(Tetun) 2014 was a big year for Seeds of Life with the release of a new bitter cassava variety, creation of the National Seed Council, and production of around 100 tonnes of quality seed by 31 commercial seed producers.

Many, many more activities also happened last year, so here’s a look back at the top ten highlights.

Adoption of improved varieties

1.     Adoption survey found one-third of Timorese foodcrop farmers were growing improved varieties

Last November, SoL’s adoption survey revealed that in the period July 2013 to June 2014, around 41,000 farmers – on average 33% of all foodcrop farmers in Timor-Leste – were growing one or more MAF-released varieties, an 8% increase from mid-2013. The adoption rates of improved varieties were the highest for maize (20% of maize growing farmers grow Sele; 10% for Moi Mutin), with 14% of rice farmers growing Nakroma, 12% of peanut growers having Utamua, 9% of sweet potato farmers growing Hohrae and 5% of cassava growers having Ai-luka. 

2.     Success stories show varieties are helping improve family livelihoods

Many farmers had positive experiences with the MAF-released varieties in 2014, including using new seed-related business opportunities to make income. Anina de Jesus, an Utamua peanut farmer from Bobonaro district, used profits from seed sales to build a house and support her family. While Filomeno da Cruz from Viqueque district made good money selling cuttings of Ai-Luka 2 & 4 cassava. Another success story was Naroman, a commercial seed producer from Liquica district that earned over $4,000 USD in two years from selling their quality seed. And womens’ groups weren’t missing out on the action either, finding diverse ways to make money from the new varieties.


Women group Feto Halibur Buka Moris from Aileu district sell their final product of Ailuka2 and Ai-luka 4 cassava chips at an exhibition hold by Ministry of Tourism. © Ivan Lopes/Seeds of Life

National Seed System for Released Varieties (NSSRV)

 3.     New cassava variety released, bringing total MAF varieties to 12

In May MAF released a bitter variety of cassava, Ai-luka 1, after multiple years of on-station and on-farm testing. Due to its high level of starch and hydrogen cyanide it can be left longer in the ground with less risk of being eaten by pigs or rats. This makes it suitable for industrial purposes such as being dried and sold as chips or stored as tubers or flour for later use as a food reserve. This new variety brings the total released to 12, which are together helping to reduce hunger and improve food security in Timor-Leste.

4.     Seed council established as guardians of the National Seed Policy

Timor-Leste’s first National Seed Council was formed in September with the appointment of 15 representatives from the seed sector. The council, established as an independent national seed authority, is mandated to be guardians of the National Seed Policy and oversee implementation of the National Seed System.

 5.     31 commercial producers grew 100 tonnes of quality seed in 2013-14 cropping season

A total of 31 commercial seed producers (CSPs) were registered and approved to produce quality commercial seed in the 2013-14 cropping season under the CSP Guidelines of the NSSRV. Around 100 tonnes of quality maize andrice  seed was produced by the CSPs and sold to MAF for distribution to the farming families of Timor-Leste.

6.     60 sweet potato production centres established in all districts

During 2014, SoL established over 60 sweet potato production centres across the 13 districts of Timor-Leste. This provides farming families with better access to quality planting materials of the Hohrae 1, 2 and 3 varieties, which are quick growing and nutritious. Forming the centres helps reduce the time and distance that cuttings needed to travel before reaching farmers, thereby decreasing the risk of cuttings being damaged in travel.

CA109 cassava

Ai-luka 1, bitter cassava variety that brings to total 12 improved varieties released by MAF. © Alexia Skok/Seeds of Life


7.     Timorese researchers wrote Annual Research Report for the first time ever

Timorese researchers made a huge milestone by writing the 2013 SoL Annual Research Report in their local language Tetun for the first time ever. This differs from before, as since 2006 the Regional Advisors and Research Advisor produced the annual report in English first before translation to Tetun. This showed the great improvement of the local researchers after eight years of on-the-job learning and training. More than 15 researchers collaboratively wrote reports on the results of crop research that looked at adaptation, yields and agronomic practices.

8.     Climate researchers produced various maps and resources for public use

Nine interactive Google Earth maps featuring climate, soil and agricultural census data were released in December. The different maps contain information on soil test results, weather station data, climate change data, watershed boundaries, and statistics about population, and crops and livestock in Timor-Leste. Earlier in September, researchers developed information sheets for 240 sucos (villages) across seven districts. These agriculture-related sheets contain suco-specific information, graphs and maps depicting rainfall data, topography, climate predictions, soil pH and hydrogeology. All maps and resources are free for the public to use, print and distribute.

Jilberto (left) found the training to be useful for learning new skills © Ivan Lopes/Seeds of Life

The Crawford Fund trained five MAF staffs on soil phosphorus level test. © Ivan Lopes/Seeds of Life

9.     SoL’s researchers discovered Timor-Leste is hotter now than in Portuguese times

The finding was based on an analysis of changes in temperature and rainfall between the periods 1954-1974 and 2004-2012. The average temperature in Timor-Leste has increased by 1°C and rainfall has dropped 19% since 1974. Key to this analysis was successfully identifying the locations of 63 old weather stations across the country to access and make use of historical climate data.

10.  Soil phosphorus level test can now be tested in by MAF staff in Dili

The Crawford Fund ran a three-week training on soil analysis for five MAF staff in October 2014. The staff learned how to test soil phosphorus, pH and electro conductivity – elements that are all necessary for productive agriculture. This training means all future soil testing for these three characteristics can be done locally at MAF’s laboratory in Comoro.