Agriculture in Tonga

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The Agriculture of the Tongan Archipelago is largely based on the farming of yams, squash, and root crops. Agriculture consists of 16–29.9% of Tonga's GDP, 34% of its labour force, and about 50% of its exports. Since the 1980s, Tonga's agricultural exports expanded to include vanilla, watermelons, sugar, and legumes. [1] [2]


With the expansion of the archipelago's population, climate change, and competitive markets, Tonga has trouble keeping up with competitive demand. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]


Traditional Farming

In the past, Tonga had a subsistence based system of agriculture called shifting cultivation and fallowing, which eventually evolved to create a tax system that paid nobles and the monarchy in yams. Yams were considered the "'noblest crop'", [1] and were farmed primarily for the monarchs and nobility as well as the annual common feast of Inasi. Before British and European influence in Tonga, there were no markets.

The Tongan calendar was based on the lunar cycle and the rotation of crops (the Tongan words for "year" and "crop of yams" are the same, ta'u), causing there to be 13 months in a year, approximately starting on November 6, and ending sometime between late October and early November.

In shifting cultivation and fallowing, one plot of vegetated land would undergo slashing and burning, be cultivated and have crops planted, and then be left fallow for two to four years. The cycle begins with yams, alocasia, and plantains- which are left to grow from eight to nine months to two to three years before they are harvested and have the next crops planted in their place. For the next four to six months come the sweet potatoes, which are then succeeded by xanthosoma for ten to twelve months, which is finally replaced by the hardy cassava plant for a year. [1]

Modern Farming

First Niuatoputapu Agricultural Farm at 'Ahofakataha - experimental yam garden First Niuatoputapu Agricultural Farm at 'Ahofakataha - experimental yam garden.jpg
First Niuatoputapu Agricultural Farm at 'Ahofakataha - experimental yam garden

Following European influence, subsistence farming has been replaced by what is called "semi-permanent", or commercial farming.

Although Tonga lacks connectivity between its islands and advanced agricultural technologies, [4] it retains its status as a prominent producer of crops for East Asian and Oceanian countries. Today, Tonga produces 60% of New Zealand's watermelon imports, and has been producing squash for Japan and South Korea since the mid-1980s, although overproduction of the crop has greatly reduced its value and thus the amount of squash produced. [3] [5]

Related Research Articles

Tonga Country in the South Pacific

Tonga, officially named the Kingdom of Tonga, is a Polynesian sovereign state and archipelago comprising 169 islands, of which 36 are inhabited. The total surface area is about 750 square kilometres (290 sq mi) scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of the southern Pacific Ocean. As of 2016, the state had a population of 100,651 people, of whom 70% reside on the main island of Tongatapu.

Crop rotation

Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of different types of crops in the same area across a sequence of growing seasons. It reduces reliance on one set of nutrients, pest and weed pressure, and the probability of developing resistant pest and weeds.


Milpa is a crop-growing system used throughout Mesoamerica. It has been most extensively described in the Yucatán peninsula area of Mexico. The word milpa is derived from the Nahuatl word phrase mil-pa, which translates into "cultivated field." Though different interpretations are given to it, it usually refers to a cropping field. Based on the ancient agricultural methods of Maya peoples and other Mesoamerican people, milpa agriculture produces maize, beans, and squash. The milpa cycle calls for 2 years of cultivation and eight years of letting the area lie fallow. Agronomists point out that the system is designed to create relatively large yields of food crops without the use of artificial pesticides or fertilizers, and they point out that while it is self-sustaining at current levels of consumption, there is a danger that at more intensive levels of cultivation the milpa system can become unsustainable.

Shifting cultivation Method of agriculture

Shifting cultivation is an agricultural system in which plots of land are cultivated temporarily, then abandoned while post-disturbance fallow vegetation is allowed to freely grow while the cultivator moves on to another plot. The period of cultivation is usually terminated when the soil shows signs of exhaustion or, more commonly, when the field is overrun by weeds. The length of time that a field is cultivated is usually shorter than the period over which the land is allowed to regenerate by lying fallow. This technique is often used in LEDCs or LICs. In some areas, cultivators use a practice of slash-and-burn as one element of their farming cycle. Others employ land clearing without any burning, and some cultivators are purely migratory and do not use any cyclical method on a given plot. Sometimes no slashing at all is needed where regrowth is purely of grasses, an outcome not uncommon when soils are near exhaustion and need to lie fallow. In shifting agriculture, after two or three years of producing vegetable and grain crops on cleared land, the migrants abandon it for another plot. Land is often cleared by slash-and-burn methods—trees, bushes and forests are cleared by slashing, and the remaining vegetation is burnt. The ashes add potash to the soil. Then the seeds are sown after the rains.

