Tongan tropical fruit production - improving genetic diversity and production capacity building
ACIAR Research Program Manager
Tonga wishes to improve the domestic supply of tropical fruits at a subsistence and local trade level, with longer-term potential for export income. An earlier feasibility study (HORT/2006/108) found significant scope to increase the production of the Tongan fruit industry and thus increase household income levels, with opportunities for import replacement, growth of the existing domestic market and, in the longer term, Pacific Inter-island trade, export to New Zealand, Australia and other regional markets. This project aims to increase the production, productivity and technical capacity of the Tongan tropical fruits industry with an emphasis on the local market. Activities include introduction of new improved cultivars of tropical fruits both from repositories and collections currently in the country and from a range of new tropical fruit species from Australia. This will take place along with development of production packages and improvements in the capacity of Tongans to propagate, produce, harvest, package and market fruit.
Progress Reports (Year 1, 2, 3 etc)
This project was developed in response to interest from the Tongan government in improving the domestic supply of tropical fruits at a subsistence and local trade level with some longer term potential for export income. In addition, a feasibility study conducted by ACIAR (HORT/2006/108) of tropical fruit production in Tonga found that there was significant scope to increase fruit production and to increase household income levels. Fruit production can be improved in a number of different ways, namely introducing new fruit species and/or varieties, replacing fruit imports where appropriate, and exporting fruit, where good markets are identified. To this end, the project aims to increase the production, productivity and technical capacity of the Tongan tropical fruits industry with an emphasis on the local market.
The project has made significant progress since its inception, less than 12 months ago. The two staff funded by the project have been in position since late 2008/early 2009, within the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFFF), and also at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) within the Information, Communication and Extension team of the Land Resources Division (LRD). The project has also benefited significantly from the extensive knowledge and infectious enthusiasm of the project resource person, Roger Goebel.
A planning workshop was held in September 2008, which aimed at identifying key players in the project, assigning responsibilities, and discussing and finalizing the key activities. Representation came from the public (Agriculture, Forestry, Youth, Women and Food Division) and private sectors. At the workshop presentations were given by MAFFF, SPC, Roger Goebel and others, for example, the Ma'alahi Youth project. On the second day of the project, the project objectives were discussed in working groups, which were then presented and further discussed on the third day of the workshop. The planning workshop proved invaluable in adding clarity to the project document and provided the project team with an opportunity to identify the key issues.
The project team (Roger Goebel, Stephen Hazelman and Mary Taylor) held further meetings after the planning workshop with Agriculture, Forestry, Women and Food, and the Ma'alahi Youth project to fine tune activities planned for the project. Roger Goebel remained in Tonga slightly longer to determine as much as was possible from that first visit, in particular, the fruit diversity currently existing in Tonga and the training needs.
About three months later (December 2008), Roger Goebel visited Tonga to build on the information gained from that first visit, with regards to fruit diversity and training needs, to conduct some preliminary training, to identify what new diversity might be required, to assist in project planning with new staff and to identify possible information packages for the project. This visit also took in the islands of Vavau and 'Eua, as well as Tongatapu.
In March 2009 a study tour to North Queensland was organized by Roger Goebel and attended by a 4-person project team; Mary Taylor participated but not for the full extent of the study tour. The aim of the study tour was largely familiarization with the fruit industry, in particular, the fruits themselves, nursery practices, and nursery enterprises. The study tour was planned so that it coincided with the "Feast of the Senses" - a spectacular festival held in Innisfail, which celebrates and promotes local tropical fruits.
Two nurseries in Tonga have been identified for use by the project - Tokomololo Forestry Nursery for seedling production and Vaini Research Station Nursery for trials/ demon-stration plots - and both have undergone significant renovation. Vaini is the location of the original nursery, although most of the trees at this site are now within Nobele Ma'afu's land. Thirty-five fruit species were identified at Vaini. Of these 35, 18 were selected to provide propagating material. In December, seeds of 12 different species were imported from North Queensland for establishment at the Tokomololo nursery. As of March 2009, the nursery at Tokomololo holds 40 fruit species, with a stock of 9,733 seedlings/plants.
This project was developed in response to interest from the Tongan government in improving the domestic supply of tropical fruits at the subsistence and local trade level with some longer term potential for export income. In addition, a feasibility study conducted by ACIAR (HORT/2006/108) of tropical fruit production in Tonga found that there was significant scope to increase fruit production in Tonga, and to increase household income levels. Fruit production can be improved in Tonga in a number of different ways, namely introducing new fruit species and/or varieties, replacing fruit imports where appropriate, and exporting fruit, where good markets are identified. To this end, the project aims to increase the production, productivity and technical capacity of the Tongan tropical fruits industry with an emphasis on the local market.
