Soane Patolo | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Soane Patolo

BRS, Lincoln.

  • Researcher - Australian Centre for Pacific Islands Research
  • CEO - MORDI Tonga Trust

Soane Patolo Jr. is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Mainstreaming of Rural Development Innovation (MORDI) Tonga Trust, and a highly regarded international expert in Pacific Island community development. MORDI is an NGO with a purpose - to empower isolated rural communities to fight against poverty. Through his leadership of MORDI, Soane has made a fundamentally important contribution to the wellbeing and prosperity of vulnerable communities in the Kingdom of Tonga. This has facilitated increased agricultural input, bolstered agricultural productivity and transferred innovative and technological know-how to rural small holder farmers that form the foundations of Tongan food and nutrition security. MORDI began in 2007 with an initial investment of $100,000 (USD) from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to focus on Community Development in rural communities in Tonga. It has grown to include 30 staff members, with the number of its beneficiaries increasing to 39,300 people in 7,300 households across 122 rural areas, supporting 80% of Tonga’s rural communities. Funding has grown to more than $17 million.

Soane’s approach to community development is based on local empowerment, the importance of education and capacity building, and focusing on the most vulnerable. He has played a key role in improving healthy eating and food hygiene education amongst Tongan women, improved village-based sanitation, enhanced local water security, particularly on remote islands, and introduced new climate change adaptive farming systems. MORDI is becoming a model for other Pacific Islands and countries through promoting climate change awareness, climate resilience and livelihood generation for farmers and communities by linking smallholders to the market, undertaking local market studies, encouraging fruit tree agriculture, and ensuring innovative agro-processing.


  • Adjunct Associate Professor of Rural Development, University of Sunshine Coast 2021
  • Royal Order of the Crown, King Tupou VI, King of Tonga 2021
  • Lincoln Alumni International Medal for 2023, Lincoln University 2023.

Professional Memberships

  • Chief Executive Officer - Mainstreaming of Rural Development Innovation (MORDI) Tonga Trust, 
  • Trustee – Heilala Vanilla Foundation 


Research Grants

Project name
Project team
Funder, year

Adopting a gender-inclusive participatory approach to reducing horticultural food loss in the Pacific

Molimau-Samosoni, S., Underhill, S., Patolo, S., Georgeou, N., Kumar, S., Atu, L. and de Klerk, S.

ACIAR (2022 - 2024)AU$845,000

Tonga Rural Innovation Project - Phase 2


IFAD (2017 - 2025)USD$12.48 million

Tonga Rural Innovation Project


IFAD (2012 – 2017)USD$4.03 million

Research areas

  • Agriculture
  • Food Security
  • Community Development
  • Kingdom of Tonga