Tonga Ministry of Agriculture coordinates relief efforts with key partners
Nuku´alofa, Tonga/Apia, Samoa , 23 Jan 2014 -- As the Government of Tonga focuses on meeting immediate needs such as shelter, water and sanitation for people affected by the recent category 5 Tropical Cyclone Ian in the islands of Ha'apai, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Forests and Fisheries (MAFFF) has moved rapidly to launch recovery efforts, a joint Government of Tonga and FAO Sub-regional Office for the Pacific Islands has announced.
The recovery efforts are focusing on agriculture, addressing the vital sectors of crops, fisheries and livestock.
The day after the disaster occurred, MAFFF conducted a preliminary review of the damages in some of the islands of Ha´apai, home to over 1,000 households, and the worst hit by the Cyclone. Initial reports indicate damage to crops and fruit trees of between 85 – 100%.
In order to determine the full extent of the current damage on medium and longer-term food security, MAFFF, with technical support from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, has designed and launched an agriculture multi-sector damage assessment. Data on agriculture, forests, livestock, fisheries and other agricultural assets will be gathered, covering the worst-affected areas of Ha'apai and Vava’u islands.
The team conducting the survey consists of officers from: MAFFF, Fisheries National Council, FAO, MORDI Tonga Trust, Oxfam and the National Youth Congress. The preliminary analysis and report is expected by the end of this week and will be shared broadly.
While awaiting the results of the detailed assessment, priority areas of need are already being reported by the teams on the ground: land clearing of fallen trees to allow immediate land preparation in order to plant food such as cabbages, sweet potatoes and corn; hand tools for islands without access to tractors; feed for livestock to supplement protein; vegetable seeds for gardening for healthy meals; nets and fishing gears for fishermen.
For short-term recovery of food crops, MAFFF has also deployed inputs from its own stocks, distributing sweet potato cuttings and corn seeds. An appeal to the public to assist with the provision of planting materials has also been issued.
Moreover, there is increasing concern for the nutritional status and the food available in Ha´apai. MAFFF and the Ministry of Health will be conducting cooking demonstrations at community level, using the current stocks distributed to households and highlighting the importance of healthy eating.
In the medium- and longer-term recovery, coordinated efforts are required to strengthen partnerships with donors to support rehabilitation programmes for all aspects of agriculture to revive the life of a normal Ha'apai household.
The New Zealand High Commission office in Tonga has indicated its interest in supporting the rapid recovery of food crops for Ha’apai. Rehabilitation programmes will focus on replanting activities, conservation areas for communities, capacity building and technical assistance. MAFFF continues to work with FAO for technical assistance and guidance, while welcoming the support and involvement of additional stakeholders with capacity in the agriculture sector.
FAO has also provided support to coordination and information sharing through its leadership of the Pacific Food Security Cluster, the regional coordination forum for Food Security within the Pacific Humanitarian Team.