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Wanting to make a positive difference in the world is one thing, knowing the best way to make that difference is another, yet for the Kingdom of Tonga this ‘best way’ seems to have been found and is being put to use.

Tonga is made up of 170 islands all at the forefront of dealing with the negative impacts of climate change, especially when it comes to water security. The rural communities of Tonga rely heavily on ground water, using fossil fuel powered pumps to access this water which is unsustainable and has the potential for spillage and contamination.

The problem was in seeking ways to extricate water in a sustainable manner so communities can thrive and this is where the two companies – Whatpowercrisis NZ Ltd in New Zealand and, National Oil Vargo in Australia, have found a way to make a positive difference.

The companies have designed and manufactured sustainable solar powered pumps that assist rural communities with securing access to clean water.

In September last year, three representatives from the Department of Energy in Tonga completed training at Whatpowercrisis NZ Ltd in Ramarama, Auckland to learn of the best installation practices for these water pumps.  These particular representatives are responsible for the advising as to the transport of the pumps to Tonga as well as the installation of them on the ground.

The training comes after the Australian leg of their journey with National Oil Vargo, the manufacturers of Mono Pump Technologies the week before.

The training, transportation, installation and maintenance of these pumps is one of the key outputs of the regional Pacific Islands Greenhouse Gas Abatement through Renewable Energy Plus (PIGGAREP+) Project.

The Tongan aspect of this project will focus on the installation and use of solar powered pumps that will be installed within communities. This aspect has been named the MEIDECC SPS Phase 1.

Further to the concrete outputs, the project will also learn and draw from past experiences in order to address previous failures with the ultimate goal of leveraging future Solar Pump Systems (SPS) for rural communities.

“The training of key personnel within the Energy Department of Tonga plays a key role in enabling the learning from past experiences as well as the development of capacity that would be directly related to the project to ensure that improvements would be made,” said Mr Naheed Hussein, the PIGGAREP+ Project Coordinator.

“The knowledge gained from the training will ensure that the communities are able to have direct assistance with the installation and maintenance of SPS. This is the key point, for it will be the communities that will be at the forefront of dealing with climate change impacts. There is a need for clean water and the SPS will assist with ensure this into the future even in the face of the increasingly negative impacts of climate change. In other words, this is their opportunity to do something, to contribute to the process of making things better.”

The overall objectives of the training were to: further explore if SPS has a future in Tonga and knowledge disseminated if SPS is promising; ensure that adequate level of skills is available in Tonga on SPS design, installation, repair and maintenance; raise awareness amongst SPS makers of the island context and practicality of their products in harsh tropical conditions; and enhance relationships with SPS makers.

The two week training helped participants increase their understanding and skills it has now equipped the Energy Department with the technical knowledge of the SPS and will lessen the burden on the end-users during the project.  Even though the training took place over only 14 days in September 2015, the overall impression was participants felt they were able to significantly increase their understandings and skills.