(Tetun) Tune into ‘Food Bowl’ on Australia Plus television this Wednesday (24 December) to see how the Seeds of Life (SoL) program is helping farming families in Timor-Leste.
The half-hour episode set in Timor-Leste – screening 17.30, 20.30 and 23.30 Dili time – features the stories of SoL’s staff and the farmers they work with to improve food security.
A cattle-fattening project in Loes, another program supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), also features in the episode hosted by geographer Ananth Gopal and chef Leesa Burton.
Food Bowl is a 3-part series that explores how “agriculture, science and the art of farming come together to lift lives out of poverty and ensure a safe food future”. It features the stories of farmers and researchers who work together on programs supported by ACIAR to improve livelihoods in the Indo-Pacific.
In the Timor-Leste episode Ananth goes to Loes to learn about livestock research, while SoL Research Advisor Rob Williams takes host Leesa on a whirlwind tour of the country to meet the people behind the SoL program.
Team Leader John Dalton explains the program’s purpose is to establish a sustainable national seed system, because “seed security is food security”. To improve crop yields and overcome tough agricultural conditions, the program researches and distributes pure line and open pollinated varieties using “no GMOs, no fertilisers, no sprays and no patents”. The improved varieties already released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries have 24-131% yield advantages over other varieties.
Leesa flies south to Same to meet with Regional Advisor Brian Monaghan, a former wheat farmer from Australia, and local researchers at the Betano Research Centre. They’re working together to test and identify more varieties of maize, rice, cassava, peanut and sweet potato that are productive and well adapted to local conditions.
A key focus of the SoL program is developing the skills of local Timorese scientists, so Leesa meets with Research Coordinator Luis Almeida in Maliana to get his insights into the program. “Before, we thought that farmers don’t have enough to eat, but now they already have some extra to sell and then make more income. I feel very happy about this,” says Luis.
Luis explains that taste preferences are key to the uptake of new varieties, so Leesa puts the varieties to the test by cooking up ‘batar daan’. SoL’s District Seed Coordinator Dorilanda da Costa Lopez shows her how to cook the traditional Timorese meal, consisting of boiled corn, peanuts, mung beans, pumpkin and leafy vegetables. “There are some amazing textures in here. This is one-pot cooking at its best,” Leesa exclaims.
In Behau, Manatuto, Leesa meets the Illiamano Anan farmer group who’s growing the improved Utamua peanut variety for subsistence and commercial purposes. Community and Commercial Seed Development Advisor Buddhi Kunwar explains that “there is not a difference in price between local and improved here but the results they get from the improved variety are significant”.
Leesa’s final stop is to the Raimean commercial seed producer group in Baucau, to the east of Dili, who have embraced the improved maize variety Sele and achieved bumper harvest results. As Leesa says, it’s just more evidence that “food security and economic growth are increasingly a reality for one of Asia’s poorest nations”.
So don’t miss Food Bowl Timor-Leste this Wednesday 24 December!
Screening times on Australia Plus:
- Port Moresby – 6.30 pm, 9.30 pm, 25 December 12.30am
- Dili – 5.30 pm, 8.30 pm, 11.30pm
- Hong Kong – 4.30 pm, 7.30 pm, 10.30 pm
- Jakarta – 3.30 pm, 6.30 pm, 9.30 pm
- Delhi – 2 pm, 5 pm, 8 pm
- Suva – 9.30 pm, 25 December 12.30am, 3:30am, 6:30am
To watch the first two episodes of Food Bowl (set in Laos and Papua New Guinea), visit the Australia Plus TV website.
Learn more about the program: