DETAILED REPORT

                 AUSAID PROJECT

                       Report on In-country Visit: Tonga

During the inaugural meeting, held on 25-26 August 2003 in Vava’u, Tonga, the
participants agreed that a prerequisite for all potential participating countries was the
need for high-level discussions with appropriate Government officials. The aim of
these discussions would be to acquaint PIC governments with the project Enhanced
Applications of Climate Predictions in Pacific Island Countries (the Project), and the
activities likely to take place within participating countries, emphasizing the likely
benefits and indicating the likely level of resources required for countries to
participate in the project. Some country delegates believed that this step, if handled
correctly, would be invaluable in raising the profile of Meteorological Services in the
eyes of their Governments. The discussions would also facilitate the development of
country-specific Memoranda of Understanding (MOU), to be signed before
significant work got underway.
The third stage of this first round of in-country visits took place from 18 to 26 April
2004. The Project Team (PT) was represented by the Project Coordinator (PC)
Michael Coughlan and the Australian Team Leader (ATL), Ms Janita Pahalad. The
team visited Tonga from 19 – 21 April.
The following report summarises the discussions that took place in Tonga with
government representatives and key-users of climate information.

The PT arrived in Nuku’alofa on 19 April at 2.30am. A series of meeting with
government representatives and some of major stakeholders were scheduled over the
next two days including the 19th. Mr Ofa Fa’anunu, the Chief Meteorological Officer
of the Tongan Meteorological Service (TMS) accompanied the Project Team to all of
the meetings.

Ministry of Civil Aviation (MCA)
On 19th April at 11am, the PT met with Mr Tevita Kaitu’u Fotu, the Deputy Secretary
for Administration and Finance for MCA. The Tongan Meteorological Service falls
under the responsibility of Ministry of Civil Aviation. Mr Fotu conveyed the
Director’s apology to the PT for his inability to meet them as he was on leave, and
assured his support for the Project. Mr Fotu expressed his gratitude to the Government
of Australia for funding such a project.

During the discussion, Mr Fotu voiced a concern that TMS staff might lack the
qualifications required by the Project to run the prediction service. PC remarked that

appropriate training would be provided to TMS and the key stakeholders. Further, the
training programme would be designed to suit the local requirements.

Other relevant issues that were discussed during the meeting were:
      TMS office had recently moved to the Fua'amotu Airport from Nuku’alofa.
       PC emphasised that, in view of the different climatic conditions between the
       two sites, it was important for TMS to do its utmost to retain the old observing
       site for as long as possible to assure continuity in the climate record.
      TMS has received several years of monthly data in hardcopy and electronic
       form from NIWA (New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and
       Atmospheric Research). It is believed that NIWA still has a large quantity of
       original records (including daily data) for Tonga.
      Observing network: There are four climate observing stations, including
       Fua’amotu Airport, and three rainfall stations. There is a small network of
       rainfall stations under the SPaRCE (The Schools of the Pacific Rainfall
       Climate Experiment) but these have been less successful in providing
       continuous records due to lack of observations during school holidays and
       frequent movements of teachers. There had been one agricultural climate
       station but it was closed following a period of poor maintenance and reporting.
       The Agricultural Department is now once again working with TMS to restart
       observation at the previous site.

AusAID Agency
At 2pm, the PT met Ms Tiamoni Pifeleti, one of the AusAID officers in Nuku’alofa.

PT briefed Ms Pifeleti about the Project and explained the purpose of their visit to
Tonga. Discussion centred on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that
will be required between the Government of Australia and Government of Tonga for
the Project. Ms Pifeleti informed the PT that there is no Umbrella MOU between the
two governments and as an MOU is a requirement set down by the Central Planning
Office of Tonga for all external aid based projects, one would need to be established
for the Project.

It was agreed that the MOU should be between the two Governments, with AusAID
and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as the representative agencies and the two
meteorological services as the implementing agencies. A draft MOU will be sent to
Mr Fa’anunu, who would then consult with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the
proposals therein. It is anticipated that an MOU will be in place before the training
workshop commences in September 2004. ATL is to keep AusAID-post in Tonga
informed via email.

Ms Pifeleti requested the PT to continue to brief the AusAID office in Tonga during
upcoming visits. She queried how the Project would ensure sustainability of the
prediction service after the project is formally completed. In response, the PT
explained that the service once established was not resource intensive, requiring only
a continuity of competent personnel, basic computing equipment and a connection to
the Internet. She also outlined some of the activities of the Project that would help

sustain the service in the long-term such as the in-country training workshops, setting
up of a buddy or networking system between participating meteorological services
and conducting progress assessments before the end of the Project.

Tonga Meteorological Service
The PT visited TMS at the Fua'amotu Airport at 3.30pm and had a round table
discussion with Mr Fa’anunu and his staff including: Ms Seluvaia Finaulahi
(climatologist); Mr Neniasi Havae (Assistant Forecaster); Mr Aholele Kuli
(meteorologist). Also present was Mr Kinitoni Mafi (Airport Manager), who had
formerly worked with TMS.

