Thursday, January 18th, 2018
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE
Being the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forests for the coming four years (2018 – 2022), my vision and priorities are to pursue development activities that would maximise the contribution of the agriculture sector towards sustainable economic growth and food security. In fact, these will not be easy to achieve in the face of a changing world economy, looming climate change, and natural disasters in the world, in particular the Pacific including Tonga. However, the way forward in addressing these in practice will be to focus the work of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forests (MAFF) on the implementation of the Tonga Agriculture Sector Plan 2016-2020 (TASP), which has four work programmes to be implemented namely,
At present, MAFF is working closely with development partners that provide technical and financial assistance to facilitate the TASP implementation process.
Another factor that comes to play here is the need to strengthen the human resource capacity of MAFF to be able to cater for the ever-growing demand from the agriculture sector for MAFF to address the numerous challenges the sector is facing, including the need for increased and sustained agriculture production, for which domestic and international markets exist, respond to opportunities through astute investments, whilst at the same time recognizing the importance of farm diversity, food-self-sufficiency, and the need to prepare for a more uncertain future, promote the increase of the productivity, resilience, sustainability and diversity of the agriculture systems in Tonga, support the increased production, diversity, quality and safety of local healthy foods for the people of Tonga and promote the improvements of the quality, diversity and volume of agricultural products for exports from Tonga.
Accordingly, MAFF is taking advantage of the abundant availability of unemployed young university graduates with recognised qualification in various areas related to tropical agriculture development, scientific research and management, to recruit staff to fill established positions and others to work as daily paid staff.
Regarding export of agricultural products, MAFF aims to increase the number of households that are directly involved in commercial farming ten-fold in the coming four years, from the current 89 households in commercial crops, 329 households in commercial livestock and 266 households in commercial handicraft making. In fact, the total number households in Tonga that are involved in agriculture and fisheries as their main form of livelihoods is around 18,043, with about 89% of these households are actually active in subsistence farming for food, cultural crops and some cash crops. This will help increase the total value of annual agriculture export significantly in the coming four years from TOP $15.2 million in 2016 consisting of TOP $3.7 million for squash, TOP $2.9 million for root crops, TOP$0.2 million for vanilla and TOP $8.4 million for other agricultural products. This will also help reduce the total annual value of imported food significantly, which was TOP $133.5 million in 2016
Furthermore, the impact of global warming, climate change and the rising sea level in agricultural production, and the utilization of the agricultural natural resources will increase exponentially, and the global temperature is projected to increase by 1oC in the next 5 years, and climate change will increase the frequency of El nino and La nina events, cyclones, drought and occurrence of special weather events. MAFF will effectively address these by applying climate resilient agricultural systems that will lessen these impacts on food security and economic growth.
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