Pango, Vanuatu: Local Pango store owner Melika Kaluat at her store during the Oxfam/Sempo/ConsenSys led Unblocked Cash Blockchain pilot. Credit: Keith Parsons/OxfamAUS

Vanuatu is a lush archipelago of more than 80 scattered volcanic islands. Its 246,000 people, the Ni-Vanuatu, have been spared the civil and political unrest that has affected neighboring Melanesian nations but its economy is failing to meet the needs of an increasing and young population.

Agriculture, fishing, offshore financial services and tourism are the economic mainstays, yet 76 per cent of Vanuatu’s population lives a subsistence lifestyle. Rural areas are often remote and have limited infrastructure.

Climate change threatens Vanuatu’s food security and the country is particularly vulnerable to cyclones and other disasters. Rapid population growth has put pressure on health and education services, along with job opportunities. Budget restrictions mean there are not enough secondary school places — it’s not uncommon for children to finish formal education at age 10. Those who do secure a place at secondary school often find it too expensive to complete.

Employment choices for these young people are often limited to helping with domestic chores or working on small family farms. There is waning interest in farming as a livelihood and many head to the cities, adding to growing youth unemployment and placing them at increased risk of poverty.

Oxfam in Vanuatu

Program delivery: Oxfam works with two organizations, the Farm Support Association and Vanuatu Rural Development and Training Centre Association, focusing on five areas of work:

  • WASH: Oxfam’s ensures communities have access to safe water and sanitation facilities provided at Rural Training Centers. This allows the entire community to enjoy improved health and hygiene. We train students in the construction and maintenance of water and sanitation facilities and supporting our partner organization to implement water and sanitation projects such as building toilets and hosting health awareness workshops.
  • Skills training: Oxfam works with a local partner organization to train young people in skills that fit their community’s demands. We are training local people to teach valuable, practical skills to young people, including home economics, health, hospitality, small business management, agriculture, mechanics and carpentry.
  • Organics: Oxfam helps spice farmers to achieve and keep organic certification. By improving their growing practices, yields and incomes are increasing. We provide young people pushed out of the school system with the practical skills they need to earn a living through growing and selling organic crops.
  • Income generation: Oxfam supports the development of small income generating opportunities by providing money to establish women’s microfinance and loan schemes.
  • Capacity building: We are helping our partner organization become more robust by sharing expertise and resources, including financial management systems, developing publications and hosting skills workshops.

Emergency response: Oxfam has been coordinating the Vanuatu Humanitarian Team (VHT) since its inception in 2011, supporting humanitarian coordination for both disaster preparedness and response. The VHT is a coordination of 11 humanitarian agencies based in Vanuatu, including UN agencies and the Red Cross.  It supports the Vanuatu Government and the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), as well as seven government-lead clusters in a co-leadership role.