(Tetum) Martinha da Costa Boavida is chief of  ‘Moris Foun’ community seed production group (CSPG) in aldeia Bahamori, suco Ostico, Baucau district.

Martinha has successfully led the group of 26 members – 18 male and 8 female – since 2006 in planting sweet potato varieties Hohrae 1, Hohrae 2, and Hohrae 3, released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Seeds of Life. The group members own their own plots, and come together to collectively plant, water, weed and harvest.

Oct 30-4

Martinha da Costa Boavida smile happily in her sweet potato field in aldeia Bahamori, suco Ostico, Baucau district.
© Alexia Skok/Seeds of Life

“Our group was the first to receive Hohrae-variety cuttings from MAF-SoL in 2006” says Marthina,  “We received many sacks of sweet potato cuttings, which we planted on 5 hectares of group field. After the first harvest, we saw that the results were really good, and we still continue to plant the varieties now.”

The group feels the benefit of planting the different varieties of Hohrae sweet potato.

“The sweet potato is really good. It produces well, grows fast, and when we sell it we receive a good price as well” says Marthina.

“We are happy with the Hohrae sweet potato varieties. We were the first group who planted Hohrae in this suco, and now all the sweet potato farmers in suco Ostiku have planted Hohrae”

Moreover, Martinha says that the group can utilise all parts of the sweet potato plants; they eat the tuber and leaves, which they say tastes great, and the cuttings  can be replanted or fed to their livestock.

To keep the production continuing throughout the year, the group has established two different fields, one for the irrigated (in total one hectare) and rainfed (in total five hectares).

Marthina explains, “the one hectare field is close to the water source, so we can plant the sweet potato and use the cutting for the big area. The bigger field we only plant the sweet potato once the rains have begun.”

Oct 30-3

Martinha da Costa Boavida in her field. © Alexia Skok/Seeds of Life

Never having an empty field means a far higher production of sweet potato for the group. Each group member receives 15 to 20 sacks of sweet potato tubers from every harvest in each plot. One sack of sweet potato tubers sells for approximately US$12.

Each group member is responsible for the selling of sweet potato yields from their own plots. Martinha can earn up to US$300 from dry season harvest and up to US$900 from wet season harvest, making the year-round work very profitable for the group and its members.

With the income she receives, Marthina sends her seven children to school, purchases the materials to construct her house and to sustain the household necessities.

As chief of the group, Martinha organises the members to work together when the times come for planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting.

“Sometimes we share the surplus of the yield with families and neighbours so they also can feel the benefit“ she says.

“We are happy with the Hohrae sweet potato varieties. We were the first group who planted Hohrae in this suco, and now all the sweet potato farmers in suco Ostiku have planted Hohrae”.