Tongan Landcare Workshop

In June, ALI members Horrie and Wendy Poussard went to the Kingdom of Tonga to carry out their final workshop for the Popua Landcare Group. Popua is a village on the edge of the capital, Nuku’alofa and last year decided to become the first Landcare group in Tonga.

Another ALI member, Bob Edgar, had started a home garden project in Popua in 2010, with Rotary funding, to encourage the growing of vegetables and fruit at the household level. Popua is a low lying village that juts out into a large lagoon connected to the sea. It is subject to storm surges and flooding. The project involved building raised garden beds, adding topsoil and building chicken sheds for each of 20 households.

Taro, papaya, citrus and sugarcane in a household garden in Tonga. Home gardens can provide fresh and nutritious food for the family in a country suffering from poor diets of high carbohydrates and fats.

Taro, papaya, citrus and sugarcane in a household garden.

In 2013, Bob and Horrie visited Popua and ran the first workshop for project participants, bringing local advisory officers to talk about growing vegetable and fruit plants, composting and the protection of the environment. The trip was funded by the Crawford Fund (www.crawfordfund.org) . Again this year, The Crawford Fund generously supported a follow up visit to assess the benefits of the project and provide an opportunity for concerns to be addressed with the second workshop.

Wendy carried out a household survey and documented the impact of the project on the individuals involved and on the community spirit. She found that on average, households saved $A30 per week by replacing market purchased fresh food with their own produce. They also felt that they were providing their family with healthier food, which is an important feature considering the growing incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease and strokes. Interestingly many also said that they welcomed the opportunity to work in their new gardens for health and confidence reasons.

Raising chickens for household  meat and eggs in Popua village, Kingdom of Tonga

Raising chickens for household meat and eggs

The workshop participants (households, village leaders) confirmed the findings of the household survey. Participants in the project had achieved good results, and were proud and happy with their achievements. They had produced fresh food for their families, saved money, learned new skills, and found new ways to work together.