Suva, Fiji – The U.S. government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has awarded $840,000 to the Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development (FRIEND) to boost the capacity of Fijian communities to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The grant will focus on vulnerable communities in Fiji’s tourism belt. The activities will include alternative livelihoods training and mentorship programs for those previously employed in the tourism industry. FRIEND will also explore new market opportunities for farmers and fishermen who are no longer able to sell their produce to the tourism sector. The grant will utilize marketing opportunities through the existing FRIEND network. Close to 2,300 families in the Western Division of Viti Levu are expected to gain from the grant activities. Women and underserved populations are among the target beneficiaries of this grant.
Tony Greubel, United States Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Fiji said “The United States Government recognizes that local civil society organizations play a key role in providing relief to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Fiji and across the Pacific region. The United States remains committed to strengthening the ability of Fijian communities to respond effectively to the economic and social disruptions caused by this pandemic.”
The Director of FRIEND, Ms. Sashi Kiran, said that the funding is very timely as many Fijians are struggling to make ends meet right now. “More than 150,000 people lost their employment in the first wave of COVID-19. Nadi in particular has been crippled economically and the second wave has further impacted struggling families,” Kiran said. “This support from USAID will be very useful in enabling these communities to recover from the devastating economic impacts of this pandemic,” added Kiran.
This monetary support was awarded by the USAID’s Pacific American Fund, which is a $35 million five-year grant designed to address a wide range of development priorities in the Pacific region. The USAID’s Pacific American Fund aims to appeal to qualified local, national, and internationally civil society organizations. These organizations include non-governmental organizations and institutions, private small-and-medium enterprises, universities, and faith-based organizations.