FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
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Ecosystem Services: An integrated approach to making a difference in agriculture

21/12/2017 Tongatapu, Tonga

In Tonga, four community project sites have been busy learning about how to adopt integrated farming systems based on the ecosystem services in their agricultural landscape since  the introduction of the Ridge to Reef (R2R) FAO Integrated Lands and Agroecosystem Management System (ILAMS) to Tonga project. Four community project sites have been busy learning about how to adopt integrated farming systems based on the ecosystem services in their agricultural landscape.

The ILAMS project aims ‘to strengthen the resilience of communities by enhancing land tenure systems, improving forest management, and piloting integrated agro-ecosystem approaches to rehabilitate degraded landscapes.’
Four threats were identified to help shape the ILAMS plan in addressing challenges at the community level. These are, free roaming livestock given the significant damage to crops and land degradation, the intensive production of export crops which increase the use of agrochemicals, the loss of ecosystem services in forest areas due to clearance for subsistence and smaller scale commercial agriculture and lastly the alteration of traditional fallow systems resulting in degradation of soil nutrient status.
ILAMS is unique in its makeup given the holistic approach to addressing the above threats by encouraging and engaging communities in the management of their agro-ecosystems.
The four project sites are located in Haveluliku-Tongatapu, Mangia-Vava’u, Pukotala-Ha’apai and Ta’anga-‘Eua. The two demonstration sites are the Hango Agricultural School in ‘Eua and Tupou College Toloa in Tongatapu.
Household surveys were completed in each of the community sites to get a better sense of current farming systems and the status of existing agro-ecosystems as the first step in planning how best to proceed with engaging families to ‘mobilize public, and community support to adoption of sustainable integrated ecosystem-based approaches to agriculture for sustainable economic and livelihood development.’ The ILAMS plan will be specific to each community site with the guiding principle of ensuring the agro-ecosystem at the center.
There has been major progress in the upgrade of nurseries in ‘Eua and Tongatapu to strengthen mechanisms for supply of seeds and planting materials and as ILAMS project continues to strengthen partnerships with stakeholders in creating an enabling environment for sustainable farming. The Project Field Officer for Tongatapu, Mr. Sione Tuifio Hui, has been engaging with the Haveluliku village community through education on alternative pig feed. This was identified as a key challenge for households in maintaining regular feed for their penned pigs hence why majority were allowed to roam freely.
Endive has been identified to be a good source of protein in pig feed. Through working together with Chinese farmers at Tupou College, Tuifio has been able to harvest endive seedlings to be transplanted to Haveluliku. Moringa trees is also another identified plant that has been found in different parts of the island and the communities are being encouraged to incorporate them into their agro-ecosystems to also provide feed.
An exciting new development for Haveluliku is 1 of the local farmers, Li’ekina Naufahu, volunteering his own plot of land to be used as an ‘endive farm’. They have ploughed part of his land in preparation for this project and we anticipate the success of this experiment as this in turn will encourage others in the village to transplant endive from Li’ekina to be planted again in their own tax allotments.
While ground activities are ongoing, the ILAMS Land Administration System Specialist, Richard Kautoke and his team at the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR) have been hard at work customizing the system for Tonga which would guide land use on the island. The operational with spatial functionality of SOLA (Solutions for Open Lands Administration) will be utilized to recommend allowable land uses, monitor land use changes over time and clarify tenure.
There is currently a review in place of existing policies and legislative frameworks related to creating an enabling environment for adopting integrated land and agro-ecosystems management farming systems. This work is led by the Ministry of Land Survey and Natural Resources (MLSNR) with support of an international consultant.
Although there has been significant progress, the ILAMS project is not without its challenges.
Understandably, moving to an integrated approach can be difficult for Tongan communities who have set traditional ways of farming.
Tongan communities are set in their traditional ways of farming so the thought of making changes especially an integrated approach can be difficult to grasp. Nevertheless, households are now more aware of what’s at stake and that they stand to gain more from adopting new ways of caring for the ecosystem rather than to continue on the same path and expect different results.
Through strengthened partnerships, ILAMS is set to work on building stronger relations and communications on all levels of governance to ensure shared learning and information along the way in working towards more resilient communities for Tonga.