On the beautiful island of Fiji, a staggering 40% of the country’s GDP comes from the tourism industry. Therefore, when COVID-19 hit the island (and the rest of the world), many people found themselves out of a job. However, the local population found a solution. In the middle of a pandemic, Marlene Dutta set up a Facebook page called Barter for Better Fiji to allow for Fijians to procure essential items without causing undue financial stress.
While bartering has always been a part of Fiji’s economy, this Facebook page is notable for its scope. The page has already amassed over 180,000 members as of August 2020. Considering the island has a total population of 900,000 people, that means this 180,000 figure represents 20% of the country’s entire population engaged in this bartering process.
Poverty in Fiji
Bartering is becoming more prevalent in Fiji due to the increase in unemployment as a result of the new coronavirus. Almost 5% of the country’s population has lost their job due to the lack of tourism and that is in addition to 28.1% of the country living below the national poverty line. Fijians also suffer from malnourishment and at one point in the early 2000s, 40% of children suffered from childhood hunger.
Bartering in Fiji
The Barter for Better Fiji Facebook page has many purposes. It helps the people in Fiji deliver essential resources to each other when finances are scarce. It is a form of mutual aid, which is essentially community members helping each other for a mutual benefit. Interestingly, this type of aid has come into the mainstream across the world, during the pandemic. Most importantly, for some people — this aid can be life-saving.
Uniting a Community
The best part about the Facebook group is how it has engaged the community. The founder of the group has been amazed at the good faith and compassion she has seen among the people of Fiji. She posits that it promotes an economy of kindness — one where people take a moment to help out their neighbors, even if they have never before spoken. As Fiji has shown, when life is centered around a caring community, there is a mutual benefit that permeates society.
– Hannah Daniel