(Tetum)Nearly one out of every two farmers growing foodcrops in Timor-Leste use one or more improved varieties. A survey of 700 farming households conducted earlier this year by the Seeds of Life program in 60 randomly selected sucos in the country’s 13 municipalities showed that 48% of the interviewed farmers were growing one or more varieties of improved maize, rice, peanut, cassava and/or sweet potato. This is a marked increase in the adoption of improved varieties compared to five years ago, when the adoption rate was 18%.
In 2007, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) for the first time released seed and planting materials for seven varieties of foodcrops: two varieties of maize, one of rice, one of peanut and three of sweet potato. These varieties – which produce between 25-150% more than common local varieties without any additional change in how the crops are grown – had been tested for several years by the Seeds of Life program, on research stations and on hundreds of farmers’ fields across the country. Since 2007, MAF, the Seeds of Life program and many other international and national organisations have distributed improved seeds and planting materials to East Timorese farmers. There are also more than one thousand community seed production groups that grow seed for their members and neighbours, and as of mid-2016 there are 69 Commercial Seed Producers registered with MAF. The number of released varieties was recently increased from 7 to 19, including two varieties of kidney beans and two of mung beans.
The recent survey found that the highest adoption rate of improved varieties was for maize; 44% of all farmers growing maize are growing either the variety Sele, Noi Mutin or Nai, or a combination of these. The adoption rate for rice was 21%; for sweet potato 10%; for peanut 6% and cassava 5%. Nearly all farmers who grow improved varieties plan to continue to do so.
Households that grow improved varieties experienced less hunger than households that do not grow them; 54% of households growing an improved variety said they had experienced hunger between February 2015 and January 2016 compared to 69% of households that do not grow improved varieties. Longer-term adopters can also earn more money from selling foodcrops than households that do not grow them.
In the last year, the Seeds of Life program has also conducted impact assessment studies on: collaboration with other agencies; gender; environment; capacity building; and financial and economic analyses of the Seeds of Life program.
More detailed information on the Seeds-of-Life end-of-program survey and the various impact assessment studies can be found at http://www.seedsoflifetimor.org/research/reports-and-studies.