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An information system for planning agricultural development in the Kingdom of Tonga

Lincoln College, University of Canterbury
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  • Subsistence Agriculture
  • Agricultural Development
  • Tonga
  • Tongan Economy
  • Development Plan
  • Agricultural Commodities
  • Development
  • Agricultural Science
  • Communication
  • Economics


Past development efforts in the Kingdom of Tonga are reviewed in relation to the goals of reducing poverty, unemployment and inequality. It is shown that progress has been strictly limited and evidence is provided to support the view that inadequate attention has been paid to agricultural improvement and rural development. The components, practices and institutional framework of the Tongan agricultural system are reviewed and possible future avenues of agricultural development are examined. Attention is drawn to those aspects where improvements are needed if agricultural development is to be promoted. These include an expanded programme of research, an upgrading of the agricultura1 extension effort, an overhaul of the 1and tenure system and a substantial improvement in agricultural product marketing; or, in short, an integrated programme of agricultural improvement and rural development. From a planning viewpoint, there is evidence of inadequate elaboration of development objectives, superficial identification of resources and insufficient knowledge concerning resource interactions, all of which have created confusion and uncertainty, particularly as regards the role of agriculture in the Kingdom's development. As a result, there is a lack of commitment to development efforts generally, and a tendency for activities on the fringes to be pursued at the expense of more fundamental issues. It is concluded that this situation results largely from the lack of an adequate information base, and that before an integrated plan for agricultural improvement can be developed, the network of interrelationships operating within the agricultural system needs to be understood. An information system is developed with the basic aim of providing information which will facilitate an understanding of how the agricultural system is integrated into the everyday lives of the people of Tonga. The concept adopted recognises the reciprocal relationships involved between agriculture and the rest of the economy. Using a systems research framework, the Tongan household agricultural system is defined in terms of its component parts, their interactive behaviour and their interrelationships. The key variables required for analysis are isolated and the production relationships in which rural households participate are specified. The information system provides for the observation of household decision making with particular reference to the allocation of labour, land use and the disposal of farm produce, and the disposition of cash earnings. The information framework is based on the premise that land is the most critical resource in Tongan agriculture. Information requirements are specified which will enable an assessment to be made of the effect of a number of factors on 1and productivity. The data collected will also enable valuable insights to be gained into issues such as land utilisation and methods of production; composition and disposition of agricultural output; household food consumption; marketing of agricultural produce; land tenure; sources of household income; net incomes from agriculture; participation in aid projects; and utilisation of loan finance.

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