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Tonga needs TOP$32.5m to implement its five year agriculture sector plan

Tonga needs TOP$32.5m to implement its five year agriculture sector plan

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by July 22, 2016 Regional News

Tonga’s proposed five year agriculture sector roadmap for 2016-2020 will need TOP$32.5 million (US$14.7 million) to implement the plan, it was revealed at the public consultation and technical meeting held in Nuku’alofa Wednesday.

Included in the meeting were a number of donors and development partners that the Government of Tonga was keen to engage as possible funders for the agriculture roadmap.[restrict]

The acting Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (MAFF), Dr Viliami Kami is confident that donors will come on board and support the proposed activities and projects in the plan.

“We already have some positive commitments, International Fund for Agricultural Development (FAD) has come in to support us with the climate resilient component of the plan. World Bank is trying to assist us to access other funding opportunities. We will discuss and promote our agriculture sector plan with diplomatic missions in Tonga. There are also other funding bodies that we have not accessed yet, Dr Kami told PACNEWS here in Nuku’alofa.

He said the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agriculture Growth Committee, the group overseeing the plan and its implementation, will promote activities in the plan to secure funding.

“We have seen the value of the public-private sector partnership in the formulation of the plan. If it wasn’t for the private sector, we would not be where we are now. We have committed people from the private sector that are drivers of the plan and are actively engaged in the process.

At the same time, the national government needs to have the political will to prioritise and allocate more resources to agriculture.

Currently, only 1.6 percent of the overall national budget goes to the agriculture sector.

“There should be more commitment from government. In our strategic development goals, agriculture features prominently as one of the three economic sectors, the others being fisheries and tourism. When it comes to the allocation of budget, it does not reflect that.

“We have made known to the Prime Minister agriculture is always at the top in terms of our economic priorities but when it comes to talking with the donors, it drops down in terms of priorities, said Dr Kami.

However he is optimistic the new agriculture sector roadmap, which was formulated after 16 months of consultations, will attract donor support.

One of the donors that is ready to commit support and funding is IFAD. Its sub-regional co-ordinator for the Pacific Islands, Sakiusa Tubuna told PACNEWS IFAD will not hesitate to support Tonga’s Agriculture Sector Plan because of the ‘inclusiveness’ of the plan to include all the stakeholders in the agriculture industry.

“The plan is one of the best in the Pacific because it took into account the views of the farmers, the processers, the middlemen, the exporters and everyone involved in the industry. It was a more inclusive process identifying the priorities that are there in the value chain.

“Most of the time, from my experience in government, the plan is formulated by government and taken to the farmers and stakeholders to rubber stamp it. For Tonga, the process was different. The team visited all the islands and gathered the views of everyone involved in agriculture including women, youth and other marginalised groups. They all have a role to play in Tonga’s agriculture roadmap, said Tubuna.

“We have earmarked $4-$5 million towards the sector plan. We are interested in the climate resilient programme that hopes to develop climate resilient communities.

“There’s a lot that other countries to learn from the experiences of Tonga. We are trying to encourage other Pacific countries to see the model in Tonga where communities are empowered to be involved in the national development process.

“There are a lot of great ideas in the agriculture sector plan and I’m sure the Tongan Government through MAFF will not have any problems getting the funds, said Tubuna.

The five year plan has four key targeted programmes to deal with climate resilient environment, provide an enabling environment, sustainable livelihoods and health foods and sustainable growth and foreign exchange earnings. SOURCE: PACNEWS [/restrict]

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