World Food Day: Tonga taps tradition and the Pacific’s Tree of Life to feed communities and secure livelihoods

Suva

As the global community celebrates World Food Day 2021 on October 16 with the theme of “our actions are our future”, one project in Tonga is ensuring the future of local communities by building on the harvest of traditional food through youth.

The Youth Congress’ Future Organic Farms of Tonga programme supports a coconut processing project that employs youth and works with community members on the Tongan island of Ha’afeva to harvest and process a coconuts from what many Pacific cultures call the “Tree of Life”.  Young Tongan Samuela Katata’ofi, who works with the project says, “I see the work with coconuts as an important learning experience. Maybe one day in the future I will create a project similar to this one.” 

Siotame Drew Havea, Head of the Tonga National Youth Congress, says the coconut project is important for Tongans’ food security, food safety and food sovereignty. 

These three issues have been highlighted throughout the Pacific in 2021 in advance of the first worldwide Food Systems Summit, held by the UN in New York in September 2021. In the lead-up to the Summit, the Pacific, supported by SPC, held a series of food systems dialogues to open a wide-ranging holistic conversation on what the Pacific’s food systems need to ensure a healthy and secure food future for the region’s communities.  The Pacific had strong visibility at the global Summit, and based on the region’s priorities the SPC is currently developing a food systems programme that will help address the challenge of providing food and livelihoods for the region’s close to 13 million inhabitants.

With climate change, pandemics such as COVID-19 and ecosystem degradation still lapping at the Pacific’s shores and spreading throughout its hinterlands, it is vital on this World Food Day that Pacific peoples live the theme of “our actions are our future” with new energy and innovation to nourish all.  “We are all participants in the food system – farmers and fishers through to consumers,” says Karen Mapusua, Head of SPC’s Land Resources Division. “Our choices in the way we produce and consume food contribute to building the nourishing and sustainable food system we want.”

Tonga is showing that communities can go back – to tradition and knowledge – to secure their food system and nourish a thriving food future.  Experience Samu’s work and the Youth Congress coconut project below. 

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