Built to last – risk-informed development

The Vatawai community in Ba Province in Fiji had a lot to celebrate when they opened their new road.
A group of people from the Vatawai community (Ba Province, Fiji) pose for a celebratory picture on the newly paved road..
Celebrating the change the Vatawai community wants. Photo: UNDP.

Not only did their new access road give them a safe and efficient connection to markets, farming land, medical centres and schools, but they had helped design it to withstand disasters and changing climatic conditions.

First built in 2020, the road stood up to heavy rainfall in late 2021: despite flooded rivers, there were no landslides around the road, and the community continued to safely reach their new farmlands.

Community at the heart

The Vatawai road has become a model for the Fijian Government for building infrastructure to withstand the increased risks that climate change and disasters bring.

A key element of the ‘risk-informed development’ process was the involvement of the community in the planning. Their traditional and scientific knowledge of risks was central to the planning and construction.

The process recognised risks to the new development, for example blocked drains that could flood and wash out the road, as well as risks that it might create, such as flooding that could threaten farmland or endanger more vulnerable villagers, including children and people living with disabilities.

The risk of landslides was managed by contractors reducing the slope angle, while the community planted trees and vetiver grass on roadsides to prevent surface erosion.

This one road has opened new paths for other Fijian communities, with the lessons learned now built into the practices of the Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management (MRMDDM), including how designing projects with communities can ensure climate change, disasters and gender equality and social inclusion are considered throughout project cycles.

Our partners

The Fijian Ministry (MRMDDM) designed and constructed the road with Vatawai, with the support of the Governance for Resilient Development in the Pacific (Gov4Res) project run by the United Nations Development Programme. Aotearoa is one of the funders of UNDP’s Gov4Res, which operates across the Pacific to strengthen development processes.

For more see: Video introduction to risk-informed development projects in Fiji by MRMDDM with support from UNDP Gov4Res project(external link)

A group of people stand on the road in Vatawai to ensure its safety. .
Risk-informed Vatawai access road monitoring visit. Photo: UNPD
A group picture of representatives from the Fijian Government, UNDP, CSOs, the private sector, development partners, and residents of Vatawai..
Representatives from the Fijian Government, UNDP, CSOs, the private sector, development partners, and residents of Vatawai. Photo: UNDP


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