(Tetum) How much do you know about the Seeds of Life program? Here’s 10 facts you may not know.

Velvet been mulch with corn growing

Velvet been mulch with corn growing

1. SoL has reintroduced local seeds to farmers who lost them 30 years ago.

Seeds of Life gets huge smiles when farmers realise that some of the seeds we offer are the same they lost 30 years ago. For example, SoL was testing velvet beans with farmers across the country a few years ago. In Hataz suco, Maliana, the farmers told the researchers the great advantages of growing velvet beans. This included controlling weeds, fertilising the ground and that beans can be eaten after processing. There are now hundreds of farmers once again using velvet beans, their own traditional knowledge, thanks to Seeds of Life.

Different corn varieties at Darasula Research Centre

Different corn varieties at Darasula Research Centre


2. SoL is accelerating the process of crop introduction into Timor

For more than 3,500 years, Timorese farmers have been trying new varieties from overseas. Many crop species like coffee, corn and rice have all been brought into Timor. Farmers test these crops, and then choose to keep the seed and grow them again. MAF-SoL is repeating this process and trying to speed up the rate of crop introduction (testing on station and with farmers), selection and distribution.


Members of the seed harvesting group display their peanut harvest in Tequinomata, Sub-District Laga, rural Timor-Leste.

Members of a seed group in Tequinomata, Laga, with their harvest of Utamua peanuts


3. When SoL introduces new seeds to Timor they can be grown free by Timor farmers forever

Timorese farmers will never need to pay a royalty or any other fee for using MAF-SoL varieties. All varieties released by MAF-SoL are public domain and can be used for free, forever.




January Da Costa at a MAF-SOL demonstration farm outside Aileu town.

January Da Costa at a MAF-SOL demonstration farm outside Aileu town


4. SoL has conducted more than 3,800 small experiments with farmers over the last seven years

To date, more than 3,800 on-farm experiments have been used to test the suitability of MAF-SoL new seed varieties in a range of soils, farmer practices, seasons and different agricultural ecological zones.




Farmers and MAF-SoL researchers tasting the different sweet potato varieties

Farmers & MAF-SoL researchers tasting different sweet potato varieties


5. Taste is really important to us, because it’s important to farmers

As with all cultures, taste preferences (sweetness, texture, dryness, etc) play a critical role in the successful uptake of new crop varieties. Because of this, Seeds of Life regularly conducts taste test events with farming families (men and women) before any new varieties are released.



Domingas Dejues stands amongst her Sele maize crop

Domingas de Jesus among her Sele maize crop


6. Although released varieties originally come from overseas, they are tested and grown in Timor for at least five seasons before being released

When new seeds are introduced to Timor, only small amounts of seed are imported (generally be less than 300g). It is from this small introduction that tens of tons of seed are produced. As a result, all this seed production occurs in Timor over at least five years.


Farmer & MAF-SoL staff at the release of Noi Mutin in 2012

Farmers & MAF-SoL staff at the release of Noi Mutin in 2012

7. Farmers are part of the national committee that decides to release and name new varieties

Before a variety is released in Timor-Leste, a committee decides whether there is enough evidence to release the variety and name it. Up to that time, possible varieties are given only code names. The National Variety Release Committee, chaired by the Minister of Agriculture, makes these decisions. Members consist of a wide range of people familiar with the new varieties including farmers who have grown, harvested and eaten the new varieties.


Farmers in Balibo, Bobonara, receiving sweet potato and cassava cuttings


8. SoL uses more than 10 languages every day to make sure we are communicating well

Timor-Leste is a linguistically diverse country with over 20 languages in use across the country. To make sure we’re communicating well with farmers in all 13 districts, SoL staff use a diverse range of languages on a daily basis including Fataluku, Makasae, Tetum, Kemak and Mambai.



The eight varieties of wing bean, both cooked and uncooked, ready for tasting

Eight varieties of wing bean from six countries (including Timor-Leste) ready for tasting by farmers


9. Varieties come from many countries, often not the original place where it was bred

Just as swapping seeds with neighbours is normal activity for farmers, so is swapping seed across countries. Seeds of Life tests many, many types of food crops, and most come from international research centres. But even these centres have previously swapped seed from other countries. For example, the SoL peanut variety Utamua obtained from ICRISAT in India was actually first bred in Georgia, USA (not India).



SoL and ALGIS staff work together installing the weather station at the Pante Macasar airport in Oecusse.

MAF-SoL & ALGIS staff  installing a weather station at Pante Macasar Airport, Oecusse


10. Every 10 minutes of every day, SoL gathers climate data in 20 locations across the country for use in crop research

Seeds of Life have 20 automatic weather stations across Timor-Leste that have sensors for rain, temperature, humidity, radiation and wind speed. This data is collected and collated in collaboration with ALGIS into daily weather data to help MAF-SoL understand how the climate does, and will, affect farmers’ crops.