Farmer Field School in Tonga continues to break new ground in the Pacific for training young farmers

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Farmer Field School in Tonga continues to break new ground in the Pacific for training young farmers

‘Eua Island, 26 September 2016 – More than 20 farmers from ‘Eua Island in Tonga recently graduated from a Farmer Field School –in the Pacific to teach young farmers how to grow and sell more food with certified training.  

Spending an entire season together, with the field as their classroom, participants exchanged knowledge and expertise while being provided with the tools they needed to analyse and identify ways to improve their farming techniques. Each graduate earned a certificate in horticulture.

“Before, I just planted cassava, taro and kumala. Now when I plant vegetables with the new techniques I have learned, my income has doubled and I am very happy. There is a huge demand for fresh vegetables by tourists who came to ‘Eua during the whale watching season,” said Mosati Mau, 36, from Ha’atua Village in ‘Eua, who participated in the training.

The Farmer Field School approach to learning, popular in many parts of the world for more than two decades, is a new idea in Tonga and in the Pacific region more broadly. The ‘Eua Island Farmer Field School is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) as part of the first phase of the US$4 million Tonga Rural Innovation Project, which will be completed in 2017. IFAD has earmarked another $11 million for phase 2 of the project, which aims to reach more than 60 rural communities in Tonga.

“Boosting investments in smallholder agriculture through the promotion of farmer field schools is essential to Tonga’s efforts for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of ending poverty and hunger by 2030,” said IFAD Sub-regional Coordinator, Sakiusa Tubuna, in his opening remarks at the field school graduation.

“Smallholder farmers feed Tongan families, they enhance the cultural and social network support, they preserve land and biodiversity, fight against climate change, they create jobs and prosperity, they contribute to stable and just societies and, most importantly, eradicate the root causes that push more people to emigrate to urban areas,” he added.

A Farmer Field School is a form of adult education based on the concept that farmers learn best from field observation and practical experimentation. One of the main practical training techniques is a demonstration plot that serves as a ‘classroom’ for testing new methods under similar conditions to the farmers’ own plots. In some cases, a control plot is also established to compare the new practices with the traditional ones. Farmers have the opportunity to learn by doing and exchange local and new technologies that many choose to replicate and share beyond their Farmer Field School circle.

In Tonga, this initiative is implemented in partnership with Nishi Trading, the Tonga Institute of Higher Education, the New Zealand and Australian Government, ‘Eua communities and the MORDI Tonga Trust.

Press release No.: IFAD/58/2016

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided about US$17.6 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached some 459 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub.