Introductory research on the feasibility of cash and voucher assistance in rural Fiji

Humanitarian assistance Disaster relief Fiji Pacific Area

This Cash Feasibility Study is part of a series of cash and voucher assistance (CVA) preparedness activities in Fiji. This program builds on the regional Pacific Cash Preparedness Partnership, between Oxfam, Save the Children and the United Nations World Food Programme, which is focused on conducting a series of feasibility studies across Vanuatu, Fiji and Solomon Islands in order to increase awareness, capacity and expertise in cash programming in the Pacific Islands.

About this report:

This report presents the findings of a study into the general feasibility of using Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) in responding to disasters in Fiji. The term “Cash and Voucher Assistance” or CVA, is used in the report in line with the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) definition, so it refers to programs where cash transfers or vouchers are provided directly to people not to the government. This study is specifically interested in CVA in the context of humanitarian assistance. This type of assistance is also referred to in other documents as Cash Based Interventions, Cash Based Assistance and Cash Transfer Programming.

The geographical nature of Fiji sees people living in both coastal and inland locations. This is characterized by access constraints and suggests that the degree to which cash is a feasible way for people to meet their needs after disasters is strongly related to where they live. For this reason, community-level data collection is structured around types of areas. During the initial stages of assessment planning, it became evident that cash was used extensively in urban and semi-urban areas to meet needs. Based on this it was decided not to carry out the second part of the assessment in these locations and rather focus on areas where there were more questions around the feasibility of cash. One consequence of this is that sites were selected based on location and with fewer Fijians of Indian descent residing in these areas, they are not represented in this part of the data collection. This is noted as a limitation of this study.

The study is part of the work of the Pacific Cash Preparedness Partnership (PCPP), a collaboration between Save the Children, Oxfam and the World Food Programme (WFP). The overall objective of the PCPP is ensuring humanitarian responses in the Pacific Island region can better meet the immediate and protracted relief and recovery needs of disaster-affected households and communities. Through this partnership, Save the Children is leading on cash preparedness work in Fiji. This study represents the first step in defining the background for a preparedness approach for CVA in Fiji.

More specifically, the study investigated the ‘feasibility’ and ‘appropriateness’ of CVA in Fiji. Feasibility refers to the extent to which it is possible to implement efficient and effective CVA without causing harm, and Appropriateness refers to the extent to which CVA is the optimum means by which needs can be met. These terms are defined as in the 2016 Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) feasibility scoping study on CVA assistance in the Pacific, which provided a starting point for understanding key issues relevant to CVA in Pacific Island countries (PICs) and included a Country Snapshot on Fiji.

While highlighting some of the key features PICs have in common, the CaLP study found the considerable differences between the
PICs made “generalized conclusions on CVA feasibility impossible.” Its first of five key recommendations was to undertake country- specific CVA research and analysis. The study also noted the need to engage with communities and disaster-affected people in order to complement information provided by senior leadership and government on acceptance and preferences of CVA.

Preconditions for cash feasibility

Understanding if CVA is feasible and appropriate requires an understanding of the way people live and how they regularly meet their needs within the different contexts. CaLP has identified certain preconditions that should be met before CVA is used. These broadly fall into four key areas, broken down by CaLP as follows:

1. Potential to meet needs

• The target population are accustomed to using cash to meet at least some of their basic needs in normal conditions
• Lack of purchasing power prevents people from meeting immediate needs and/or recovering fully after disasters
• Evidence suggests protection related risks will not be amplified any more with CVA than with other types of assistance

2. Community and political acceptance

• People in the targeted community understand and accept CVA as a form of support to meet their needs after disasters • Key government and private sector stakeholders are aware of and accept CVA as a form of assistance

3. Market conditions

• Existence of a functioning market that is regularly supplied to meet demand across all sectors
• Items needed to meet needs are available at a reasonable price and quality
• People can safely physically access markets and it is not prohibitively expensive or time consuming to do so • Traders are willing and able to participate in voucher programmes (if these are being implemented)

4. Operational conditions

• Cash can be delivered safely and effectively to beneficiaries
• Functional and reliable payment systems are in place for transferring money
• Organisations involved have programmatic expertise and operational capacity to deliver CVA

While this report provides evidence of the general feasibility of CVA in Fiji and indicates some of the work needed to take CVA to scale in the country, it is not intended to provide a complete picture from which CVA can be designed. It does not provide guidance on key considerations such as targeting, transfer mechanisms (though it does indicate some broad possibilities), transfer size and frequency, transfer modality, etc. Further work is needed by Save the Children and other interested humanitarian stakeholders (including NGOs, government agencies, UN bodies, civil society, donors) to ensure that CVA’s potential as an efficient and effective method of meeting humanitarian needs is fully realised in Fiji. Recommendations regarding where this work should focus are included, based on gaps identified by the report authors and consulted members of the Fiji humanitarian community.

Key Conclusions:

Key findings relating to the various preconditions of cash feasibility are outlined in the Findings chapter (Chapter 6). However, some general conclusions can also be reached about the overarching feasibility of cash for humanitarian response in Fiji. In principle, cash interventions are feasible across all the different types of areas of Fiji that the study covered. While some areas showed that a CVA would be feasible in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, and others that CVA would be more appropriate in the longer term, there were no areas where CVA was considered completely unfeasible. For example, during the early stages of an emergency cash would not be feasible for households having no access to markets, or if markets are closed as a result of the disaster, yet after a month or so cash becomes feasible as the community starts to slowly recover and market systems begin to function again.

Pre-existing access challenges in Fiji coupled with access challenges that often arise from a disaster mean that finding ways to understand the availability and volume of key supplies in markets in affected areas must be a key part of CVA decision making and programme design at the time of a disaster.

Across all types of areas, awareness raising and specific preparedness around CVA would increase the speed at which this type of assistance could be delivered, enhance the utility of it, mitigate risks and potentially contribute to other desirable by-products such as increased financial literacy and inclusion.

Key Recommendations:

  • This report aims to provide a broad outline of the feasibility of CVA and recommend ways to address issues with feasibility. Key recommendations, intended for any stakeholder interested in CVA, are structured among the four preconditions. Included are recommendations regarding how CVA could be delivered as well as areas for further research and testing.
  • Blanket targeting of CVA should be considered as the most efficient, fair and acceptable targeting approach. Acceptable from the communities’ perspective and in line with the village culture of sharing, this is less likely to cause inter- and intra-household tension and violence, both of which were reported as negative consequences of assistance post Tropical Cyclone (TC) Winston.
  • While blanket targeting is generally recommended, the additional needs of specific vulnerable groups (such as people living with a disability) should be considered as justification for adding additional assistance for vulnerable groups.
  • Investigate the potential risks of increased violence to children, women and girls, and other vulnerable groups to understand the connection to assistance and mitigate risks of violence through awareness raising and project design.
  • Analyse the needs, preferences, and barriers faced by people from vulnerable groups after disasters and the degree to which these can be addressed by CVA. This should include direct participation of these vulnerable groups such as people living with a disability and SOGIESC as well as CVA programming experts.
  • Learn what items people need after disasters through dialogue with communities, understand supply chains for these items, and encourage the pre-stocking of key items in advance of the cyclone season.


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