Reports and studies


In 2011, the Seeds of Life program started supporting MAF farmer groups to become Community Seed Production Groups (CSPGs). As the program expanded into new municipalities in 2012, a study was initiated with eight CSPGs in Ermera, Manatuto and Lautem. A first round of data collection took place in early 2013, with follow-up interviews in early 2014.The first survey, from early 2013, focused on gaining broad data of the CSPG members households’ situation, and the 2014 survey — with interviews of the same persons — assessed what differences there were compared with the previous year, and what the reasons were behind such differences.
Even though there was only one year between the two surveys, there were some noticeable differences for the CSPG member households: a substantial proportion of respondents had their houses’ walls, floors or roofs
rebuilt with stronger materials, and there had also been a six percentage point drop in households who had to live with less than US$ 2.5/day. The report also has interesting information on CSPG members households’ nutritional situation.

The core activity of the Commercial Seed Producer (CSP) groups is to produce commercial seed of the improved maize, rice and peanut varieties that have been released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. This is however not a year-long activity, and to help strengthen the groups and give them also a more continuous focus, another activity was suggested:Savings and Loans (S&L).

This study reports on two surveys that were conducted with two of such CSP-related S&L activities, in the middle of their first year of S&L operations, and a year later. Even in this short span, the S&L groups already showed remarkable results, with positive trends for the involved households for such matters as food sufficiency, investment, housing, ability to send the kids to the school, and dealing with emergencies.The study found that the most common use of the loans was to pay education fees, followed by trading, and improving the house or buying assets for the household. Such borrowing schemes clearly fulfill a need for access to finance in rural areas, and there was keen interest from others to join the two S&L groups.
EoPS report covers (2 Vols)Seeds of Life End-of-Program Survey report

In February-March and April-May, the Seeds of Life program conducted a survey of 700 food-crop growing households in 60 randomly selected sucos from the 13 municipalities. The main purpose of the survey was to determine what percentage of farmer households were growing one or more of the improved varieties which have been released by MAF since 2007, and what the impact is of growing these improved varieties for the households that do so

The survey found that basically one out of every two farmers – or 48% to be precise – were growing one or more improved varieties. The highest adoption rate was for maize (44% of all maize farmers growing these), followed by rice (21%), sweet potato (10%), peanut (6%) and cassava (5%). More than half of the farmers growing improved varieties in the 2015-2016 cropping season were able to plant improved seed or cuttings they had kept themselves.

Growing improved varieties makes farmers more food secure (i.e. fewer adopting households experience hunger than non-adopting households), and they have to rely less on various strategies to cope with food insecurity than other households. Households who have been growing improved varieties for several years can more easily make money from selling food crops than other households.
The farmers were interviewed on a broad range of topics, including: their familiarity with the improved varieties released by MAF; area cultivated and crops grown; sources of the improved varieties; experiencing hunger in the past year and food security; the household’s economic condition; and participation in groups.
The results of the survey are provided in two volumes. Volume 1, the Main Report, details and discusses the main findings of the survey. Volume 2, Data Tables, compiles the tables, graphs and maps from Volume 1, with additional tables providing more detail.

Screenshot SoL CB report[1]Impact Assessment of Seeds of Life’s Capacity Building Program, 2006-2015

Capacity building has been central to the Seeds of Life program, and over the period 2006-2016 it has reached a large and broad range of people. In total more than 2,500 persons were trained on more than 10,000 training opportunities representing more than 37,000 training days. The largest groups of persons trained were farmers (55% with 28% of them women farmers) and staff from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (36% with 18% of them female staff)

The persons interviewed for this study very much agreed that the Seeds of Life training has had a positive impact on them as individuals. Improved skills and competence were cited most often and benefits highlighted included a better understanding of agricultural research, higher motivation, better problem solving, more confidence in carrying out job related tasks and in dealing with farmers.
Collaborating farmer seed producers indicated that their knowledge and skills had improved particularly in regards to seed production and management of profitable seed production enterprises and in the basics of establishing and running successful savings and loans operations.

Taking all the evidence into consideration, it is apparent that Seeds of Life’s capacity building effort has had a substantial positive impact on a wide range of numerous individuals as well as the organizations and associations with which they are affiliated.  And, while there are substantial challenges to overcome in the future, the enhanced knowledge and skills of Seeds of Life alumni has laid a solid foundation for future gains in agricultural productivity and food security in Timor-Leste.

The Seeds of Life program has assisted the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to establish a National Seed System, so that Timorese farmers can get access to good quality seed and planting materials at the time they need these, and in the quantities they want them. As of mid-2016 nearly half of all Timorese crop farmers grow one or more improved varieties. The hope is that this number will increase in the coming years as the National Seed System becomes better established, and the range of improved varieties expands.

These financial and economic analyses of the Seeds of Life program assess what benefits the Seeds of Life program could generate for Timorese farmers over the next 20 years, and how this could affect the production of food in the country. The analyses are made for seven livelihoods zones, which were developed on a cluster analysis of the 2010 Census data.

