Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Empowering communities in Tonga

By Mona Ainu'u - Niue Broadcasting Corporation

Apia, Samoa - The lessons learnt from community empowerment projects in Tonga to address climate change and disaster preparedness were shared during the “Lessons learnt for future action” conference in Samoa this week.

The Tonga Community Development Trust is an indigenous, non-governmental development organisation in Tonga established 30 years ago. The Trust has several community projects in place that focus on climate change and disaster preparedness.

One is the “Community Empowerment and Climate Change Adaptation” to empower coastal communities in Lifuka and Foa Islands in Ha’apai so they can better adapt to the negative impacts of climate change.

The other is the “Coping communities and disaster preparedness” to increase resilience of communities in encountering future natural disasters through the adoption of traditional coping mechanisms in Neiafu, Vava’u and Hihifo of the Ha’apai Islands.

Sione Fakao’si the Executive Director,  Tonga Community Development Trust

“Tonga Community Development Trust was set up with an outlook of helping disadvantaged families and communities in Tonga. That they are living in a safe, secure and healthy environment and are empowered to be self-reliant through sustainable development and preservation of traditional culture and values,” explained Sione Fakao’si the Executive Director.

Through this experience, Mr. Fakao’si shared the message that resilient planning needs as much attention as that of finance.

While these two initiatives are successful in having carried out different activities to raise awareness and actually implement ‘on the ground’ actions, there are still some challenges.

“With steps to adjust there is still a struggle with lack of appropriate materials, unforeseen circumstances of weather challenges, and the continuity of the dependency mentality despite empowerment,” said Fakao’si.

“An understanding must be reached by all parties in order to have an effect on the responsibilities of communities and this will impact on policies and plans.”

One of the key achievements of the projects is the formation of a local Coordinating project team consisting of both government and community leaders to make collective decisions.

For more information on the Tonga Community Development Trust and the two projects please visit:

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