Farmers enjoying the theatre performance in Lequidoe, Aileu

Farmers and communities around Aileu and Maubisse learned about improved techniques for maize production through theatre, dance and music earlier this month as part of a pilot trial of community theatre.

The pilot was run by Seeds of Life (SoL) in collaboration with Theatre of Timor-Leste, MAF and Charles Sturt University (CSU) and is the first time SoL has used theatre and music to share agricultural messages with farming families.

Eight performances were given at schools and markets around Aileu and Maubisse, and farmer feedback indicate the shows were received positively.

‚ÄúThis was interesting because it shows us how to plant corn properly,‚ÄĚ said a 61 year-old male farmer.

‚ÄúI can see directly with my own eyes and therefore I can do it on my own,‚ÄĚ said a 53 year-old female farmer.

‚ÄúWe can‚Äôt read so we prefer this kind of information sharing,‚ÄĚ said a 63 year-old male farmer.

Sharing improved techniques for maize through song, dance and theatre in Remexio, Aileu

Sharing improved techniques for maize through song, dance and theatre in Remexio, Aileu

The shows were created and performed by 11 CSU students from Australia, three performers from Theatre of Timor-Leste, and a Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) staff member.

Chris McGillion, a Senior Journalism Lecturer from CSU who helped co-ordinate the shows, said participatory theatre was well suited to Timor-Leste.

“Community theatre has been used for agricultural extension in Africa for over fifty years but it hasn’t been extensively used in Timor-Leste until now.

‚ÄúI think this trial shows that it‚Äôs a culturally relevant information exchange technique, particularly in areas of high adult illiteracy and strong traditional values,‚ÄĚ he said.

‚ÄúThis was interesting because it shows us how to plant corn properly,‚ÄĚ said a 61 year-old male farmer.

The group performed six market shows and two school shows across Lequidoe, Remexio, Aileu Vila and Maubisse over seven days to an average audience of 200 people.

The theatre group with Minister Sabino in Maubisse

The theatre group with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mariano Assanami Sabino, in Maubisse

The group finished with a special performance for MAF staff at the Comoro office in Dili on Monday 8 July.

Around 200 bottles of Sele and Noi Mutin maize seed were also given to farmers at the shows, along with pamphlets about the improved maize growing techniques.

SoL and Theatre of Timor-Leste are now planning how to use community theatre to continue providing remote farming communities with information about ways to improve food security.

This will be done in association with the ongoing Maize Storage Project of MAF-IFAD, which will provide 40,000 farming households with two airtight steel drums for maize storage, at the subsidised price of $10 per drum.