(Tetun) Subsistence farming in the tough agricultural conditions of Timor-Leste is a slog. Let alone if you are a poor family in a remote area with only a small plot of land to farm and limited access to an extension officer.
That’s why MAF-SoL has created an initiative to help the less fortunate get access to improved varieties of staple crops that have been released by MAF.
Now in its fourth year, it works by MAF-SoL purchasing surplus seed from community seed production groups (CSPGs) and redistributing it free-of-charge to vulnerable households.
Last year through the initiative, MAF-SoL distributed 8.2 tonnes of improved maize, peanut and rice seed and 56,000 sweet potato cuttings to 4,870 households across 12 districts (excluding Lautem).
The seed and cuttings were distributed in 145 aldeias in 47 sucos, including to 1,417 female-headed households.
The aim is to ensure more equitable access to improved seed varieties says MAF-SoL Community and Commercial Seed Advisor Buddhi Kunwar.
“These households are normally the poorer people in the community that live in relatively remote areas. They can’t purchase seeds because it’s too expensive for them, and they’re less likely to get improved seed from their extension officer as they are not members of a farmer group.”
Using better quality seeds is the quickest and cheapest way to achieve food security in Timor-Leste
The Suco Extension Officer (SEO) together with the local leaders select 30 vulnerable households from each aldeia. They are shortlisted based on several criteria and are approved by the suco chief.
“The selected vulnerable households are poorer people living in remote areas, often widows or women headed households, with only small areas of land. They are also not involved in any agriculture group and have poor contact with their extension officer,” Buddhi said.
In 2014, the following quantities were distributed to vulnerable households :
- 3.5 tonnes of Sele maize
- 3.8 tonnes of Noi Mutin maize
- 819 kg of Nakroma rice
- 191 kg of Utamua peanut
- 56,000 cuttings of Hohrae 1, Hohrae 2 and Hohrae 3 sweet potato.
Each household received one of the following:
- 3kg Nakroma rice seed
- 2kg Sele or Noi Mutin maize seed
- 1kg Utamua peanut seed
- 200 sweet potato cuttings of Hohrae 1, Hohrae 2 and Hohrae 3.
The seeds are of productive varieties released by MAF-SoL that produce higher crop yields using farmers’ existing practices, without the need for extra labour or inputs.
“These improved varieties can increase production by an extra 50%. If farming families are happy with the results they can keep the seed to replant again next year or use it for food,” Buddhi said.
“Using better quality seeds is the quickest and cheapest way to achieve food security in Timor-Leste,” he said.
The number of households reached in 2014 is almost double the 2,588 vulnerable households that received seed in 2013.
In 2015 MAF-SoL is targeting to provide improved seeds of MAF released varieties to 10,000 vulnerable households.