28 Oct 2003

Tonga forestry department pushes case for planting more trees

11:57 am on 28 October 2003

Tonga is establishing nurseries for trees and plants to address environmental concerns caused by the loss of the country's forests.

The director of forestry, Taniela Hoponoa, says less than 6 percent of Tonga is covered in forest and that is mainly confined to uninhabited outer islands.

He says the lack of coverage can intensify damage done in a cyclone, and can be have a negative effect on soil fertility and water quality.

Mr Hoponoa says there has been an imbalance in political will with most of it directed towards economic growth.

He says native forestry is being neglected in favour of cash crops.

"The priority at the moment is improving the economy. That means more urgency on producing cash crops for exports. We have not yet come up with a good proposal or a better strategy to convince policy makers to really put more emphasis on trees."

Mr Hoponoa says his department is conducting village meetings and publishing leaflets to promote planting and conservation.