The ATL briefed the staff on the Project and demonstrated the prototype software.
Some of the key points and issues highlighted during the discussion are summarised
as follows:

      Climate database: Most digitised data are in Excel format, with some data in
           o Nuku’alofa has 60yrs of data with daily data for 1982-2004;
           o Fua'amotu has daily data for 1981 to 2004; and
           o Vava’u, Niuataputapu and Ha'apaia each has at least 30 years.
      TMS has received field books for 1981 to 2004 from NIWA.
      All data have been backed-up on floppy disks but the ATL advised them to
       back-up the data on CDs and suggested that an inventory be carried out on
       data that have been digitised or are still in hardcopy only.
      TMS training has been scheduled for September 2004 for 6 to 7 staff
      Some of the potential users in Tonga include: cassava industry, agriculture,
       water, health, media, and fisheries.
      Currently weather forecasts are issued via radio and TV only. TMS started
       issuing monthly weather summaries from early 2004; these are at present only
       available on the TMS website (

Tonga Association of NGOS
The PT met with Mr Simione K. Silapelu, President of Tonga Association of NGOS
on 20th April at 9am.

Mr Silapelu is a member of the national Climate Change Committee (CCC) and is
well versed in climate change issues. He also understood the notion of analogues in
seasonal prediction and skill levels associated with such methods. He also queried the
PT on climate change impacts and how they might be incorporated in this prediction
scheme. PC informed him that the model should be able to incorporate climate change
as it was based not only on past long term data (at least 40 years), but also on what
was happening now, e.g. current sea surface temperatures.

Other key points and issues discussed during the meeting:
      There are wide variations of climate in Tonga and even across Tongatapu

      Meteorology needs international collaboration between meteorological
       services for data exchange. Tonga is a member of the World Meteorological
       Organisation (WMO), with the Secretary of MCA as the Permanent
       Representative to WMO for Tonga.
      Tonga is very vulnerable to natural disasters. Most livelihoods can benefit
       from weather and climate forecasts. Mr Silapelu gave an example of how
       ordinary fishermen use weather information. Tonga exports tuna.
      Flooding incidents are related mainly to high tides particularly on the western
       parts of Tongatapu.
      Mr Silapelu believed that there are many potential users of climate in
       formation in Tonga, for example in the agricultural sector where decisions
       such as when to plant crops can draw on climate forecasts.
      Mr Silapelu, as a member of CCC, is responsible for dissemination
       information from for the committee.
      It was agreed that the three most crucial issues for Tonga, as for any country,
       are a healthy economy, environment and community.

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food (MAFF)

At 10.15am, the PT met with Mr Haniteli 'O Fa'anunu, the acting Minister. Dr
Viliame Fakavá, the acting Director was also present at this meeting.

The A/g Minister thanked the PT for their visit to his office and commented that
climate is very important for the agricultural sector and expressed his interest in
climate information. He noted that several agricultural development projects had
failed in Tonga mainly due to strong winds.

He asked if the software would be made available directly to users of the climate
information. PT responded that the prediction model requires a certain level
specialised meteorological knowledge and that it was therefore preferable for the
development of a collaborative framework between TMS and the user community.
The products generated by the software will be readily available to users and there is
potential to include, for example, crop analyses if the crop data is available. In this
regard, it was noted that some data are available for the vanilla crop, which is
particularly sensitive to temperature during flowering.

Tonga exports pumpkin/squash (to Japan), vanilla, kava and noni. Other main
subsistence crops are root crops (such as cassava, taro, and sweet potatoes).

There are a few agricultural stations and the A/g Minister acknowledged that they
need to be upgraded with respect to the collection of climatological data. The PT
once again emphasised the importance of getting the two sectors, meteorological and
agricultural, to work together. Currently there are no evaporation recordings in
Tonga, and the PC recommended that TMS might consider installing evaporimeters at
some of their climate stations.

There was some discussion on humidity and how it affects crops, particularly squash.
High humidity, for example, can cause moulds and diseases. To combat the problem,
farmers need to spray crops before the rain falls and therefore there is a need for
accurate weather forecasts.

Tonga’s climate has distinct wet and dry seasons. Excessively low rainfall during the
dry season affects the planting. MAFF had even requested advice from the Israel
Government in the setting up of an irrigation system in Tonga for such occasions.

There was some discussion on the training workshop for the users, which is likely to
be scheduled sometime in the period November 2004 to April 2005. PT noted that the
Project would request MAFF to identify staff that they would be willing to support for
the in-country user training. Initial estimates put the number at around six. The A/g
Minister asked if the Project would be in a position to help support their attendance as
some would be from the outer islands within Tonga. The PC commented that this
would be subject to the available funds and perhaps on a cost sharing basis with

Department of Environment (DOE)
The PT met with Mr Uilou Samani, the Director of DOE at 11.15am at the beachfront.