The study finds that the economic internal rate of return (EIRR) is at least 13%. Sensitivity analysis indicates that higher adoption rates of improved varieties, increases of farm-gate prices for foodcrops, and increases in crop yields can substantially increase the EIRR. On the other hand, a further reduction in the number of farming households compared to 2010, reduction in cropped areas of maize and rice, and stagnation or decline in the adoption rate of improved varieties or crop yields would reduce the EIRR.
As for incremental staple food production, it is estimated that for the country this can increase from 14,980 Mt to 19,220 Mt over a period of 10 years.


In 2014, 1,800 drums for maize storage and improved maize seed were distributed to more than 800 households in nine sucos in the Raumoco watershed area. One year later, a survey of 148 farmers was conducted to check if they used the drums for maize storage, and what had happened to the seed.
The improved maize seed had been planted by 85% of the farmers, and 72% of the drums stored maize. Of these drums 83% were between two-thirds and completely full, 12% were between one-third and two-thirds full, and 5% of the drum were up to one-third full, but not empty. Of the drums that were empty at the time of the survey, 18% had actually stored maize before. The survey also indicated that most of the maize shelling was still done by hand.
Farmer groups that grow maize seed and have good results have lots of maize to handle after the harvest. To reduce the workload, Seeds of Life has provided labour saving devices such as screens, shellers and grinders to the farmer groups. This study evaluates whether and how, the introduction of these devices had an impact on the gender division of tasks within the groups.
The study shows that the gender division of labour seems to be very much balanced between men and women members. Grading cobs and shelling are activities where women seem to be slightly more involved than men, as women are considered more thorough in performing these tasks. Tools such as shellers and screens help to reduce the workload of women within groups.
Overall, both men and women respondents are very satisfied with the tools as they help to save time, the tools are easy to use, and they give good results. If anything, the groups would like to have more of these tools.
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This independent study was commissioned to evaluate how successfully gender considerations were included in Seeds of Life program activities and whether the program advanced gender issues in the farming and agricultural environment in Timor-Leste.The study found that the program successfully achieved its target of engaging one third of women across all program components. It considered, however, that gender issues in the farming communities could have been addressed more comprehensively if more local and international staff members were assigned to work on this part of the program.
SoL environmental studyEnvironmental Impact Assessment Report, Seeds of Life
As the Seeds of Life program will end in 2016, the program commissioned an Environmental Impact Study to evaluate the impact of the program on the agricultural environment in Timor-Leste. 
The main environmental impact has been the introduction and distribution of improved germplasm of five food crop varieties to the existing local seed pools. All farmers interviewed reported that the crop types and varieties released by MAF were well-suited to the Timor agricultural environment, and no environmental impacts were observed from unintentional weed or pest distribution across seed networks.
Over the three phases of the Seeds of Life program, the program has collaborated with many other development stakeholders. This report explores what types of collaboration Seeds of Life engaged in over the years, highlighting seven areas in which substantial collaboration occurred, and what the impacts of such collaboration was.
The general impression which emerges from the assessment is that the collaboration was very much appreciated by SoL’s partners, that SoL often interacted pro-actively with other stakeholders, and that SoL was very approachable and willing to share inputs and knowledge where it could. The collaborative attitude contributed substantially to the success of SoL, and equally contributed to the success and impact of the activities of the other stakeholders.


Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 9.00.01 AMDistribution of Sweet Potato Cuttings to Vulnerable Households in Suco Maumeta, Liquiça
In February 2013, the Seeds of Life program organised the first farmer-to-farmer distribution activity in which vulnerable households received sweet potato cuttings that had been grown by Community Seed Production Groups in the same suco. This report relates to the first try-out in suco Maumeta in Liquiça, where 120 farmers received such cuttings. The farmers were visited in November 2013 and the study found fairly positive results overall.
Distribution report screenshotDistribution monitoring report: Sweet potato cuttings and other food crop seeds/cuttings distributions
Between October 2013 and March 2014, the Seeds of Life program assisted the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and NGOs, to distribute nearly half a million sweet potato cuttings to farmers and farmer groups in all 13 districts of Timor-Leste. A survey of 339 farmers in 38 sucos in seven districts found that 99% of the farmers who had received cuttings had planted these out, and 77% had already harvested, or were going to harvest soon after the interview.
Adoption survey 2014Adoption survey 2014
In August and September 2014, a total of 702 foodcrop farmers in 60 sucos in the 13 districts from Timor-Leste were visited as part of an adoption survey. Results found that on average 33% of the foodcrop farmers, or around 41,000 farmers, were growing one or more improved varieties. The adoption rates of improved varieties were highest for maize (20% of maize growing farmers gwo Sele; 10% for Moi Mutin), with 14% of rice farmers growing Nakroma, 12% of peanut growers have Utamua, 9% for of sweet potato farmers grow Hohrae and 5% of cassava growers having Ai-luka.
Gender report coverGender and the Seeds of Life Program
This report outlines relevant Seeds of Life (SoL) activities designed to address gender constraints and strategy elements, with a particular focus on women. The report was prepared in August, 2014.
CARE groups old studySustainability and Development of Farmer Groups in Bobonaro and Liquiça
Between 2007 and 2010 the international NGO CARE worked with 203 farmer groups in 21 sucos in the districts Bobonaro and Liquiça as part of the EU-supported ‘Local Initiative for Food-security Transformation’ program. Several of the activities implemented with these farmer groups were similar to those that are currently supported by SoL with the Community Seed Production Groups, and the program therefore wanted to learn how these farmer groups had evolved after intensive support to these groups had ended in 2010. Important factors for the continuation of farmer group activities are: the social cohesion of the group and a commitment of the members to the group’s functioning; support of the Suco Extension Officer; and closeness to local markets. The four program activities that had been sustained the best were: vegetable gardens; use of airtight drums; Sele seed production; and fertlizer preparation.


