Wednesday, July 27th, 2016
The Kingdom of Tonga is the third Pacific Island country – following Vanuatu and Solomon Islands – to launch its national Agriculture Policy Bank, following a joint presentation of it’s Agriculture Sector Plan and official launch of the Tonga Agriculture Policy Bank in the capital Nuku’alofa today.
The launch is part of a series of significant events that took place in Tonga this week, supported by the Pacific Community (SPC)’s European Union (EU) Intra-ACP funded Pacific Agriculture Policy Project (PAPP) in partnership with the Government of Tonga through its Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFFF).
Officiating at the launch, the Hon. Fatafehi ‘o Lapaha of Tonga’s Royal Family commended SPC and its partners for hosting the range of activities this week.
“SPC has long been an important development partner to my people and we are particularly grateful for this focus on agriculture which is so important to us. Being part of this week’s awareness workshop, I learned so much about the significance of the sector to Tongans seeing that we are all involved to some extent in cultivation of crops or livestock for subsistence or exporting.
“The European Union PAPP has done a great job to link our country not only to other Pacific islands with similar repositories but also globally through the Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme and I thank you for considering our Kingdom. I had the chance to explore the policy bank this week and found it very comprehensive. I am especially impressed with the summaries of the new sector plans and especially making information available in both English and the Tongan language,” he said.
Earlier this week, an awareness workshop on agricultural policy, research and extension was opened by the Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga, the Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni.
The workshop objectives included forming more effective linkages between MAFFF, other key sectors in which the government operates, the private sector, non-government organisations (NGOs), civil society and members of Tonga’s media fraternity.
In his capacity as the Minister overseeing communications and information, the Hon. Sovaleni stated that, “I was particularly pleased to see that one of the objectives was to strengthen links between the agriculture sector and other sectors but also to take a collaborative approach involving stakeholders from the private sector and especially media to collectively address developmental issues faced by all Pacific islands, of which Tonga is no exception.”
Tonga’s Deputy Prime Minister also acknowledged the partnership between SPC and the Government of Tonga and commended SPC on the recent Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) summit hosted in Tonga as well as the launch of its publication on the vulnerability of Pacific Agriculture and Forestry to Climate Change. These initiatives highlighted the very close correlation between the agriculture sector and broad development challenges faced by Tonga and other Pacific islands.
National Reserve Bank of Tonga Analyst, ‘Ana Tupou Panuve, acknowledged the diverse representation at this week’s workshop.
“SPC has done very well to bring together voices from government, from the farming and exporting community, media and especially youth. The presentations were very informative and covered a range of topics that allowed us to work together to drive discussion and agree on ways forward in knowledge sharing and supporting information dissemination relevant to the sector,” Ms Panuve said.
According to Ramanlal Vallabh of Radio Nuku’alofa, “media has an important role to play in promoting this sector and sharing key messages. The new Agriculture Policy Bank by SPC is a good one-stop shop for ordinary people to access information on agriculture policies and plans.”
The Pacific Community also supported development partner discussions for the agriculture and fisheries sector which included representation from the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).
Another significant activity included the handover of climate resilient crop varieties from SPC’s Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT) to the Government of Tonga.
Pacific Community Deputy Director-General, Dr Audrey Aumua, in thanking the Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga for accepting the crops on behalf of his government, stated that the handover signified the commitment by SPC to the government and people of Tonga to address food, nutritional and income security.
“Food security is a fundamental human right and an increasingly prevalent challenge for Pacific countries including Tonga. The economic costs of micronutrient deficiency is well documented. Agricultural research has been proven to result in significant returns on investment. The research role undertaken by the Pacific Community’s Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees or CePaCT as the most comprehensive Pacific genebank with the largest collection of Pacific crops, is instrumental in addressing this challenge,” Dr Aumua said.