There was some discussion on the national reporting on Climate Change required
under UNFCCC (United Nation Framework on Climate Change Convention). DOE is
responsible for climate change issues and has a close working relationship with TMS
in ensuring Tonga fulfils its commitments under the Convention. He believes that
there is a need to train local staff in the skills needed for drafting the UNFCCC
National Communication process.

Mr Samani informed the PT on an AusAID funded project on solid water
management. Mr Samani is a member of Project Coordinating Committee for the
project, under which there is a Project Implementation Committee (PCC). An MOU
has been drawn up between the Government of Tonga and the Government of
Australia. The PC commented that it maybe worthwhile to check on the nature of the
MOU with the AusAID Office in Suva to assist the team in drafting the MOU for PI-
CPP. The ATL highlighted that a Project Coordination Committee has been
established for PI-CPP, which includes the heads of all participating PIC NMS.

Mr Samani expressed his support for the Project and showed keen interest in
following its progress in Tonga.

Ministry of Works (MOW)
The PT met with Mr Isikeli F. Pulini, Deputy Director at 2.10pm. Mr Pulini
apologised on the behalf of Director for his inability to meet the team. The PC asked
Mr Pulini conveyed the PT’s regards to the Director.

The Tongan Natural Disaster Office has been placed under the responsibility of the
MOW. Consequently, the Ministry keeps a close watch on the weather forecasts
particularly on tropical cyclones warnings. In response, the PC explained the known
influences of El Niño/La Niña on tropical cyclones frequency and tracks in the
Southern Pacific.

Mr Pulini requested that the TMS keep the MOW updated on the Project’s progress
and he expressed his interest in his department participating in the client training

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA)
The PT met with Ms Fekitamoeloa Tm 'Utoikamanu, the Secretary at 4pm.

The discussion focussed mainly on the required format for the MOU. The PT
expressed their wish to finalise the MOU before training of the TMS staff takes place
in September.

It was confirmed that currently there is no Umbrella MOU between the two
governments (Tonga and Australia) though it is still under consideration. There is a
standard format required by the Government of Tonga. All MOUs are dealt by the
MOFA through a sub-committee within the Ministry before being passed on to
Cabinet for final approval.

It was concluded that the PT will need to draft a specific MOU for the PI-CPP
between the MOFA and the AusAID as the respective government representatives,
and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and TMS as the implementing agents. It
was agreed that the ATL will consult TMS on the text of the MOU and to send a first
draft to the Suva AusAID Office as soon as possible. The Suva-post would then
forward the MOU to the Tongan-post who would in turn work with MOFA to process
it through the appropriate government machinery.

Tongan Water Board (TWB)
The PT met with Mr Malakai Vakasiuola, Chief Planning Engineer at 10am. Mr
Graham Costin, Team Leader IWRM (Integrated Water Resources Management) also
joined the discussion. IWRM are working on a project to improve the infrastructure
and management of Tongatapu’s water resources.

The PT talked briefly about the project and explained El Niño and its impacts in the
region including drought.

Tonga’s main drinking water source is groundwater; rainfall plays an important role
in recharging the groundwater. While Tongan groundwater has a relatively high level
of salinity, by international standards, there have been so far no observed trends in
water salinity, although in the smaller islands the salinity levels will fluctuate with
heavy rainfall. Seasonal forecast would be useful for estimating groundwater
recharge rates.

Some of the smaller islands are totally dependent on rainwater while Tongatapu’s
groundwater reserves are generally sufficient for present needs. It was noted that the
rainfall in Tonga, like Fiji, also shows a tendency to lag with the ENSO phase, which
would be useful for planning.

Though not frequent, tropical cyclones (average 1 per/season) can also impose a
threat to Tonga.

There was some discussion on the data availability. The PC remarked that it would be
useful if feasible to combine the rainfall data and the hydrological data to run analysis
that would be most useful to the TWB.

The PC briefly talked about the Bureau’s and NIWA’s initiative under the WMO’s
Dare Rescue (DARE) Project to assist some of the PICs in digitising their daily
climate data. Data are virtually useless unless digitised.

The ATL talked about the rainfall prediction scheme in Fiji and the model’s
performance, commenting that it has on average of 75% successful hit rate.

It was anticipated that the TMS would be issuing seasonal forecasts on trail basis by
perhaps as early as the end of 2004. The ATL emphasised that the prediction
software could be modified to meet the users’ needs, emphasising the importance of
users providing feedbacks on the product to the TMS.

The ATL also mentioned that the Project has the scope to fund at least two pilot
projects. In the Project Plan, the Fiji sugar industry has been identified as one of the
pilot projects but decisions on the other (one or two) will depend on the data available
within specific user sectors in any of the participating PICs.

Mr Costin informed the PT that Anthony Falkland from Ecowise (based in Canberra)
has been involved with an institutionalisation project in Tonga and Cook Islands, and
advised that it may be useful to contact him. He also briefed the PT on a hydrological
project that he was involved with in East Timor project, noting that he may seek
assistance from the Bureau of Meteorology on some its aspects.


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