Tonga records significant drop in acceptable food consumption in rural areas

Tonga recorded a significant decrease of acceptable food consumption in the rural compared to the urban areas, since COVID-19 began.

This was highlighted in the World Food Programme Mobile Vulnerability Analysis Mapping.

The results showed that 71% of rural households considered to have acceptable food consumption in November, compared to 85% in urban areas.

Rural areas also had the highest micro-nutritional deficiencies: 32% low for Vitamin A, 37% for Haem Iron (9% of which reported no consumption at all) and 24% low protein intake, with 1% reporting no protein intake at all.

According to the report, “November reported food consumption deteriorating both for urban and rural households, though rural households fared significantly worse. For rural households, acceptable levels of consumption were 84% in September, 100% in October and 85% in November, whereas for urban households the decline in acceptable levels were less pronounced but significant, with 87% in September, 100% in October and 85% in November.”

“Borderline food consumption was reported 14% in November for urban households compared to rural households (25%) however in September 12% of urban households had poor food consumption. As consumption deteriorated, rural households reported the highest risks of macro and micro-nutritional deficiencies. Rural households recorded 75% regular protein in November (compared to 84% for urban). Rural households’ iron intake was similar to urban in October, but intake declined in November to 39% with 9% consumption and 30% reporting low intake of Haem iron.”

Tonga is reported to be one of the most at-risk nations to the effects of climate change that affects land production.

The report stated that “We have seen La Nina demonstrate that with heavy precipitation periods even exceeding predicted season for the phenomenon. The global pandemic has also created stressors on rural households whose livelihoods are based on agriculture and fisheries. By in large the work carried out by MORDI Tonga has been to build social protection against these shocks.”

WFP also said that MORDI Tonga funded through IFAD and working alongside many other working partners, looks at strengthening and increasing resilience of economic livelihoods based on climate smart agricultural production systems and agroforestry-based handicrafts.

“Most importantly to note are works under this component at an output level are to improve practices for increased climate resilience of agroforestry systems on households’ tax allotments and homestead gardens that target men, women, youth and the disabled.”

The vulnerabilities of communities are greatly different due to geographical dispersal of the Tongan islands and its geological characteristics.

However, the underlying issues of food insecurity draws back to affordable agricultural input for rural households.

“MORDI Tonga in TRIP II phase has dispersed multitudes of vegetable seedlings for women’s homestead gardens (including open pollinated seeds that allows them to regrow from seeds), new varieties of cultivars to tax allotments that are climate and pest resilient and have shorter harvest cycles such as the Peruvian Manioch that is ready to harvest in 3 months and preserves much better than the traditional varieties. There have been many training with these participants that involves building capacity around food systems and climate smart agriculture and it’s connectedness to conservation of the environment and sustainability.”

“By increasing the community’s access to food – the long-term benefit would be the chances to react adversely to any shocks be it climatic or economic, will be minimal.”

The WFP report also highlights nutritional issues that have long plagued the Tongan isles. As one of the countries to have had struggled with nutrition related diseases such as cardio vascular and Non-Communicable Diseases, it is essential that access to nutritional foods at household levels is fortified.