Sawmill operation training to aid in rebuilding of homes

Fallen and damaged trees that were left scattered around parts of Tonga after Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Gita will soon be used to rebuild homes and aid recovery efforts.

This week, 32 representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests (MAFF), Latter Day Saints (LDS) Church, Tonga National Youth Congress, Tupou College and Mainstreaming of Rural Development Innovation (MORDI) Tonga Trust attended several training sessions on the safe operation of a portable sawmill.

Hands on … Men and women participate in a practical session of the portable sawmill operation training. PC: MORDI

The training was supported by the Australian and New Zealand-funded Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Program which also supplied a high-quality portable sawmill, chainsaws and safety equipment. PHAMA also organised for Lindsay Vutilolo, a level 5-certified trainer based in Australia, to deliver the training.

MORDI general manager Soane Patolo said the training had helped initiate several positive opportunities.

“Good things have come out of the training. It has provided capacity building for the participants. It has helped us to maximise the use of the fallen trees with little to no waste and it has also helped connect people and build a network among portable sawmill operators who will now work together as part of the joint response team instead of as individuals,” he said.

Mr Patolo said the trainer had also taught participants the different approaches to cutting different types of trees.

“The trainer organised classroom and practical sessions and there were sessions where the participants had to operate the sawmill on their own. They were taught the art of cutting timber so that there’s minimal to no waste. The timber will go towards the reconstruction of homes,” he said.

Tupou College staff had purchased a similar portable mill in 2016 and took the opportunity for a re-fresher course. Lucas Mills also generously provided servicing and spare parts for the College sawmill. MAFF and LDS will soon be purchasing portable sawmills to assist with TC Gita recovery and better utilisation of local sources of timber. The sawmill purchased by the PHAMA Program will now be used by MORDI as part of their ongoing disaster response activities on ‘Eua Island.

The 32 participants were today presented with certificates in recognition of their completion of the training.

For further information, contact Paula Mosa’ati at or on +676 28128

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