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Serve to change lives, helping those effected in Tonga, Rotary New Zealand world community service has partnered with MORDI Tonga Trust to give out seeds and cuttings, assist with farmland clearance, land preparation and fencing, and provide technical assistance to small holder farmers.
By Amy Fallon
Published Mar 2021
Rotary Down Under
Each year between November and April, the Southwest Pacific cyclone season arrives leaving crops and livelihoods in its wake.
This year, Tongan communities have faced another burden. While the country has remained COVID- free, restrictions brought in during the global pandemic have ravaged its agriculture, fisheries and tourism industries, which provide jobs for many informal workers.
To help those affected in Tonga, Rotary New Zealand World Community Service (RNZWCS) partnered with MORDI Tonga Trust to give out seeds and cuttings, assist with farmland clearance, land preparation and fencing, and provide technical assistance to small-holder farmers.
The project had reached just over 18,000 people in 38 communities on Tongatapu, Tonga’s main island, said Executive Director of RNZWCS Stuart Batty.
“Most years, without fail, a cyclone will devastate one or more countries in the Pacific and of course when it does it wipes out all the crops, so we responded to that,” Stuart said. ‘The program is providing communities with food security and income so that they can educate their kids. It’s going very well.’
“People who previously just had bare land in their backyards suddenly had flourishing plants, tomatoes and chillies, and all manner of vegetables. They were able to feed the kids and themselves and have some surplus they can sell to provide them with some income that can help them pay school fees and buy uniforms for the kids.”
Most households that have been given seedlings through the program have harvested their gardens, with communities feeding not just their own families but others with vegetables from their backyards. This has also led to healthier eating.
Woman’s groups have received assistance in setting up and managing backyard gardens. In Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital, locals have learnt about new farming techniques and vanilla, an in-demand crop, has been distributed. Across the country, breadfruit and other fruit trees have been planted in primary schools to teach children about agriculture. Seedlings have been given to Tonga National Visual Impairment Association (TNVIA) and the Alonga Disability Centre received assistance too.
Stuart, who is based in Christchurch, NZ, and has been involved with RNZWCS since 1995, said the program had been “tried and tested’ in other years through different partnerships, with great results shown. “People are now able to feed the kids and themselves and have some surplus they can sell to provide them with some income that can help them pay school fees and buy uniforms for the kids.”
A Tongan farmer receives taro suckers for her plantation