Rural communities in Santo, Vanuatu have demonstrated that the economic empowerment of communities is key to fostering sustainable development.

According to a statement released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this message follows on the back of a seven-day agribusiness capacity-building training – provided by UN Women Pacific and the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji – in collaboration with the vibrant communities of Stonehill and Nambauk, to nurture rural market vendors and farmers with skills and knowledge that support them to thrive.

The training sessions were provided in a highly engaging way, sharpened by practical exercises to ensure the knowledge and skills developed by the women market vendors and farmers were applied to the enhancement of family business skills.

For that purpose, the innovative ‘Family and Business Canvas’ techniques’ and ‘Start Smart’ business training methods were used, which helped participants equip themselves with the knowledge to identify potential business opportunities, including start-up opportunities and upgrading business management skills.

Among the participants was Ms Augustine Andikar who has been engaging in market business at the Luganville Municipal Market for almost 10 years.

“At the business training, I learnt how to make and prepare a budget for myself. So, when I earn an income from the market, I should be able to work out whether I was able to make a profit or not,” said Ms Andikar.

The training also provided tailor-made support to meet the needs and aspirations of rural women market vendors and their families.

The topics included food safety, packaging and labelling, and sterilization, amongst others. Practical sessions were extended to include food preservation techniques as well as creating delightful value-added products like tomato and pineapple chutney and pineapple and chilli sauce.

The ‘Family Canvas’ method facilitated participants’ understanding of the importance of reproductive health and the concept of resilience and inclusive agriculture to strengthen community bonds.

Ms Aurelie Andikar, another training participant who produces and sells vegetables and fruits at the Luganville Municipal Market, was excited by the idea of a potential new business strategy.

Ms Andikar shared her vision: “At the value addition training I learnt how to make jams using local produce that can be sourced from our garden and to preserve them in bottles. This is one way I can earn an income. It can also help me greatly in times of disaster.”

The inspirational and practical training sessions with these communities were made possible through the strong partnership with various agencies passionate about the sustainable development of rural communities. These included the Department of Industry, Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Northern Islands Market Vendors Association (NIMVA).

The partnership has been developed under the Markets for Change project led by UN Women Pacific in collaboration with UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji and the Governments of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.