(Tetum) A recent visit from four Indonesian crop scientists to Timor-Leste to meet with MAF researchers has signalled the start of a new research-based relationship between the two countries.

The scientists from the Indonesia Legumes and Tuber Crops Research Institute (ILETRI) spent four days touring the country to understand how their proven technologies could work in Timor’s agricultural conditions.

Following on from the August visit, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) in Timor-Leste and the Ministry of Research in Indonesia will be developed to formalise the relationship.


The visit is the start of a promising collaboration between Timor-Leste and Indonesia. Front row (L-R): Dr. Rudi Iswanto (ILETRI), Dr. Didik Harnowo (ILETRI), Adalfredo do Rosario Ferreira (MAF), Dr. Muhummad Jusuf Yakub (ILETRI), Asep Setiawan (SoL), Dr. Muchlish Adie (ILETRI). Back row (L-R): Luis Almeida (SoL), John Dalton (SoL) © Alexia Skok/Seeds of Life

Key to the MoU will be the two-way flow of germplasm of new varieties explains Asep Setiawan, SoL Source Seed & Commercial Seed Quality Control Advisor.

“Its regular practice for countries to source new crop varieties from neighbouring countries that have a similar climate and grow similar crops”.

“ILETRI has successfully released many legume and root crop varieties which are also staple crops in Timor-Leste, so the relationship can bring many benefits to farmers here,” he said.

“The immediate plan is to access some varieties of soybean before the end of the year so MAF-SoL can start variety trials.”

Building this relationship will help MAF create direct linkages with outside agricultural research centres, an important part of the transition of the Seeds of Life program to MAF.

The collaboration will be built on germplasm exchange, training, and the transfer of technology, helping to increase MAF’s research capacity and improve crop yields across Timor-Leste.

Indonesia has successfully released many legume and root crop varieties which are also staple crops in Timor-Leste, so the relationship can bring many benefits to farmers here

Research Advisor Rob Williams said the local Timorese staff found the visit very valuable.

“The staff learned a lot from the ILETRI scientists because there was no language barrier”.

“The Indonesian scientists are inspiring for them because of their expertise and knowledge. Timorese researchers don’t normally have mentors or people like that they can look up,” he said.

“Timor-Leste can piggyback on the good science already happening in Indonesia and ILETRI is the main centre for breeding crops similar to here – sweet potato, soybean, mung bean and cassava.”

During the visit the ILETRI scientists attended a sweet potato taste-test at Urulefa research station in Maubisse, visited the Betano Research Centre and met with a commercial soybean farmer between Betano and Natarbora on the south coast.

ILETRI visit 4

Dr Muhammad Jusuf Yakub (6th from left) and MAF-SoL researchers prepare for the sweet potato taste test © Rob Williams/Seeds of Life

Five minutes with ILETRI Director Dr. Didik Harnowo:

It was Dr. Didik’s first visit to Timor-Leste, so we spent five minutes asking about his experiences here.

Can you briefly explain about your time in Timor-Leste?
Our visit in Timor was very interesting because the agricultural conditions here seem very challenging. But we noticed that farmers are very interested, eager to produce agricultural crops and use new technologies to improve their livelihoods.

How will the ILTERI team’s visit benefit Timor-Leste?
I hope that through our visit Timor-Leste can adopt new technologies and varieties to increase the productivity and production of food crops. It’s important for the population to continuously increase food production to match population growth, which the Government here is already focusing on.

Do you see an ongoing agricultural partnership developing between Timor-Leste and Indonesia?
Yes, a partnership on agricultural research and development is already starting to be built between Timor-Leste and Indonesia. I believe that this will be a positive collaboration benefiting farmers both now and in the future.

What was the most surprising thing about Timor-Leste’s agriculture?
We were surprised by how similar the agricultural conditions here are to Indonesia. Because the conditions are so similar, the technology is also similar. So some of the technology we develop in Indonesia can be adopted here, which can help increase the productivity and production of agriculture. This similarity was surprising to me.

Which technology are you talking about?
There are many types of technology – agronomy, new varieties, post-harvest and food processing technologies. Regarding new varieties, I think Timor-Leste must release more of their own varieties because some cultivars have already been adopted here, indicating the government will succeed in releasing more varieties. This agricultural research will certainly help increase productivity.

Do you have any final comments?
I want to thank the Government of Timor-Leste and Seeds of Life for inviting us here and hosting us. We hope that we can come again soon or that the staff of SoL or MAF can visit us in Indonesia.