A seasonal worker who joined the first cohort of “Yumi Growem Vanuatu” program, Mrs Merlyn Charley

V-Lab, a charitable
 association supporting innovation, idea development, and social entrepreneurship in Vanuatu, has a program called “Yumi Growem Vanuatu.”

This initiative targets small business owners, individuals aspiring to venture into business, and seasonal workers aiming to grow or initiate their own businesses.

The Communications Specialist at V-Lab, Emma Hivo, explained that they function as a business and idea incubator, providing support to Ni-Vanuatu individuals with a strong business or project idea within their communities.

The program, “Yumi Growem Vanuatu,” serves as a means of reintegration for seasonal workers, particularly returnees looking to invest their earnings in starting a business. V-Lab intervenes to assist them through a ten-month program.

Ms Hivo mentioned that they have successfully completed two cohorts of the program, starting in 2021, with each cohort accommodating 30 to 50 participants. The first cohort was primarily based in Port Vila, but the second cohort extended its reach to Santo.

“In the program, participants receive training in business management, financial management, financial literacy, learning how to manage profits, generate income, and more,” said Ms Hivo.

V-Lab has already supported over 100 individuals, including seasonal workers who have returned and started businesses in Port Vila. Some participants have even obtained business licences and registered their businesses with the Vanuatu Financial Services Commission (VFSC).

V-Lab’s approach involves a combination of training sessions and coaching, employing a mentorship style with business coaches assigned to each participant.

“After participants receive their training, they move on to the coaching week, followed by an assessment where the coach visits the participants’ businesses, providing advice for the way forward,” Hivo explained.

The businesses emerging from the program span various sectors, including livestock, poultry, crops, handicrafts, sewing and fashion, processing manufacturing, retail shops, kava bars, and more.

Commissioner of Labour, Murielle Meltenoven, reported the success of the first and second cohorts, with the first cohort comprising 30 participants and the second cohort expanding to 40 to 50 participants. Plans for a third cohort are underway, with funding support from development partners Australia and New Zealand.

Merlyn Charley, a seasonal worker from the first cohort, shared her experience of selling island baskets. Engaging in the “Yumi Growem Vanuatu” program at V-Lab brought significant positive changes to her business. The program shifted her perspective from viewing earnings solely as a means for living expenses and school fees to thinking big about expanding and growing her business.

Mrs. Charley urged other seasonal workers to register for the program upon their return to Vanuatu, emphasising the long-term benefits of starting a business for future financial stability.

Ms Hivo added that the program is free and funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), with support from Vanuatu’s Department of Labour. She encouraged seasonal workers to apply and join the program, enabling them to invest their earnings upon returning abroad.