MAF and Seeds of Life recently released an outline of the proposed National Seed System for Released Varieties they have been developing since 2000, most recently in collaboration with the multi-sectoral National Seed Policy Working Group formed in July last year.

In a meeting last Thursday the NSP Working Group, consisting of MAF-SoL, USC-Canada, HASATIL and CARE International and observed by Lao Hamutuk, discussed the outline of the national seed system and agreed it should be released for public consideration.

An outline of the National Seed System for Released Varieties in Tetun and English can be accessed on the Seeds of Life website.

What is a National Seed System?

At its simplest the NSSRV is a mechanism for releasing identified crop varieties to the farming families of Timor-Leste.

Seed systems around the world are quite similar. They use research to find and develop crop varieties before they are released, then the seed is quality controlled and multiplied and finally distributed to trained farmer groups. These then further multiply the seeds for widespread supply to farmers.

In Timor-Leste the first two steps are done by MAF and the last by Community Seed Producing Groups and Seed Producer Farmer’s Association.


Community Seed Producing Group sorting Sele corn

Why have a National Seed System?

A national seed system is crucial to the success of the agriculture sector in Timor-Leste.

Such a system will ensure all Timorese farmers have enough good quality seeds and cuttings of the major food crops whenever they are ready to plant, regardless of when the rains come.  As MAF-SoL staff often say, “food security begins with seed security”.

Timorese farmers will have enough seeds and cuttings, regardless of when the rain comes.

The National Seed System will also enable the government of Timor-Leste to make substantial savings by not having to buy, import, store and distribute seeds that often arrive late and aren’t the most suited to local conditions.

What is the National Seed Policy?

The National Seed Policy sets the objectives and actions that are necessary to implement the NSSRV.

The policy would include the introduction of a national seed registration, regulating which seeds can and cannot be sold and distributed in the country.

Having a policy in place means that further down the line seed laws can be developed to ensure farmers aren’t taken advantage of or sold seed under false pretences.

“They were sold seed and told it was morning glory but when the plant grew, it was actually an opium plant.”

“We had a farmer who experienced such a situation”, said SoL’s Community Seed Advisor, Buddhi Kunwar. “They were sold seed and told it was morning glory, also known as kankung, but when it grew, it was actually an opium plant.”

With the National Seed Policy in place this farmer would have cause to take the seller to court or seek compensation.

With guidance from a seed policy expert from Nepal, Dr Pratap Shrestha, the National Seed Policy is being developed in collaboration with the NSP Working Group and with intensive consultation at the district and national level.

To date consultations have been held in 12 districts, with 670 participants from local NGOs, district authorities and the private sector, as well as farmer, church and school groups.

These will be rounded off with a consultation workshop with representatives from the academe on the 15th of this month and a final national consultation in Dili on the 21st.

The NSP Work Group intends to then turn over a final draft of the NSP to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Assanami Sabino, in March.