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  5. Being a Woman Farmer: A Story from Vanuatu*

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FOCUS March 2024 Volume Volume 115

Being a Woman Farmer: A Story from Vanuatu*

Vilisi Veibataki

Lavinia Wilson resides in Natawa, Fanafo, Vanuatu with her family. She is a dedicated wife and mother of four. She supports her husband in managing the day-to-day operations of their farm.

Lavinia.JPGBut she also has a farm of her own where she grows different crops including vegetables, root crops and pineapple and sells them in Luganville Municipal Market. She travels every day for an hour to reach the market (when the weather is favorable) to sell her produce. Most of her expenses are on the high cost of transportation, with the return bus fare of 5000 Vatu (US$40) eating into her already small profit margin. She has been selling in the market for the past eight years.

Pineapple serves as Lavinia's primary source of income, but when the season comes to an end she effortlessly transitions into selling vegetables and root crops. Even during the fruitful pineapple season, she does not let the excess produce go to waste as she generously shares it with her community, a true demonstration of her dedication not just to her family but to her neighbors as well.

Value Addition Training

In October 2023, Lavinia attended a value addition training program in her area. This was the Markets for Change training program[1] where she learned how to transform her pineapple surplus into jams, chutneys, preserved pineapple pieces, and cordial juice. She saw the training as an opportunity to upskill herself so that she could continue to provide for her family and her community.

The Department of Industry in Vanuatu conducts value addition training to enhance the capacity of growers and producers like Lavinia. The training aims to assist growers and producers in establishing small-scale processing plants. These plants focus on creating value-added products that are ready for the export market. The Department of Industry collaborates with the Markets for Change Project to conduct these training sessions. The training ensures the farmers learn about techniques for adding value to raw materials or agricultural products. Topics covered include processing, packaging and quality standards. The training greatly benefitted Lavinia as it enhanced her value addition skills, and provided new knowledge on how to create products with higher market value, and this contributes to economic growth and sustainability in the communities in Vanuatu, as it also empowers local producers and promotes economic development in the rural communities.

lavinia_during_the_group_discussions.jpgHoliday Season Boost

For Lavinia, the holiday season is the most lucrative time of the year, where she sells up to five hundred heads of pineapple, providing a significant financial boost for her family. The success of her business journey has been further enhanced by the knowledge and skills she gained through training programs offered through the Markets for Change Project.

Balancing Family and Business

Juggling family life with her market business is no easy feat. Lavinia begins her day by preparing breakfast and lunch for her four children before attending to her garden. Sometimes, her husband lends a hand in the farm, and assists with product preparation for the market. This collaborative approach extends to financial management and is a skill she learned from attending the Markets for Change trainings. Lavinia and her husband work together to allocate their earnings, ensuring that family needs are met. Lavinia's trust in her husband is unshakeable.

Collective Decision-Making

In their household, decisions are a shared responsibility. Lavinia believes that for a decision to be sound, both partners must agree. In cases where a decision leads to undesirable outcomes, they acknowledge the collective responsibility and collaborate to find an alternative solution that will directly benefit their family as they are a team.

For now, Lavinia is focusing on completing their family project and the construction of a new concrete house. She mentioned that the income she gains from her market sales is directed to purchasing the house materials.

Empowering rural women is not only key to the wellbeing of individuals, families, rural communities but also to the economic productivity of a nation as women are the largest contributors to the agricultural sector workforce globally.

* This is an expanded excerpt of the report entitled "Empowering Rural Women in Vanuatu Inspires Transformative Change," UNDP Pacific Office, 27 October 2023,

Vilisi Veibataki is the Markets for Change (M4C) Project Manager in the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji.

For further information, please contact: Vilisi Veibataki, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office, Level 2 Kadavu House, 414 Victoria Parade, Suva, Fiji; e-mail:


[1] This is supported by the Markets for Change (M4C) project, which promotes #genderequality through the economic empowerment of women market vendors in Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. It brings together governments, market vendors and market vendor associations (MVAs), civil society organizations and UN agencies. The M4C is implemented by @UNWomen Pacific in partnership with @UNDP_Pacific and the Governments of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.