Long term solutions for water security in Lulunga District,Tonga

Resource mobilisation from the Tonga Climate Change Trust Fund for implementing water security initiatives

Lack of water is a priority issue in the district of Lulunga, in Tonga’s remote Ha’apai island group. The 17 island archipelago has a population of over 500 people within six communities, who are mostly situated in the district centre of Ha’afeva. A lack of water in these communities leads to illnesses such as typhoid, dengue fever and diarrhoea. Crops and livestock are also adversely affected by low rainfall which leads to overreliance on rice and imported foods, leading to poor nutrition.

Unsurprisingly, improved water supply was the top priority identified by women, youth and men’s groups during ‘risk informed’ community development planning across all six communities in the district. The communities, in partnership with the Tongan Government; multiple non- government organisations including MORDI Tonga Trust, Live and Learn Environmental Education and Rotary New Zealand; the University of the South Pacific and United Nations Development Programme’s Pacific Risk Resilience Programme, assisted with addressing water scarcity. Partners also worked to systematically strengthen local governance to ensure sustainability. As a result of long-term partnerships, the communities have become far more water secure, and this approach is being replicated across Tonga. The major lesson learned has been that systematic strengthening leads to longer term, self replicating outcomes to address the root causes of disaster and climate risk in Tonga

Climate change, disaster, gender and social risk considerations were built into the project management cycle for the community’s priority water management projects. This included discussions with community members on the climate change and disaster risks occurring in the community and how these could be addressed. CCDRM officers visited the communities to discuss the importance of considering differing needs of different groups when designing and selecting the location of projects. As proposals were developed, the major issues communities wanted to address were water security and land management. In the majority of cases, this linked directly to their CDP priorities.

Multiple water tank proposals, and an evacuation centre proposal in Vava’u, were successful in their application for funding from the Climate Change Trust Fund. Similarly, water tank proposals were successful in Ha’apai.

The location of the water tanks will consider the needs of the elderly and people with disabilities, ensuring accessibility and safety. Safe and equitable access to water tanks was a key factor in deciding their location. The water projects will include training on day to day maintenance and water management in times of low rainfall. For example, fencing around the tanks to prevent damage and contamination from pigs and the importance of cleaning spouts regularly and basic plumbing skills.

Implementation of community priorities has led to improved water security in Lulunga village. There has been a significant reduction in water cartage within the villages, especially for women, girls, elderly and persons with disabilities. This is due to increased awareness within the community on the consideration of different peoples’ needs. The village water committees continue to be actively involved in maintenance of the tanks.

The Ha’apai CCDRM post and MIA Deputy CEO post have been absorbed into the government’s public service. There are plans to replicate the island level approach to CCDRM capacity in other parts of Tonga.

Ensuring risk management is everyone’s business. The terms of reference for DTO and Regional Development Committees (RDC) across Tonga now incorporate the requirement for managing risks to and from development

The Ministry of Finance and National Planning (MFNP) is beginning to make decisions based on the community
needs and priorities outlined in community development plans from across Tonga. Constituency funds are also
being used to implement community priorities. There is opportunity to further align sector Ministry work plans and
priorities with island development plans.

Connecting top down and bottom up. MFNP has started piloting risk screening of development projects funded through the national budget. This enables further systematisation of risk informed approach throughout government, including in the Tropical Cyclone Gita recovery.

Lessons learnt
Dedicated government CCDRM capacity in local government at national and island levels ensured that risks were considered within local government decision making structures and personnel (including updated TORs).

Risk management measures were inexpensive. Considering the safety and accessibility of the water project added very little to the overall project budget. Low-tech approaches to water management were needed for sustainability of projects on remote islands. This approach is now being replicated across Tonga.

Collaboration was key to the success. Government and non-government partners at many levels collaborated to pool resources and expertise. This resulted in a better coordinated, more targeted approach to community development that incorporated social, climate change and disaster risks.

Service delivery is only part of the equation. Strengthening the enabling environment, including institutionalising risk management, demonstrates a sustainable approach to ‘bottom up’ development that is resilient to climate change and disasters and leaves no one behind.