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HM emphasizes need for “smarter” agriculture due to climate change

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 16/07/2019

Hundreds gathered at the Lea’aetohi Grounds in Ha’apai to welcome Their Majesties King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau’u along with members of the royal family, this morning, where His Majesty officially opened the Ha’apai Royal Agricultural Show for this year.

In his address, King Tupou VI first acknowledged the presence of God Almighty as well as acknowledging the members of nobilities, Cabinet Ministers, and other distinguished guests at the program.

His Majesty explained the theme for the 2019 Royal Agricultural Show – a Tongan proverb – “To’ukai mo hono lohu” is strongly connected to climate change, that affects us all today,

One of the needs for the agriculture sector today is a more diverse plantation and harvest to cater for the needs of the people.

His Majesty added despite the challenges and impacts of climate change, there are still opportunities from it such as more fruit trees exported to overseas countries.

The impact of climate change is a global issue and His Majesty said that Tonga is not the only victim of its effects but in the meantime Tonga should seek the opportunities that it could gain from it and such benefits will profit the families, villages, districts and the country.

During his Royal Address, His Majesty acknowledged Ha’apai’s sister city relationship with Dongguan, a province in China and said the relationship will enable more assistance available for Ha’apai such as more fishing boats, tractors and other forms of assistance that will help improve their standard of living.

With Ha’apai’s relationship with Donguang, the King said, Dongguan can carry out researches on Ha’apai’s fisheries sector especially on its seashores and findings will help the people in general.

The King added, the people should look at ways to increase the value of their fish on the local markets and should change their way of marketing to trade only fresh fish instead of frozen fish to the local restaurants and hotels as it will generate better income.

King said if the initiative is successful, the fresh fish from Ha’apai will be imported to overseas countries and more income will be collected compared to the income collected from the local market.

His Majesty said there will come a time where our people won’t need to migrate overseas because they will be able to get good jobs with good salaries in a higher standard of living, right here in Ha’apai.

With Tongatapu being the island with the highest rate of coconut cultivation and export, and Foa coming in second, similar to the cultivation of HIAPO, His Majesty said Imagine if we could focus our attention on the product that we can get good results from.

The king pointed out that our normal or usual traditional farming methods can be improved, in commercial farming the likes of “kava” or “hiapo”, at the beginning of the planting season, instead of simply planting yams which take longer, even up to the following year, before it can be harvested.

Ha’apai, of course, is famed for the talent of their women in making traditional fine Tongan mats such as a “fihu” mat made from white “kie”

His Majesty emphasized an important part of recognizing the threats of climate change is being wise in our agricultural practices.

Stating the similarities between Ha’apai and Thailand in having many small plantations, His Majesty said it’s possible to borrow agricultural practices from Thailand where fruit trees, root crops, and vegetables are planted together and animals are farmed including pigs, chicken, ducks and also fish.

This is the main livelihood of Thai farmers and growers where they get a good result from a property about half an acre.

In closing, the King re-emphasized the importance of being sensible and strategic in agriculture and fishing, and to have a diverse plantation in order to withstand the impacts of climate change while at the same time, keeping in mind that with change comes opportunity.

Responding to His Majesty’s Address was the number 1 nobles’ representative of Ha’apai to Parliament – Lord Tu’iha’angana, who re-emphasized the theme of this year’s show.

The program for the show then continued with entertainment and other displays despite the pouring rain.

© Radio and Television Tonga New