The project has made significant progress in all project activities since the last annual report (2009). The outreach of the project is particularly worth noting: participation and support for the project extends from farmers, women's groups, and schools to His Royal Highness, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, and across the island group.
The project leader (Mary Taylor) and the project horticulturist (Roger Goebel) held a meeting with the Permanent Secretary and the project team in August 2009 to evaluate the progress made by the project to date, and identify any areas that required attention. The main areas addressed were priority species and coordination of the project. The priority species identified were Artocarpus altilis (breadfruit), Citrus latifolia (Tahitian lime), Citrus aurantifolia (Mexican lime), Litchi chinensis (lychee) and Carica papaya (papaya). Because of the large number of components in the project, the need for a coordinator was agreed, with Ms Luseane Taufa identified as the best person for this position. The meeting also discussed quarantine procedures, the roles of the two nurseries, seed collection and promotional events, such as World Food Day.
Tokomololo and Vaini Nurseries continue to expand. Tokomololo nursery now holds some 15,000 seedlings, covering 40 species, which includes all eight breadfruit varieties. Its accessibility makes it the main supplier of trees to the public. Vaini nursery now holds about 7,000 seedlings covering 15 species. The focus of this nursery is research and the provision of propagating materials, mainly seeds. There is a proposal to supply the seedlings for Niuatoputapu, as part of the Tsunami Rehabilitation project. Seeds have also been sent to the outer islands (Vava'u, Ha'pai and 'Eua). All three islands have reported success, with Vava'u having planted out some 50 species.
During this reporting period some eight species were imported from Australia, mainly as seeds, cuttings and grafted trees. Decisions on what species to import were made in close consultation with Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFFF) and have been based on a number of considerations. Different species of the Citrus genus have been imported based on the performance of other species of that genus in Tonga. Rambutan lappaceum (red and yellow) have been imported based on their success in Samoa. As the project is promoting backyard/home garden planting, more unique and interesting smaller sized trees, such as Punica granatum (pomegranate) and Synesepalum dulcifium (miracle fruit) were also imported.
Training has been carried out by the project horticulturist, Roger Goebel, at each visit (August 2009, February 2010). These trainings focused on the project staff, and covered grafting, budding and marcotting of a number of trees, namely citrus, mango, carambola, and lychee. Training also included seed propagation and general nursery management. The project staff conducted general training in grafting and marcotting at two schools with Form 6 students. These same students also visited the nurseries, thereby increasing their understanding of fruit tree production.
To date two posters have been produced, five fact sheets for the priority fruits and one leaflet on the multi-grafted 'fruit salad tree', which was a highlight of World Food Day. The nutritional information. The fact sheets which cover breadfruit, Tahitian lime, Mexican lime, lychees and papaya, attempt to provide the reader with key information about the fruit, such as nutritional value, common propagation method, and pest and disease problems
Several activities have targeted awareness. The key event of the year was World Food Day where the project had an exhibition booth and distributed 1000 seedlings. The project, at the request of His Royal Highness, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, imported two citrus multi-graft fruit salad trees, which the Minister wanted to use to highlight both the importance of fruit and the concept of unity. A banner was specially prepared for this event (in Tongan and English). A TV programme which showcases the project, its goals and nursery supplies has been broadcasted three times, the impact of which is evident by the increase in the number of people, especially women, visiting the nursery the day after the programme is shown. The project is involved in another TV programme shown every fortnight with the MAFFF Food and Women Division, and is also highlighted during the radio programme broadcasted by the MAFFF Information Section.
Five demonstration plots have been established in collaboration with local farmers, who are provided with planting material at no cost and also given technical advice, whenever needed. The farmers were selected after evaluation by the project team and a visit to their farms. One of the farms in the Central District is owned by a poultry farmer (Sunrise Poultry). One demonstration plot has been established beside the Tongan Methodist Theological School, mainly for backyard planting demonstration. Trial plots are now in existence at Tokomololo, where fruit trees are intercropped with garden root crops and ornamentals. The combination of fruits and crops aims to show the farmers how careful selecting of crops and varieties can provide produce all year round, and also assist with better nursery management practices.
During the period August-November 2009, the project team carried out a survey of fruit tree species on Tongatapu, involving 64 villages from the Eastern district, 44 from Central district and 30 from the Western district in the random survey. The aim of the survey was to determine the population and distribution of fruit tree species on the island. A minor survey on the local marketing of fruit has shown the lack of continuity of fruits for sale at the market, unlike vegetables. More detailed market analysis is being undertaken as research projects by two final year Diploma in Agriculture students under the supervision of Luseane Taufa.
There are no project locations defined for this project.