Tonga’s mangroves project led by community members

Source(s): Tonga - government

Working with communities is critical to ensure that climate resilience and disaster risk reduction programs we want implemented do work, Tonga’s Manu Manuofetau  said at the first  Pacific Resilience Meeting here in Suva this afternoon.

While presenting on Tonga’s measures on Nature Based Solutions as Adaptation Strategies for the Pacific Region, Manu stressed the importance of working with all members of the communities in implementing projects.

“If you do not involve the communities there is 80% certainty that it will fail,” Manu said.

Manu, the European Union/‘The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH’ (EU/GIZ) In-Country Coordinator at the Tonga Climate Change Department, presented on the ‘Coastal Protection Trials in Western Tongatapu’.

The three villages – Kolovai, ‘Ahau and Kanokupolu – are now the focus of the GIZ backed project being implemented by the Climate Change Department of the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC) in Tonga.

This project, which is trialling  the effectiveness of selected coastal protection measures in Western Tongatapu, is aligned with Tonga’s Joint National Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management (2010-2015) and the Drought Response Plan.

It also contributes to achieving the vision set out in Tonga’s Strategic Development Framework (2011-2015).

Detailed household surveys carried out for this project reveal that impacts are highly varied depending on location.

Major losses of mangrove forests in front of some villages, such as Kolovai and A’hau, have increased the exposure of households to flooding caused by storm surge.

The Government is now looking to rectify the situation. It is using the EU-GIZ ACSE project to implement practical measures to protect households from flooding and foster understanding and stewardship for the Hihifo coastline within the local community.

Manu said their challenge was convincing the communities in the three villages that are involved to accept the project.

“It was a challenge in the start because there was one project in the past that did not work out and the community members were not happy,” Manu said.

“So we kept meeting with them and shared what we were wanting to do and how that would reduce the risks they face.

“In the end they agreed to work with us and they are now running the project and when this is completed our communities will manage it.”

The project includes implementing both hard and soft approaches.

The hard approach has been the construction of seawalls and buffers to help stopping waves from getting to the allocated areas.

Then there is the replanting of mangroves to help in solving the erosion areas.

Manu said the project is an important one as all the three villages are disaster prone.

“This is a very important project,” he said.

“It is critical for the communities to have mangroves growing along the waterfront to stop sea water from getting inland and also stop soil erosion in these areas.

“At the same time this will ensure that marine resources are maintained for the continuing livelihood of local community members.”

Manu said poor town planning has resulted in marginal lands being subdivided for housing. Roads have also been built in these areas and mangroves cleared for firewood and cropping (now failed), unnecessarily exposing villagers further to storm surge impacts.

Part of the project is the construction of nurseries in Ahau and Kolovai.

Mangrove seedlings are now being nurtured at the nurseries with other local coastal plant seedlings.

The project is being supported with funding of Euro$530,000, which is equivalent to Tongan Pa’anga $1,590,000.

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