FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

(Read in Tetum)

1. Does the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Seeds of Life (MAF-SoL) program distribute hybrid or genetically modified crops?
2. Will farmers ever have to pay royalties for using MAF-SoL varieties?
3. Does MAF-SoL use seed varieties from overseas?
4. Does MAF-SoL trial new coffee varieties?
5. How are the seed varieties chosen?
6. What effect is MAF-SoL having on biodiversity in Timor-Leste?
7. What work is MAF-SoL doing to improve nutrition in Timor-Leste?
8. How does MAF-SoL’s work impact on the hungry season?
9. How many farmers are using the MAF-SoL varieties?
10. Does MAF-SoL work in all 13 districts of Timor-Leste?
11. What work does MAF-SoL do with female farmers?
12. Does MAF-SoL collaborate with other NGOs?
13. How can farmers get access to the improved varieties?

Other informative reads are ‘10 things you may not know about Seeds of Life’ (October 2013) and the Seeds of Life brochure (English / Tetum)

Answers

1. Does the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Seeds of Life (MAF-SoL) program distribute hybrid or genetically modified crops?

No, MAF-SoL does not trial or distribute hybrid or genetically modified crops in Timor-Leste. We work with open-pollinated maize varieties and pure-line rice and peanut varieties. We give farmers the opportunity to test new varieties as we work with them towards food independence. Only those varieties farmers are happy with will they choose to replant in future seasons. Top

2. Will farmers ever have to pay royalties for using MAF-SoL varieties?

No. 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. Top

3. Does MAF-SoL use seed varieties from overseas?

MAF-SoL identifies varieties of everyday food crops suitable for Timorese farmers. The varieties tested come from both within Timor and from overseas. Although the varieties are initially imported, subsequent seed production is conducted in Timor.

For more than 3,500 years, Timorese farmers have been testing and trying new varieties that have arrived from overseas. Many crop species like coffee, corn and rice do not originate from Timor. They have all been brought into Timor, tested by farmers, and farmers then choose to keep the seed and grow them again. MAF-SoL is trying to speed up this process that has been occurring for more than 3,500 years. Top

4. Does MAF-SoL trial new coffee varieties?

No, as a food security project MAF-SoL focuses on increasing productivity of staple food crops in Timor-Leste, primarily maize, rice, sweet potato, peanuts and cassava. Top

5. How are the seed varieties chosen?

All officially released varieties are rigorously assessed against a broad number of criteria, not only for superior yield and agronomic adaptability but also for their social, environment and gender impacts. To date, more than 4,000 on-farm experiments have been used to test the suitability of the new seed varieties with a range of farmer practices, seasons and in different agricultural ecological zones. Top

6. What effect is MAF-SoL having on biodiversity in Timor-Leste?

MAF-SoL is increasing biodiversity of the crops we work with. When each crop species (such as corn, rice, sweet potato, peanuts and cassava) arrived in Timor-Leste, there was not a wide range of varieties that were introduced. For example, there may be a few hundred maize varieties in Timor, but in South America, where maize originated, there are hundreds of thousands of varieties. This is true of most food crops in Timor-Leste.  As a result, there is a fair chance the genetic variation within these crops is quite low, compared to the origin of these crops. By MAF-SoL introducing new varieties, there is an increase in the genetic diversity of those species. The greater the genetic diversity, the greater the resilience of the crop. Top

7. What work is MAF-SoL doing to improve nutrition in Timor-Leste?

MAF-SoL is helping to improve farmer family nutrition through:

  • reducing length of “hungry season” by improving the yield of staple crops
  • developing a high-yield, high-carotene (Vitamin A) variety of sweet potato
  • promoting improved seed storage so famers have good seed at planting time
  • collaborating with IFAD’s Maize Storage Project to reduce post-harvest losses
  • researching improved varieties of high-protein crops (e.g. mung bean, red bean)
  • engaging a nutrition specialist to write MAF-SoL’s nutrition strategy, and
  • encouraging the Government of Timor-Leste to adopt a multi-sectoral nutrition program.

Top

8. How does MAF-SoL’s work impact on the hungry season?

The use of improved varieties results in increased yield and therefore increased production for the subsistence farmers. Together with improved simple grain storage technology (air tight steel drums), this gives families the ability to store more food to enable subsistence farm families to still have food supplies in the hungry period before the next harvest. Top

9. How many farmers are using the MAF-SoL varieties?

About 42,000 Timorese farmers are currently using at least one of the improved varieties. MAF-SoL is on track to reach its end-of-program target of 65,000 farmers, or 50% of all Timor-Leste’s farmers, using at least one variety by the end of January 2016. Top

10. Does MAF-SoL work in all 13 districts of Timor-Leste?

Yes, MAF-SoL is working with farmers in all districts in Timor-Leste. Top

11. What work does MAF-SoL do with female farmers?

Approximately 26% of the subsistence farms in Timor-Leste are managed by female farmers. Paddy rice is the exception with only 4% of farms managed by females. In all households women play a significant role in farm tasks, including food storage, processing and preparation, as well as seed selection, planting, weeding and harvesting of all crops.MAF-SoL is proactive in ensuring that gender is mainstreamed in the National Seed System. Seeds of Life is working towards:
  • integrating men and women’s needs regarding improved varieties into research activities
  • ensuring at least 30% female participation among contract growers and labourers of seed processing centres
  • ensuring at least 30% women participation in community seed production groups.
To reach these objectives, Seeds of Life’s Gender Coordinator is holding gender awareness workshops and training for staff, piloting bottom-up gender work-plans and monitoring how activities are being implemented. Top

12. Does MAF-SoL collaborate with other NGOs?

Yes, MAF-SoL collaborates with many international NGOs including CARE, Hivos, Mercy Corps, CRS, SAI, World Neighbours, USC-Canada and World Vision. MAF-SoL also works with local NGOs including BIFANO, Achae and CECEO. Top

13. How can farmers get access to the improved varieties?

Farmers can get unbranded community seed from community seed production groups in their suco, or buy branded and labeled commercial seed from registered Commercial Seed Producers in their district. Other ways include from MAF extension officers, from agencies including the Food and Agriculture Organization, and from international NGOs such as CARE and World Vision. Top

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