IFAD Asset Request Portlet



The Context

Tonga is an archipelago of 172 coral and volcanic islands, of which 36 are inhabited. 

The country has low poverty rates and high standards of education and health. Yet Tonga's economy is fragile. People isolated in the remote outer islands are among the poorest in the country. Employment opportunities are limited, leading to a constant flow of migration, especially to New Zealand and Australia.

Agriculture is the main economic activity after services. About 88 per cent of Tonga’s population lives in rural areas, dependent mainly on agriculture and fisheries. Most are smallholder farmers practising a mix of subsistence and cash crop production. They typically grow root crops, which provide food security, employment and income.

Despite this underlying resilience, the Tongan people are vulnerable to climate change and to obesity related to poor diets. 

Rural poverty is concentrated among smallholder farmers and small-scale fishers living in Outer Islands. About 25 per cent of households live below the basic needs poverty line. Women are particularly vulnerable to poverty. They carry a heavy work burden in poor rural areas, where their contribution of labour is essential to family subsistence.

The rural population is declining slowly, due to out-migration and a lack of incentives for young Tongans to remain in rural areas. The farmer population is therefore aging, leading to labour shortages. This has implications for food self-sufficiency in the long term.

The Strategy

For more than 30 years, IFAD has been providing financing to help rural people in the Pacific improve their lives. In recent years, resources, outreach and membership to IFAD have expanded. Member States now include: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

IFAD’s strategy in the Pacific Islands is centred on building partnerships.

IFAD programmes and projects are concentrated on helping rural people to produce local food crops, especially indigenous and traditional foods This support responds to both climate change and nutrition issues. 

Since 2013, the amount of IFAD resources provided for projects undertaken with partners for the Pacific has more than doubled, from around US$7.5 million to over US$15 million.

In Tonga, IFAD’s assistance concentrates on:

  • attracting new partners and additional financing to agriculture and rural development;
  • providing beneficiaries with greater access to technology and knowledge from our partners in other regions;
  • facilitating dialogue and joint initiatives in the agricultural sector.

Country Facts

About 88 per cent of Tonga’s population lives in rural areas, where livelihoods are dependent on agriculture and fisheries. Most are smallholder farmers practising a mixed subsistence and cash crop production.

Since 1983 IFAD has supported 4 projects and programmes in Tonga with loans for a total of US$9.3 million, directly benefiting 10,890 rural households. 

Country documents

Conteúdo Relacionado

Tonga Country Strategy Note Tipo: Country strategy note (CSN)
Região: Asia and the Pacific

Country Experts

Projects and Programmes

Projects Browser

Tonga Rural Innovation Project - Phase II

cost: $12.56 million-allcapital-abbreviation

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Tonga Rural Innovation Project

cost: $4.03 million-allcapital-abbreviation

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Outer Islands Credit Project

cost: $6.73 million-allcapital-abbreviation

Ler Mais
Rural Credit Project

cost: $3.38 million-allcapital-abbreviation

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Agricultural Credit Project

cost: $7.00 million-allcapital-abbreviation

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Case study: Tonga Agriculture Sector Plan (TASP)

Novembro 2016
Agriculture is the predominant economic activity in Tonga, contributing around 20 per cent of GDP. About 75 per cent of Tonga’s population lives in rural areas, and agriculture and fishing are the main sources of livelihoods. Fewer than 10 per cent of farmers are commercial producers and most of Tonga’s agriculture is thus still based on traditional/subsistence farming systems. The agriculture sector has been stagnant for a decade, with virtually no growth recorded between 2005 and 2012. Factors contributing to this situation include outmigration of the rural population, an ageing farmer population, declining export opportunities, and the increasing frequency and impact of climate change-related extreme weather events. Tonga’s export vulnerability lies in its reliance on very few commodities, such as squash, the exports of which have been falling since 2003. Rising production costs have contributed to a decline in export competitiveness, as has the difficulty in meeting quality and phytosanitary requirements for the principal markets of New Zealand and Australia.

IFAD in the Pacific - Partnering for rural development

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IFAD has been working in small island developing states (SIDS) for 35 years, financing investments for smallholder farmers and fishers. IFAD recognizes that small island developing states are different than other developing countries. They face constraints that are quite particular to their size, remoteness, insularity and ocean resource base. In the light of a changing world and new challenges faced by rural people living in SIDS, IFAD recently took the opportunity of the Global Conference on Small Island Developing States held in Samoa in 2014 to articulate its lessons learned and current approach to financing investment in rural people in its paper presented at the Conference, IFAD’s approach in Small Island Developing States.

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