Accelerating Transformative Change in Nutrition-Sensitive Value Chains in Pacific Islands

Driven by a wish to share knowledge and experiences and forge new alliances, the second Innov4AgPacific project Learning Journey took place in the Kingdom of Tonga in December 2018. It was designed to foster cross-learning and build partnerships for accelerating transformative change in support of ‘nutrition sensitive’ value chain development in Pacific Island States. Several good practices had been identified in the Kingdom, where the non-communicable disease (NCD) crisis is highest and the government and its partners have enunciated national policies and demonstrated their commitment to joint action through various programmes.

The journey took place in the last month of an extremely tough year for Tongan farmers, fishermen, local processors and exporters. Tonga’s agriculture and fisheries sectors were devastated by the Category 4 Severe Tropical Cyclone Gita, which struck the country in February 2018. During the field trips, participants saw first-hand how Tongan farmers, entrepreneurs and NGOs were dealing with these challenges and taking advantage of the opportunities to rebuild and working together to grow their business and in partnership with the government.


Confronting the reasons why Tongans (and other Pacific Islanders) eat imported foods

Value chain development may enhance accessibility to local nutritious foods and improve farmers’ livelihoods, but development also needs to be geared towards improving convenience and enhancing convenience and taste to address consumer preferences that make imported foods so popular. – Tonga’s CEO of Health, Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola

The 30 plus representatives of various producer/farmer/exporter/community-based organisations, small and medium-sized processing enterprises, financial institutions and government ministries from the Innov4AgPacific Project’s seven target countries (Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu) engaged in a transformational opportunity, which not only included field visits to farms, and HACCP certified export facilities, but allowed them to participate in the finals of the 2018 Pacific Agri-Hack Lab as well as a policy round table to validate the Tonga national action plan and review the four regional action plans. They improved their knowledge and learned from good practices, as well as strengthened and built new national and regional alliances in support of value chain development in Pacific Island States.


I’ve come to realise that agriculture plays a very big part in our economy and that some of our practices are inefficient. That’s where ICT comes in because it can make these processes more efficient. I’ve learnt about the big problem of NCDs and how agriculture can help tackle this. In the Solomon Islands, we also import a lot like Tonga. Coming here to learn about value chains and agriculture, I can go back and implement something that will really help our country and do something that can change lives. – Watson Anikwai, Malaita Youth in Business Association, Solomon Islands

This report provides valuable insights into:

  • The eight farms and processing facilities visited included the MORDI Tonga Trust plant nurseries; the Wharf Export Processing Facility of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Forests and Fisheries (MAFFF) which makes their plant accessible to small producers; The Pacific Sunrise Fishing and the South Pacific Mozuku (seaweed) which export seafood to international markets. The delegates saw firsthand Tonga’s: agriculture, fisheries, health and ICT sectors; approach to enterprise development, building community resilience, and enhancing market access as well as government policy on import substitution, nutrition and NCDs, ICT and gender and balancing cultural and commercial aspects
  • Interviews on what the delegates learned and their testimonials which provide insights from regional value chain stakeholders such as farmers, (young) entrepreneurs, government officials, nutritionists, young ICT tech savvy professionals
  • Success stories in Tonga such as women in farming and ICTs and finding solutions to Tonga’s NCD crisis.

Good practices from Tonga’s private and public sectors:

  • Most takeaway restaurants in Tonga serve their meals with root crops, such as boiled cassava, taro or kumara chips. Several have removed French fries from their menus.
  • MAFFF with the support of FAO imported 100 goats and 50 sheep from Fiji in November 2018 to boost local livestock so that food outlets will have choices between buying local lean meat and imported meats
  • Many restaurants and cafes offer chilled coconuts and homemade fruit juice as an alternative to soft drinks.
  • Tonga’s biggest bakery (Cowley’s Bakery) is cooperating with MORDI Tonga Trust in a project that seeks to substitute imported bread flour with locally made breadfruit/cassava flour.
  • Most restaurants serve vegetarian meals and some takeaways combine all of their meals with salads.

Engaging the private sector especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) including farmers/fishers is seen as an innovative and practical solution for addressing the region’s acute food and nutrition-related challenges. And so too, the adoption of a bottom-up community-based approach that links local action with policy reform and ensures increased income and improved nutrition outcomes. Building capacity for change is therefore key if farmers, SMEs and communities are to be empowered, become increasingly resilient and self-reliant, and own the value chain development process for sustainable impact post interventions.


Read the report by following the link below! Learn from the Kingdom of Tonga!!!!

A Learning Journey to the Kingdom of Tonga

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