Tonga Sustainable Water Management

The Kingdom of Tonga is experiencing changed rainfall patterns caused by El Niño (drought and increased rainfall) and faced severe tropical cyclones in the last 3 years. These climate change effects have a major impact on available water resources – particularly groundwater – and dependent farming activities. In late 2014 and subsequently in 2015 extreme droughts triggered and awareness amongst local farmers and exporters to consider the introduction of irrigation systems. The limited ground water resources of Tonga in relation to this situation has stimulated the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forest and Fisheries (MAFFF) to assess the impacts of climate change on the agricultural sector and to integrate irrigation into the Tonga Agriculture sector Plan (TASP) for the period of 2016 – 2020.

Water Partner and Special Envoy for Pacific SIDS, Mr Sjef Ijzermans and the ambassador met with the Minister of Agriculture, Food, Forest and Fisheries (MAFFF), Mr. Semisi T. Fakahau in May 2016. During the same visit Mr. Sjef IJzermans had a subsequent meeting with MAFFF staff and the CEO of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR). The MAFFF and MLNR agreed that there is an urgent need for a scoping study of the water resources and the agricultural irrigation systems.

In November 2016 the Netherlands Government sent our a Dutch Risk Reduction (DRR) Team to assess the water resources in relation to the impacts of climate change and the agricultural irrigation improvement requirements. Mr. Sjef IJzermans was assigned by the Netherlands Government to head this mission.

The mission report described the condition of the limited groundwater resources on Tongatapu and Éua islands; an assessment on prolonged effects of long droughts on water resources; recommendations on sustainable use of water resources; a review of existing irrigation practices and techniques for subsistence and commercial crop; recommendations on sustainable irrigation practices and techniques for subsistence and commercial crop farming; and an assessment of potential environmental impact of irrigation systems. This advice also included recommendations for international fund allocation and partnerships.

For more information, please contact: Sjef IJzermans