Fiji -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
FIJI IS ONE OF THE FIRST NATIONS TO SEE the morning sun each day. The South Pacific country, situated about two-thirds of the way between Hawaii and New Zealand, comprises 332 separate islands of which one-third are inhabited.
Endowed with rich forest, mineral and fish resources, Fiji is one of the most developed Pacific Island economies and serves as a hub for many small island nations. The economy is improving after political and ethnic tension between the Fijian majority and Indian minority populations in the 1990s. However, a chronic lack of investment, underemployment and concerns over government finances still pose obstacles to faster economic growth.
But poverty has increased. The government’s most recent household income and expenditure survey, conducted in 2002, showed that about 28 per cent of the national population lived below the poverty level. While rural poverty had increased, urban areas had serious pockets of poverty as well, a government report noted.
Urban areas are expanding rapidly as people from rural areas drift to towns and cities in search of employment and better opportunities, particularly for their children. A tradition of bringing large extended families into towns creates overcrowding, squatting and poverty. Many of those who migrate are of Indian descent who lose their rural land when leases expire.
Natural disasters also threaten people’s homes and livelihoods. Fiji is frequently hit by extreme weather, especially hurricanes. Traditional homes made of reed and wood are often destroyed by resultant strong winds and floods. Thus people started building more durable homes with materials such as solid wood and concrete.
In rural areas, however, traditional construction materials are still common and every major storm is followed by the need for repairs and rebuilding. But villagers are not always self-reliant, depending instead on government aid which may not be readily available.
Habitat for Humanity Fiji was registered in 1991, and launched its programs two years later. Today the national office is in the capital Suva.
In Fiji where customary tenure is common, Habitat often uses the Community Build housing microfinance model to involve an entire village or neighborhood in a house-building or renovation program. Habitat’s Community Build program helped leverage resources and reduce housing costs.
HFH Fiji has the strong support of the country’s Methodist Church and has also received donations from the governments of New Zealand, Australia and France to build more houses.
In addition, Habitat partners with the Fijian government’s social welfare ministry in a poverty-alleviation project to provide decent housing. The regional development ministry, which is responsible for the development of rural communities, has expressed an interest in forming a long-term housing partnership with Habitat.
Since the beginning of 2004, HFH Fiji has concentrated on building three types of Habitat homes. The first type, 27 sq. m. in size, is an open structure with no partition between the bedroom and living room. The second is larger, 37 sq. m. and comprises one bedroom, a living room, kitchen, shower area and a toilet. A third type, featuring a similar design, is that largest, at 48 sq. m. In Fiji, it is common for extended families to live together and the largest Habitat houses may accommodate five to ten family members.
A typical Habitat house is made of concrete, wooden or tin walls with a corrugated iron roof. The house either stands on a solid concrete floor foundation or is elevated on concrete or wooden posts to a height more than three meters high to avoid floods. It takes up to three weeks to construct.
Fiji is also a favored destination for Global Village teams of volunteer builders and Habitat has hosted volunteers from Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
• HFH Fiji partners HFH Australia in a community-based project beginning FY07 targeting three to six communities. The three-year project involves aspects of health and sanitation, adult literacy/skills training, community leadership and governance, and spiritual enhancement.
• HFH Fiji is working with HFH Greater Auckland (formerly HFH Manukau) and New Zealand’s Wesleyan Church to rebuild and renovate 17 houses in a remote Fijian village in Navula. The project was due to be completed by September 2007.
• In July 2005, a concert was held to raise awareness of Habitat’s work as well as to raise funds for HFH Fiji. The concert was in support of the “Make Poverty History” campaign.
• In May 2005, a group of English teachers from Japan built a house in four days in the Fiji highlands.
• The six-day Millennium Build in 2001 hosted by the Vanuaca affiliate built homes for 10 families
• HFH Fiji constructed six houses for Housing Assistance & Relief Trust (HART) Habitat partnered NZ Aid that funded development of land for lease to more than 50 displaced farmers
Population: 905,949 (July 2006 est.)
Capital: Suva (Viti Levu)
Area: 18,270 sq. km.
Ethnic groups: Fijian 51% (predominantly Melanesian with Polynesian mix), Indian 44%, European, other Pacific Islanders, overseas Chinese, and other 5% (1998 est.)
Languages: English (official), Fijian, Hindi
Religions: Christian 52% (Methodist 37%, Roman Catholic 9%), Hindu 38%, Muslim 8%, other 2%
Updated September 2007