Slash-and-burn Farming method in which plants are cut and burnt

Slash-and-burn agriculture, also called fire-fallow cultivation, is a farming method that involves the cutting and burning of plants in a forest or woodland to create a field called a swidden. The method begins by cutting down the trees and woody plants in an area. The downed vegetation, or "slash", is then left to dry, usually right before the rainiest part of the year. Then, the biomass is burned, resulting in a nutrient-rich layer of ash which makes the soil fertile, as well as temporarily eliminating weed and pest species. After about three to five years, the plot's productivity decreases due to depletion of nutrients along with weed and pest invasion, causing the farmers to abandon the field and move over to a new area. The time it takes for a swidden to recover depends on the location and can be as little as five years to more than twenty years, after which the plot can be slashed and burned again, repeating the cycle. In Bangladesh and India, the practice is known as jhum or jhoom.

Subsistence agriculture Farming which meets the basic needs of the farmer and family

Subsistence agriculture occurs when farmers grow food crops to meet the needs of themselves and their families on smallholdings. Subsistence agriculturalists target farm output for survival and for mostly local requirements, with little or no surplus. Planting decisions occur principally with an eye toward what the family will need during the coming year, and only secondarily toward market prices. Tony Waters writes: "Subsistence peasants are people who grow what they eat, build their own houses, and live without regularly making purchases in the marketplace."

Dryland farming Techniques for non-irrigated farming when it is normally required

Dryland farming and dry farming encompass specific agricultural techniques for the non-irrigated cultivation of crops. Dryland farming is associated with drylands, areas characterized by a cool wet season followed by a warm dry season. They are also associated with arid conditions, areas prone to drought and those having scarce water-resources.

Culture of Tonga

The Tongan archipelago has been inhabited for perhaps 3000 years, since settlement in late Lapita times. The culture of its inhabitants has surely changed greatly over this long time period. Before the arrival of European explorers in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the Tongans were in frequent contact with their nearest Oceanic neighbors, Fiji and Samoa. In the 19th century, with the arrival of Western traders and missionaries, Tongan culture changed dramatically. Some old beliefs and habits were thrown away and others adopted. Some accommodations made in the 19th century and early 20th century are now being challenged by changing Western civilization. Hence Tongan culture is far from a unified or monolithic affair, and Tongans themselves may differ strongly as to what it is "Tongan" to do, or not do.

Agriculture in Chad

In 2006 approximately 80% of Chad's labor force was employed in the agricultural sector. This sector of the economy accounted for almost half of the GDP as of the late 1980s. With the exception of cotton production, some small-scale sugar cane production, and a portion of the peanut crop, Chad's agriculture consisted of subsistence food production. The types of crops that were grown and the locations of herds were determined by considerable variations in Chad's climate.

Agriculture in Madagascar

Agriculture employs the majority of Madagascar's population. Mainly involving smallholders, agriculture has seen different levels of state organisation, shifting from state control to a liberalized sector.

Agriculture in Laos

The southeast Asian country of Laos, with a landmass of 23.68 million hectares, has at least 5 million hectares of land suitable for cultivation. Seventeen percent of this land area is actually cultivated, less than 4 percent of the total area.

Agriculture in Sudan

Agriculture in Sudan plays an important role in that country's economy. Agriculture and livestock raising are the main sources of livelihood for most of the Sudanese population. It was estimated that, as of 2011, 80 percent of the labor force were employed in that sector, including 84 percent of the women and 64 percent of the men.


Chitemene, from the ciBemba word meaning “place where branches have been cut for a garden”, is a system of slash and burn agriculture practiced throughout northern Zambia. It involves coppicing or pollarding of standing trees in a primary or secondary growth Miombo woodland, stacking of the cut biomass, and eventual burning of the cut biomass in order to create a thicker layer of ash than would be possible with in situ burning. Crops such as maize, finger millet, sorghum, or cassava are then planted in the burned area.

