stable society that is capable of supporting other communities who need assistance. Providing aid to other nations can benefit the U.S. in return. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Fiji.

According to the U.S. Department of State, assistance from the U.S. to Fiji is focused mainly on humanitarian services, such as hurricane relief and security assistance.

 

Democratic Assitance

In 2006, a tumultuous coup suspended democratic rule in Fiji. In 2014, the country held elections to restore the democratically elected government. The U.S. was one of 13 countries to oversee the elections to maintain security measures and ensure a peaceful political process. In return, the U.S. received increased access to trade and resources in the region.

 

Tourism

One of the most important trades the U.S. and Fiji take part in is the tourism industry. According to the Fiji Bureau of Statistics, 842,884 foreign nationals visited Fiji in 2017. While not all of these were U.S. citizens, the number of Americans visiting Fiji is increasing. In addition to tourism, Fiji’s economy is stimulated by foreign consumers buying Fijian products.

 

Exports

The biggest exports from Fiji to the U.S. are bottled water, tuna and sugar. In return, the U.S. exports transport equipment and food. However, access to Fiji’s tuna is one of the U.S. fishing industries’ most vital investments. The U.S. created a multilateral trade agreement with the Pacific Islands (including Fiji), which allowed U.S. fishers to access the tuna-infested waters in the Pacific Islands. 

The agreement also protects the Fiji fish population from overfishing and other things that may cause harm to marine life in the area. This, along with the trade of other natural products, increases both Fiji’s economy and natural resource protection. It also helps with U.S. relations in the area and product importation.

Fiji is a small island with a large economy, which not only needs the U.S. to help support economic prosperity but also to protect democracy in the region. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Fiji through access to crucial natural resources and through Fiji’s influence as a newly reorganized democracy in the Pacific Island region.

– Molly Atchison

Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in fijiFor many, the mention of Fiji, a country located in the South Pacific Ocean, conjures up images of crystal blue waters, white sandy beaches and five star luxury resorts ready to cater to every holiday need. Yet, even tropical paradises are not immune to climate change, and Fiji has experienced increasingly intense and unpredictable weather events such as droughts, floods and cyclones. This has dramatically impacted farmers in Fiji, and there has now been a recognized need for more sustainable agriculture in Fiji.

Sustainable farming practices, rather than aggravating the various effects of climate change, make way for more environmentally friendly practices that increase food security and improve livelihoods. One project that is currently active in Fiji is the Climate Change Adaptation through Sustainable Agricultural Project, which has been funded by the Pacific American Climate Fund and implemented by the Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development. This project focuses specifically on incorporating traditional farming practices, and 200 farmers from eight communities have been selected to become involved in this initiative.

Another project implemented by the Organic Matters Foundation, in partnership with a nongovernmental organization called Tei Tei Taveuni, has sought for the implementation of chemical-free farming practices, a more sustainable alternative to chemical-laden cultivation. 160 farmers attended lessons on soil biology and learned about the benefits of switching to organic farming. Instead of using chemicals to fertilize their crops, farmers in this project have started to use locally sourced materials such as seaweed and corals. The transfer and exchange of knowledge was an important aspect within this project, and the knowledge regarding the benefits of chemical free farming has spread to other areas in Fiji.

Recognizing the important role that agriculture plays in Fiji’s economy, the Ministry of Agriculture in Fiji, with assistance from the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations, created and published the Fiji 2020 Agriculture Sector Policy Agenda. The aim of this policy is to evolve and modernize Fiji’s agricultural sector in a holistic and inclusive approach, with a focus on sustainability. This policy pursues the use of “climate-smart agriculture” as a new way of increasing production, as well as heightening resilience through the use of sustainable agriculture in Fiji. In order to address national and global obstacles in relation to food security and climate change, a new framework must be set, which is argued and outlined in this policy.

As the effects of climate change heighten, adaptive sustainable agriculture in Fiji has been recognized as a crucial measure by various actors, including farmers and their communities, various local and national nongovernmental organizations and the Fiji government. Many understand the importance of the close connections between agriculture, the economy, food security and livelihoods of communities, and its awareness is spreading throughout the country. In addition to the projects mentioned, various other actions are being undertaken that focus on modernizing agricultural practices, which create more resilience for farmers and their communities and contribute further to sustainable agriculture in Fiji.

– Miho Kitamura

Photo: Flickr