November 25, 2019
Mentoring is being provided for the Head of Forestry in Tonga, Mr Heimuli Likiafu and his staff, by Graham Wilkinson, former head of Tasmania’s Forest Practices Authority, who has undertaken numerous projects in Tonga and the Asia-Pacific region over the last 20 years. Graham visited Tonga from 9 to 15 November 2019 to continue the mentoring program.
During this visit, he engaged with Ms Kalati Hafoka, who is the Acting Head of Forestry whilst Heimuli is on extended study leave.
“Kalati has a background in agriculture, rather than forestry, and it is evident that there are potential opportunities to better coordinate or amalgamate the role of extension officers within the forestry and agriculture divisions to make better use of the limited resources within government and to foster a more consistent message to landowners about the role and value of trees within Tonga’s agricultural land use systems. There are few places in the region where trees and agricultural crops are so intrinsically integrated into such a highly sustainable and diversified form of agro-forestry land use. It therefore makes good sense to see the role of extension officers across all parts of government as one of promoting ‘trees and crops’, rather than ‘trees or crops’, which is often the case under conventional institutional arrangements,’ explained Graham on his return.
Graham met with forestry officers and sandalwood growers to discuss training needs for the management of sandalwood plantings. Sandalwood is grown under various agro-silvicultural regimes in Tonga, ranging from single tree plantings in gaps within cropping areas, to more intensive plantation regimes. Graham also met with the program manager of the FAO Integrated Land and Agro-ecosystem Management Systems (ILAMS) project to identify areas where the project could support the role of the forestry division.
The visit demonstrates a continuing commitment by our Tasmania Committee to the improvement of technical skills and capacity among forestry staff in Tonga. This work builds on previous support from the Crawford Fund for study tours to Tasmania by Pacific Island foresters in 2008 and 2018. As such, it enhances the partnerships between Tongans and the wider Pacific Island forestry community with the Crawford Fund and its Tasmanian program, as well as Australia more generally.