One of the first challenges is assessing the possible impact that ashfall and covering tsunami damage could have on agriculture and fisheries. ©New Zealand Defense

Tonga volcanic eruption: what possible impact on agriculture and fisheries?


FAO is gearing up to respond as needed, based on its experience with previous disasters in Tonga and elsewhere.

With the full picture of damage and needs after Tonga’s massive volcanic eruption and tsunami only gradually emerging, what is already clear is that the stakes could not be higher for the farmers and fishers of the South Pacific island nation, living in one of the world’s most disaster-prone regions. 

With roughly 86 percent of Tongans engaged in agriculture, FAO is extremely concerned about the potential impacts across all agriculture sectors, including fisheries, crops and livestock, even though information is limited, with communications and access remaining severely affected. Initial estimates are that roughly 12 000 agricultural households or 85 percent of the total number, will have been affected by this disaster, according to Xiangjun Yao, FAO Subregional Coordinator for the Pacific Islands, based in Samoa.

“We’re working to assess how bad the impact of this disaster will be on Tonga’s farmers and fishers and all those who depend on forms of agriculture for their livelihoods and food security,” Yao said. “We have been providing support in Tonga after a series of shocks in recent years, of which this is by far the most serious and we are ready to ramp up our work to help these vulnerable communities get back on their feet.