(Tetun) In the period July 2013 to June 2014, around 41,000 farmers ‚Äď on average 33% of all foodcrop farmers in Timor-Leste ‚Äď were growing one or more MAF-released varieties, a recent Seeds of Life survey has found.

Results were drawn from interviews in August and September 2014 with 702 foodcrop farmers in 60 sucos across all 13 districts as part of the MAF-SoL Adoption Survey.

The adoption rates of improved varieties are the highest for maize (20% of maize growing farmers grow Sele; 10% for Moi Mutin), with 14% of rice farmers growing Nakroma, 12% of peanut growers have Utamua, 9% of sweet potato farmers grow Hohrae and 5% of cassava growers having Ai-luka. All of these are non-genetically modified varieties that the farmers can continue to grow from year to year, in the same way as the local varieties they are accustomed to.

The 33% adoption rate for all varieties combined is an 8% increase on mid-2013, when a quarter of foodcrop farmers were growing improved varieties. Some 61% of the farmers growing these varieties are only growing one crop variety, with 22% growing two varieties, and 8% three varieties. For maize, cassava and sweet potato, between 50-80% of the farmers also grow other, mostly local, varieties of these crops thereby maintaining the local varieties that they value. On average, farmers have been growing the improved varieties for three years.

Free distribution from either the ministry or an NGO is still the most important way in which farmers obtained access to improved varieties of maize, rice, cassava and sweet potato. For peanut, free distribution by MAF or an NGO accounted for less than 50% of the sources, and nearly a quarter of the farmers had bought their seed in the market.

Of the interviewed farmers, only a quarter stated they were aware that MAF had released improved varieties, and 58% of them thought that this had only happened for one variety. Most farmers (93%) named maize, with less than half of the farmers being able to name any of the other crops. There is thus clearly a need for continuing to inform local farmers about which improved varieties are already available in country.

This farmer in Maliana, Bobonaro district, is happy to plant Utamua because the yield is good and the peanuts are big © Alexia Skok/Seeds of Life

This farmer in Maliana, Bobonaro district, is happy to plant Utamua because the yield is good and the peanuts are big © Alexia Skok/Seeds of Life

About the survey

The 702 farmers visited – who were growing either maize, rice, peanut, cassava, sweet potato, or a combination of these – were asked, among other things, which varieties of these crops they were growing, from where they had obtained the seed or planting materials, and to what extent they knew and were familiar with other improved varieties that have been released by MAF.

Related content