A tour of Tonga’s horticulture industry to transform Pacific agri-food value chains

A delegation of about 25 farmers, processors, exporters and key experts from seven Pacific Island countries, toured various horticultural enterprises on Tongatapu in the Kingdom of Tonga on 3 December where they observed local practices and listened to the aspirations of Tongan agripreneurs.

The tour was part of the “Innov4AgPacific Learning Journey”, an information and knowledge exchange event organised by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in collaboration with the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) and MORDI Tonga Trust.

Delegates came from Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. Two CTA officials from The Netherlands accompanied the delegation.

During the tour, they visited a range of horticultural sites including intercropping of taro, plantain and kava promoted by the Growers Federation of Tonga (GroFed), plantations grown by inmates at Hu’atolitoli prison; an irrigated Taro field at the Tinopai Coconut Farm; a papaya plantation grown by women; the processing plant of a prominent Tongan exporter Nishi Trading Co Ltd; and a nursery run by MORDI Tonga Trust – a community support group funded by IFAD.

MORDI TT nursery which supplies Tongan farmers with different kind of seedlings reaching also farmers on the outer islands.
Minoru Nishi, Managing Director, Nishi Trading showing the currently being tested mulching system.

One participant from Vanuatu, Obed Tui Matariki of Timakata & Associates, and winner of the CTA/IFAD/PIPSO Innov4AgPacific Innovation Grant Facility (IGF) for Pacific SMEs said the trip provided an invaluable experience to learn from other countries.

“We are very grateful to the CTA, IFAD and the other partners for bringing us over. It’s an awesome opportunity to network and share knowledge with other farmers and SMEs and to see first-hand what they’re doing.”

“This cross-learning journey gives you a comprehensive scope of I guess the whole value chain from the farm to the pack houses, to inspect the export facility and how it is done, which is what we are looking to do for Vanuatu.”

Obed Tui Matariki interacting with a representative of the Growers Federation of Tonga.

Another participant from Fiji, Jiu Daunivalu, Chief Executive Officer, of the Fiji Crop and Livestock Council, said that the trip gave her the chance to make comparisons.

“Most of the time we are in Fiji, but when we get out we can analyse the differences. There are lessons to be learned. For me as a Fijian, it’s the first time to see Pacific Islands harvesting potatoes so successfully and to know they are being grown in Tonga.”

The delegation was particularly impressed by a group called “Women in Horticulture and Tourism” – operated by three retired women who grow, reap and sell taro and papaya for specific markets including the hospitality industry.

Samoan turmeric beverage processor, Etu Tusitala, another Innov4AgPacific IGF winner, praised the women.

“It’s very inspiring. It’s so good for the young people to understand that there are business opportunities and not only men can be involved.”

Women in Agriculture group in front of their field.

At the same time, delegates also exchanged their own ideas and pointed out areas of improvement.

Fa’afetai Fata, a farmer noted that there were not many bananas growing on Tongan plantations compared to Samoa. He suggested that Tongan banana growers adopt the rapid macro propagation scheme to increase their harvest.

“It’s a technique from Africa, Samoa is using it so you can multiply a lot of bananas in one year you can get thousands of bananas”, said Fa’afetai.

The four-day Innov4agpacific Learning Journey will conclude on 6 December. By this time partnerships will be strengthened for accelerating transformative change in support of “nutrition-sensitive” value chain development in the Pacific Island States.

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