The mood was celebratory as ribbons and cake were cut for the launching of the ‘Maize Storage Project’, at the National Centre Conference Hall in the inland district of Aileu on Monday.

(From left) IFAD Country Programme Manager Ron Hartman, Aileu District Administrator Martinho Malos, Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Mariano Assanami Sabinho

The programme, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), will supply 42,000 maize storage drums to farming families in Aileu, Manatuto, Ainaro, Viqueque and Manufahi.

The 200L steel drums will help local farmers improve their food security, by providing maize storage that is more gainful than traditional methods which do little to curb attacks from pests like rats and weevils.

Currently, Timorese farmers lose between 12 and 30% of their crop post-harvest due to vulnerability to pests and diseases.

Under the IFAD project farmers can purchase subsidised airtight drums that create an unliveable environment for pests, and protection from diseases, for only $10.

“Ensuring that upland farmers have access to improved on-farm maize storage reduces the potential of high post-harvest losses,” said IFAD Country Programme Coordinator, Ron Hartman.

“[It also] provides incentives for farmers to adopt higher-yielding maize varieties such as those promoted by the Seeds of Life programme.”

Seeds of Life Team Leader John Dalton said the storage drum programme was the perfect complement to SoL’s initiatives.

“It completes the circle. SoL helps groups of farming families produce and store quality seed of high yielding maize varieties and then use that seed to increase their subsequent maize production,” he said.

“This project will enable individual families to store those higher yields so they no longer suffer annual food shortage in the hungry season.”

Minister Assanimo announces corn to be the staple crop of Timor-Leste

During the launch Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Mariano Assanami Sabino noted it was an important step in increasing the consumption of corn.

“While production of rice is quite low, it is the staple food crop of the nation. Increasing production of maize will help our farmers improve their livelihoods and help us to eliminate poverty.”

During the project’s initial year in Alieu the majority of the drums will be distributed by March 2013 to coincide with the harvest season.