AusAID’s evaluation body, The Office of Development Effectiveness (ODE), has praised Seeds of Life in its recent report into the lessons learned from rural development aid.

A farmer proudly displays SoL released maize variety Sele

The report, From Seeds to Scale-up, says that SoL exemplifies some of the 12 key principles of effective rural development.

An ability to respond to change with flexibility, a clear understanding of how the poor will benefit from the programme and the combining of research with community engagement are a few of these principles.

The ODE writes of SoL’s success since 2001 in distributing improved varieties to over 25,000 farming families, providing productivity and increasing the welfare of around 150,000 Timorese.

The report was even more complimentary of SoL’s third phase for “including activities to strengthen informal and market channels for seed production and distribution.”

SoL’s programme helps groups of local farming families produce and properly store sufficient seed of selected high-yielding varieties of the five main staple crops, rice, maize, sweet potato, cassava and peanut.

These efforts ensure they have good seed on hand at planting time so they won’t go hungry, and to share or sell to neighbours in their community.

This means rather than relying on seed handouts from NGOs or the Government, farmers can reduce risk and dependency and develop seed self-sufficiency.

SoL sweet potato variety Hohrae 2 at the market

“Together with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), we’re facilitating market linkage of community groups and associations with potential buyers,” said Informal Seed Advisor to Seeds of Life, Buddhi Kunwar.

Mr Kunwar understands the importance of sustainability in the production of seed, and in educating about good farming practices.

“SOL’s approach is unique in that we work closely with MAF staff, over 90% of our staff is assigned from there. Having this involvement of MAF staff will help sustain the learning for the long run,” he said.

The ODE’s full report can be downloaded here.