Vaini Research Station
Dr Viliami Manu
Niu Kafa Tall Tonga (NKF03)
The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean comprising 169 islands, 36 of them being inhabited, stretching over a distance of about 800 km (500 miles) in a north-south line. The islands lie south of Samoa, about one-third of the way from New Zealand to Hawaii.
Coconut is an important crop which has supported the livelihoods of the Tongan people for centuries. Lately, Tongan coconut farmers have been suffering from declining productivity and unstable markets of copra and coconut oil, where traditional products are derived from the coconut. Tongan farming systems are basically multi-storied, and agro-forestry based, with root and other crops commonly used as intercrops. The situation in Tonga is dominated by an almost complete disappearance of coconut industry, while coconut remains important in everyday life.
Tonga has a coconut germplasm collection that was started in 1999. Part of the collecting activity was carried out during Phase I of the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded project entitled ‘Collecting, conserving and characterizing coconut genetic resources in eight Asia Pacific countries’. The accessions collected came mainly
from the main island of Tongatapu (Taufatofua and Jayashree 2005). However, there is a need to explore and collect the coconut genetic resources of the other islands, particularly those in the north such as Vava’u, Ha’apai and the Niua Islands. To date, five ecotypes namely Niu Kafa, Niu Vai, Niu ‘Utongau, Niu Matakula and Niu Talokave, have been collected and characterized from Vava’u, Utongau and Ha’apai (Osborne 2005). Data collected have been submitted to COGENT and entered into the International Coconut Genetic Resources Database. These varieties have also been planted in the genebank in Vaini Research Station for conservation and further studies.
More info: Conserved coconut germplasm from Tonga (2.4MB)
Collaborative Activities between BIOVERSITY/COGENT and Tonga
1. Capacity Building
a) Technical assistance/expert advice
From 1994 to 2001, four specialists visited Tonga on four technical assistance missions including assessing the country’s coconut R&D capability and assist the national programme in identifying common problems and opportunities for network collaboration; evaluating the progress of the ADB Phase 1 projects and identifying projects for ADB Phase 2 and IFAD-funding; developing a cost and return analysis protocol for ongoing and future intercropping experiments and training local researchers to use the protocol; and documenting the country’s conserved coconut germplasm and farmers’ varieties.
b) Training and human resources development
From 1996 to 2001, three local coconut researchers have undergone staff development training sponsored by COGENT on topics such as farmer participatory research; computer use, documentation and data analysis; and coconut embryo culture techniques.
c) COGENT meetings/workshops
So far, no COGENT meetings or workshops have been held in the country.
2. Research Projects
A total of four projects have been completed in the country, with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry as the implementing agency.
3. Financial Support and Funding
Donor funding support for projects in Tonga amounts to US$60,200, mostly from ADB, APCC and IFAD; while national government counterpart financing amounts to US$24,500.