New equipment to aid cyclone recovery efforts in Tonga

As part of efforts to help Tonga clean up in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Gita, chainsaws, safety equipment and chainsaw safety training are being provided to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Forests and Fisheries (MAFFF) by the Australia and New Zealand-funded Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Program.

Australia’s Deputy High Commissioner to Tonga, Rhona McPhee, left, presents the equipment to MAFFF CEO Viliami Manu. PC: Australia in Tonga/Facebook

Australia’s Deputy High Commissioner to Tonga, Rhona McPhee, handed over 2 chainsaws and safety equipment to the MAFFF CEO Viliami Manu this morning. Another 6 chainsaws will be supplied in the coming days.

After the cyclone, a needs assessment was carried out during which the MAFFF identified a need for chainsaws to assist in clearing the estimated 50,000 coconut trees which were damaged by Gita. In response to this request, PHAMA immediately procured 2 chainsaws and ordered another 6, as well as basic safety equipment including helmets and visors, safety glasses, ear protection muffs, gloves, trousers and gum boots. The program will also provide basic training for MAFFF staff in the safe operation of the chainsaws.

The equipment will be used to assist with the immediate clean-up of fallen trees and to eliminate possible breeding sites of coconut rhinoceros beetles which are detrimental to the growth of the coconut industry. The beetles breed in decaying palm logs or stumps, decomposing vegetation or sawdust, and other organic matter. Adult beetles damage coconut and other palms by boring into the center of the crown (or top) of the palm, where they injure young, growing tissue and feed on the sap. This damage can significantly reduce coconut production and kill the palms.

PHAMA has been working with stakeholders in Tonga to improve market access for agricultural and horticultural commodities such as watermelon, squash, root crops and other fresh produce. The program also supports capacity development of the public and private sectors to deliver effective market access support across a range of commodities.

Given the impact of the cyclone on agricultural production, infrastructure and livelihoods in Tonga, more discussions will take place between the MAFFF and Tonga’s Market Access Working Group to determine priorities for PHAMA to further support recovery efforts.

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