The Minister with Senior MAF officials during harvesting ceremony

On 29 March the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, His Excellency Sr. Mariano Assanami presided over a ceremony marking the start of the corn harvest season in the fertile plateau of Suco Dotik in sub-district Alas in Manufahi District.  The Minister expressed his gratitude and congratulations to Seeds of Life (SoL) and RDP3 and all those who support agriculture programs in the Manufahi district.

Sr. Januario Marcal de Araujo, the National Director of Agriculture & Community Development (extension) which spearheads the establishment of community-based informal seed production groups, explained their function and composition.

These ISPGs produce quality planting materials of improved varieties (rice, corn, sweet potato, cassava and peanut) for their own use and sell or barter surplus quality seeds or cuttings to other farming families in their community.  A total of 40 such informal seed production groups were established in Manufahi district in the initial year of MAF-SoL3 and 264 across 6 other districts.  In the current year these activities will expand within the initial 7 and into 3 new districts (Lautem, Manatuto and Ermera) to involve more than 650 informal seed production groups.

Seed-production farmer groups received post-harvest tools

The Minister was particularly impressed with SoL’s on-farm demonstration trials (OFDTs) of improved corn and sweet potato varieties in Webere where he observed an on-farm corn trial being harvested. He then visited four informal seed production groups where he distributed post-harvest equipment including tarpaulins for drying, hand-powered rotary corn shellers and 200 liter air-tight drums for seed storage.

The Minister later visited SoL’s Betano Research Station where he toured the various replicated trial sites including the maize and lehe (cover crop) trial and the seed processing and storage facilities. There he saw seeds of P07 corn which was previously introduced from the Philippines. After extensive on-station and on-farm testing this white corn variety is now ready to be officially released. The Minister discussed with SoL staff possible names for the new variety.

The Minister with MAF-SoL staff

Aware that “food security begins with seed security” SoL3 (2011-2015)  is working closely with MAF to establish the foundations of a national seed system for Timor-Leste capable of ensuring farmers throughout the country have secure access to planting materials of improved varieties of the major food crops.