Tonga + 2 more

Belgium and US to finance FAO-led support to Tonga

Recovery activities will ensure improved food safety and security of communities impacted by Hunga Tonga – Hunga Ha’apai volcano eruption and tsunami

16/03/2022 Apia / Nuku'alofa

With financial support from the governments of Belgium and the United States of America, FAO is allocating a total of USD 700 000 to re-establish agriculture livelihoods for households affected by Hunga Tonga – Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption and tsunami. USD 400 000 was provided by the Government of Belgium under the Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities (SFERA), established in 2004 to enhance FAO’s capacity to rapidly respond to emergency situations. An additional USD 300 000 has been granted by U.S. Agency for International Development Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance to fund activities aimed at restarting or rehabilitating agriculture and its sub-sectors including fisheries by providing direct support to local farmers and fisherfolk. The work will be conducted in the context of ensuring Tonga's food safety through a better understanding of the longer-term impacts of ashfall.

Ms Xiangjun Yao, FAO’s Subregional Coordinator for the Pacific Islands commented: “In close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forests as well as the Ministry of Fisheries and other key partners, the planned interventions are carefully tailored to Tonga’s needs and context, including the current and evolving situation with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to initial damage assessments, 80 percent of crops were affected by the tsunami in some of the worst affected communities on Tongatapu, Ha’apai and ‘Eua. Thousands of square kilometres of crops and farms were damaged or destroyed by both the tsunami and ashfall. Livestock in tsunami affected areas have already been reported dead as a consequence of the Hunga Tonga – Hunga Ha’apai undersea volcano eruption and tsunami that took place on 15 January 2022. The newly funded activities come at an important time as Tonga communications have been restored, after 5 weeks of work on the undersea fibre optic cable 827 km which was damaged by the volcanic blast.

With its in-country presence and extensive experience in providing support against a range of shocks and disasters, FAO has been at the frontline of this response from the very beginning. Now, with the new funding, FAO plans to support around 3000 agricultural – including farming, livestock-raising and fishing – households, which represent a quarter of all subsistence agriculture households in the country. The planned interventions will focus on:

  • re-starting the crop production through land clearance support and provision of agriculture inputs,
  • protecting the remaining livestock with the provision of emergency veterinary treatment and farm supplies to improve livestock health and farm recovery,
  • restoring small-scale fishing activities and enabling small-scale fishing for nearshore pelagic fish.

The activities are based on the results of a series of initial assessments performed by the Government of Tonga along with FAO colleagues based in Tonga, Samoa, Bangkok and Rome that includes the documentation of the hazard impact, including through optical satellite imagery, especially on land cover changes from the tsunami, flooding and ash cover impact.

“FAO has been tirelessly collecting and reviewing information on agricultural production and previous emergency, and resilience assistance provided to Tonga is being examined to obtain a picture of what agricultural and fisheries activities were taking place before this twin disaster, so we may already consider what the likely needs are,” said Ms Kara Jenkinson, FAO Emergency and Resilience Coordinator for the Pacific.

The disaster situation has been further complicated by a rapid rise of community transmission of COVID-19. While the government is supporting the people most in need following the disasters, officials are also swiftly implementing measures to protect the health of Tongan citizens. As data collection and sharing continues, FAO stands ready to align its response and recovery activities as the understanding of damages and losses across the most affected areas further improves. Volcano activity, ash emission, weather conditions, and COVID-19 spread will continue to be monitored over the next few months to fully understand possible compounding impacts on the agriculture system and its livelihoods.

“Under the One-UN approach, we are gearing up to provide support so that people can get back on their feet as quickly and safely as possible,” added Kara. “We strongly believe that cooperation, partnership and information sharing will remain key to supporting the country in an efficient and effective way.”