Agriculture in Panama

Agriculture in Panama is an important sector of the Panamanian economy. Major agricultural products include bananas, cocoa beans, coffee, coconuts, timber, beef, chicken, shrimp, corn, potatoes, rice, soybeans, and sugar cane.

Economy of Tonga

Tonga's economy is characterized by a large nonmonetary sector and a heavy dependence on remittances from the half of the country's population that lives abroad, chiefly in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Much of the monetary sector of the economy is dominated, if not owned, by the royal family and nobles. This is particularly true of the telecommunications and satellite services. Much of small business, particularly retailing on Tongatapu, is now dominated by recent Chinese immigrants who arrived under a cash-for-passports scheme that ended in 1998.

Indigenous horticulture is practised in various ways across all inhabited continents. Indigenous refers to the native peoples of a given area and horticulture is the practice of small-scale intercropping.

Farming systems in India

Farming Systems in India are strategically utilized, according to the locations where they are most suitable. The farming systems that significantly contribute to the agriculture of India are subsistence farming, organic farming, industrial farming. Regions throughout India differ in types of farming they use; some are based on horticulture, ley farming, agroforestry, and many more. Due to India's geographical location, certain parts experience different climates, thus affecting each region's agricultural productivity differently. India is very dependent on its monsoon cycle for large crop yields. India's agriculture has an extensive background which goes back to at least 9 thousand years. In India, Agriculture was established throughout most of the subcontinent by 6000–5000 BP. During the 5th millennium BP, in the alluvial plains of the Indus River in Pakistan, the old cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa experienced an apparent establishment of an organized farming urban culture. That society, known as the Harappan or Indus civilization, flourished until shortly after 4000 BP; it was much more comprehensive than those of Egypt or Babylonia and appeared earlier than analogous societies in northern China. Currently, the country holds the second position in agricultural production in the world. In 2007, agriculture and other industries made up more than 16% of India's GDP. Despite the steady decline in agriculture's contribution to the country's GDP, agriculture is the biggest industry in the country and plays a key role in the socio-economic growth of the country. India is the second-largest producer of wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane, silk, groundnuts, and dozens more. It is also the second biggest harvester of vegetables and fruit, representing 8.6% and 10.9% of overall production, respectively. The major fruits produced by India are mangoes, papayas, sapota, and bananas. India also has the biggest number of livestock in the world, holding 281 million. In 2008, the country housed the second largest number of cattle in the world with 175 million.

Agriculture in Mexico

Agriculture in Mexico has been an important sector of the country’s economy historically and politically even though it now accounts for a very small percentage of Mexico’s GDP. Mexico is one of the cradles of agriculture with the Mesoamericans developing domesticated plants such as maize, beans, tomatoes, squash, cotton, vanilla, avocados, cacao, various kinds of spices, and more. Domestic turkeys and Muscovy ducks were the only domesticated fowl in the pre-Hispanic period and small dogs were raised for food. There were no large domesticated animals.

Convertible husbandry, also known as alternate husbandry or up-and-down husbandry, is a method of farming whereby strips of arable farmland were temporarily converted into grass pasture, known as leys. These remained under grass for up to 10 years before being ploughed under again, while some eventually became permanent pasturage. It was a process used during the 16th century through the 19th century by "which a higher proportion of land was used to support increasing numbers of livestock in many parts of England." Its adoption was an important component of the British Agricultural Revolution.

This glossary of agriculture is a list of definitions of terms and concepts used in agriculture, its sub-disciplines, and related fields. For other glossaries relevant to agricultural science, see Glossary of biology, Glossary of ecology, Glossary of environmental science, and Glossary of botany.


  1. 1 2 3 Savelio Pole, Finau. "Traditional Tongan Farming System: Past and Present" (PDF). IHCAP: 2.
  2. "Tonga Agriculture, Information about Agriculture in Tonga". Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  3. 1 2 "New Agriculturist: Country profile - Tonga". Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  4. 1 2 "Ministry of Agriculture & Food, Forestry and Fisheries". Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  5. 1 2 "Tonga : Economy | The Commonwealth". Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  6. "Tonga". Retrieved 2019-02-22.