20th October 2015 Last Friday 16th October is marked annually as the World Food Day. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food,
Forests and Fisheries (MAFFF) hosted a special program to celebrate the day at the MAFFF premises
at Ma’ufanga, Vuna road.
The guest of honour at the occasion was the Minister of Police and Acting Minister for MAFFF, Hon. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa and was attended by cabinet Ministers, member of Diplomatic Corps, members from the Eastern and Western District, Local Businesses and members of the public.
The theme to commemorate the day was: “Social Protection and Agriculture: breaking the cycle of rural poverty.”
Speaking at the Keynote Remark, Hon. Pohiva Tu’ionetoa announce that this is the 35th year of the World Food Day as commemorated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
It will also mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of FAO of the United Nations, where Tonga became a member in 1981.
He continues that the theme for this year’s day has been chosen to draw the global attention to the role that social protection plays in eradicating hunger and poverty when this is prioritized in National Development programmes.
As many countries throughout the world have implemented schemes for this purpose; it contributes to the overall reduction of the poverty gap, empowering the families and communities as well as securing of food for the families.
“I am glad to acknowledge that Tonga has recognized the importance of such programs for vulnerable groups in the societies and currently implemented the retirement scheme for old people and also for the disabled people in Tonga.
The social protection coverage has remained a privilege for a minority of the total population not only in Tonga but also world-wide,” he says.
The observance of the World Food Day in the past and as of today, has cast a light on the problems and its multi effects in which we can pave a sustainable path towards food and nutrition security.
That is why Hon. Tu’ionetoa emphasize that the over- arching issue here in Tonga is not hunger and poverty but the “too much food” which we need to be managed sustainably and to promote healthy eating and healthy lifestyles.
We heavily rely on easy life (which we were not used to in the past) and imported food-stuff which we know are not always safe and good for our health, but leading to NCDs (diabetes, hypertension, cardio-vascular problems); instead of growing our own crops and raising our livestock to supply food for our families; and that should save costs to meet our other obligations rather than spend on food alone.
He believes that if we make use of our belongings it will end the rural poverty and hunger and it’ll develop our livelihood.
“For the Tongan household, I think the social protection on agriculture is already provided for us Tongans to end rural poverty and hunger from the communities. We have our tax allotments inherited from our forefathers that we should plant and grow crops, raise livestock animals to secure food for the families.
Many allotments have been left idle and need to be rehabilitated/replenished to diversify agro-forestry and farming systems; this can supply the local needs of the local household.
This is even worse as observed in the outer islands; many have migrated and there are available land, which could be utilized for agricultural development. MAFFF should bear in mind this for possible programs to mobilize tree plantings.”
“With regards to poverty in Tonga there is little data available that allow for a comparison of data and in general, it refers to lack of access to basic services, lack of opportunities to participate in the socio-economic life of the community and lack of adequate resources to meet the daily living expenses and customary obligations,” said the Minister.
He acknowledge the need to work in partnership in the productive sectors of government and private sectors towards contributing to the improved sustainable livelihoods of the vulnerable ones in the farming communities of Tonga to strengthen the capacity of target communities towards ending the cycle of poverty.
It is important to note and for us to understand that when there are crisis/disasters or emergencies affect the whole of Tonga, the growers and producers with low level income will be the first to be affected.
During the program, the Eastern and Western communities and local businesses presented different kinds of food as the Guest of Honor and the invited guests take a tour around and enjoyed the varieties of food being presented.
Issued by the: Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications