(Tetum) Timor-Leste’s first National Seed Council (NSC) has been formed with the appointment of 15 representatives from the seed sector at an inaugural meeting last week.

The Council, established as an independent national seed authority, met on Wednesday 3 September to discuss its mandate as managers of the National Seed System and guardians of the National Seed Policy.

The Minister gives the opening speech at the inaugural National Seed Council meeting © Kate Bevitt/Seeds of Life

The Minister gives the opening speech at the inaugural National Seed Council meeting © Kate Bevitt/Seeds of Life

In the opening speech H.E. Mariano Assanami Sabino, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) and chair of the Council, emphasised the Council’s role in pursuing seed security to guarantee food security for the whole country.

“Timor-Leste is not a big country like Indonesia or Thailand, we need to have rigorous structures in place so our seed system is robust and working to serve the country’s needs.

‚ÄúThere are big opportunities in the future for business and to increase the number of community and commercial seed groups. This Council will help us identify ways to develop the seed system more,‚ÄĚ he said.

The formation of this council has come at a good moment. It will help communities develop seed so they can support themselves and send their children to school

The Council operates under the authority of MAF and will advise the Government on a range of seed-related issues. Its mandate includes supporting national and district seed planning and development, and providing guidance to the Government on seed legislation and regulations.

The council consists of 15 representative members from MAF, academic institutions, NGOs, the private sector, farmer groups and religious organisations.

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The 15 seed council representatives along with Seeds of Life observers at the council’s first meeting © Kate Bevitt/Seeds of Life

According to MAF Director General Lourenco Borges Fontes this diverse representation is important as the seed system in Timor-Leste is very complex and includes many stakeholders and types of seeds.

“This diversity is a positive sign of collaboration as all sectors will be working with the Government in the best interests of the farmers and people of this country.

‚ÄúThis inaugural meeting is key to consolidating the views and backgrounds of the different members for the common goal of achieving food and seed security,‚ÄĚ he said.

Members see the council as a positive government initiative

Owner of Dili Mart David Jong joined the NSC as representative of the private sector. He sees forming the Council as a positive step to move the National Seed System forward.

“It’s great that the Government has taken the initiative to create this Council and include many representatives from the seed sector.

‚ÄúThis stakeholder diversity will ensure a range of opinions and inspirations are conveyed, meaning the Council can focus on the right priorities,‚ÄĚ he said.

Cornelio Eusebio da Cruz, chief of Ukani community seed production group in Los Palos, believes that the National Seed Council has an important role in serving the interests of farm families across the nation.

‚ÄúThrough this Council we can develop the seeds that our ancestors left us, our local seeds.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúThe Council will also help promote MAF‚Äôs improved seed varieties released as part of the National Seed System, which the Council has a responsibility to further develop,‚ÄĚ he said.

Modesto Lopes, MAF-SoL National Coordinator for Seed System management, presents on progress of the NSSRV to date © Kate Bevitt/Seeds of Life

Modesto Lopes, MAF-SoL National Coordinator for Seed System management, presents on progress of the NSSRV to date © Kate Bevitt/Seeds of Life

Anita Fatima, chief of Biropug CSPG in Aileu, feels that the Council will have a positive role in encouraging communities to produce quality seeds.

‚ÄúThe formation of this council has come at a good moment. It will help communities develop seed so they can support themselves and send their children to school,‚ÄĚ she said.

Membership of the seed council

The council is made up of 15 representatives who will meet at least every six months:

  1. Minister, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries
  2. Director General, MAF
  3. National Director, Agriculture and Horticulture, MAF
  4. National Director, Research and Special Services, MAF
  5. National Director, Agriculture & Community Development, MAF
  6. National Director, Forestry, MAF
  7. National Director, Quarantine & Biosecurity, MAF
  8. Representative of District Directors, MAF
  9. Representative, academic institution (seed expert)
  10. Representative, private company and entrepreneurs
  11. Representative, NGOs working in agriculture sector
  12. Representative, local religious organisation
  13. Representative, community seed production groups
  14. Representative, community seed production groups
  15. Representative, commercial seed producers

The next meeting is scheduled for January 2014.

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The council discuss its mandate as managers of the National Seed System and guardians of the National Seed Policy © Kate Bevitt/Seeds of Life