Tonga’s annual agricultural shows are an important showcase for people involved in the farming sector. The shows are organised by Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forests and Fisheries and well attended by the public, smallholder farmers, business leaders, civil society organisations and the royal family.
For the first time, Oxfam’s partner in Tonga, the Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC) recently entered shows on all of Tonga’s main islands, to raise the profile of organic farming. TNYC steer and support smallholder farmers on each of the islands through the organic certification process. Farmers seek organic certification because organic products carry a certain cachet that adds value to their produce. They also view organic farming techniques as a less harmful, more sustainable means of looking after their most important asset, the land.
HM King Tupou VI inspects the produce at the 'Eua show
The TNYC group on the remote Nuiatoputapu island kick-started the show season with displays on root crops and local handicrafts. Piula Maea, TNYC field officer for Niuatoputapu, said that his smallholders were well prepped for the show because they have established monthly sessions where growers can discuss any problems they are having with growing their root crops or making their handicrafts.
TNYC's products on dislay at Vava'u agricultural show
The Vava’u branch used their island’s show as an opportunity to funraise, selling trays of seedlings, pandanus, vegetables and native trees from their organically certified green house and oils from five of their virgin coconut oil sites. Akosita Tu’a, the Vava’u Office Manager, said there is always a high demand from local people for trays of vegetables that are ready to be planted.
‘Eua Youth Office’s show emphasised biodiversity and organic agriculture as a conversation method and Ha’apai’s also had an environmental theme, reflecting the island’s commitment to the vision of the Ha’apai Green Growth Plan, that the whole island gains organic certification within three years.
TNYC took home a number of prizes, including the second prize for best labelling and packaging on their Buy Tonga Made products, and third prize for innovative products.