Oecusse report cover v2Drivers and Determinants of Sustainability and Development of Savings and Loans Groups
In the enclave of Oecussi, several farmers’ groups have successfully expanded into supporting savings and loans (S&L) activities for their members. In a country like Timor-Leste, with limited access to financial services in rural areas, such S&L activities clearly fill a gap. This study, undertaken in mid-2013, aims to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the groups, the lessons learned regarding the drivers of development and the determinants of their sustainability, as well as the interaction between the agriculture activities of the members and their savings and loans transactions. These insights provide valuable lessons for other farmers’ groups that plan to provide financial services for their members and the broader community.
Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 8.33.04 AMMid-term survey
In mid-2013, Seeds of Life conducted a mid-term survey to assess what progress had been made in the first two and a half year of the current phase of the program. This survey — which was conducted in 55 sucos in the 13 districts, with visits to 672 households — showed that, on average, 25% of the crop farmers in Timor-Leste grow one or more improved varieties of a foodcrop. The adoption rates are the highest for maize and rice (with 15% of the farmers growing these crops using an improved variety), and are 11% for peanut growers, 7% for sweet potato growers, and 3% for cassava growers. Of the farmers who grow an improved variety, 76% grow it only for one crop. In general, the farmers growing improved varieties are quite satisfied with the results they obtain: 88% of them reported that they had better yields than before.View the full report or powerpoint presentation (English or Tetum)
Impact of rice importsImpact of Rice Imports on Rice Production in Timor-Leste
The impact of imported rice study evaluated the cost effectiveness of importing rice into Timor-Leste compared with local production. The key conclusion of the study is that it is far more expensive for Timor-Leste to grow rather than to import rice, at least in the current agriculture environment in which sectoral investment is heavily skewed in favour of irrigation infrastructure. The import and sale of subsidized rice also reduces the incentives for farmers to grow more than what they need to meet their families’ subsistence requirements.
Effects of importing maize & riceEffect of Importing Maize and Rice Seed on Agricultural Production in Timor-Leste
The study found that the practice of importing seed and distributing it free-of-charge to farmers was a good measure to provide seed of improved varieties to farmers in early post-conflict situations, but it is a costly practice to maintain.  It may have major and negative long-term impacts on staple food production and for the emerging domestic seed industry.
Benefits of distributionBenefits of Targeted vs. Non-Targeted Seed Distribution
This case study focused on the impact of free seed distribution on different segments of Timor-Leste’s seed market. Particular emphasis was placed on the use of certified seed, multiplied with MAF-SoL support. The study examined planning for certified seed production (whilst attempting to minimise the production of expensive surplus seed that is subsequently given away for free), and targeting free seed distribution to those who are least likely to buy seed, so that the surplus of certified seed doesn’t undermine efforts to build up the community seed market. The study concludes that the incremental benefits from targeting seed distribution are very large. It is therefore recommended that MAF, the development partners and NGOs target their seed distribution activities.
ComplementarityComplementarity Between Maize Seed Production and Good Storage
Post harvest losses of maize stored using traditional methods are high in Timor-Leste, sometimes up to 50% per year. The main losses are due to weevil damage, but rats and other forms of deterioration also contribute. The IFAD-funded Timor-Leste Maize Storage Project (TLMSP) commenced to distribute 200 litre drums to poor farmers in 2013, and this study examined the financial and economic benefits of TLMSP and MAF-SoL collaborating closely to complement each other’s activities. The results indicated that there is considerable complementarity between MAF-SoL and TLMSP if these programs were implemented in unison in the same target districts, sub-districts and sucos. In addition, “twinned” implementation would also lead to more efficient allocation of MAF’s resources.

2012 and earlier

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 2.40.10 PM BS Main Report alternate
Terracing Report in  Manufahi, Ermera, Liquica and Oecusse Reaping the Benefits (Hetan Benifislu) Baseline Survey
Household food insecurity in Timor-Leste-1 Cover Cultivation practices
Household food insecurity in Timor-Leste Cultivation practices for staple foods including division of labour and agricultural ritual (April 2006 – March 2007) Household stocks and flows of food supplies during wet and dry seasons, and food shortage period (March 2006 – March 2007)

Thompson, Steven (2012). Geology and Soils in Timor-Leste


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