(Tetum) 9 January saw Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão and Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand launch the Asia Pacific region’s first UN Zero Hunger Challenge (read original story here).

What is the UN Zero Hunger Challenge?

Launched in 2012 by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the challenge aims to establish a world where every person has the right and access to food, in a manner resilient enough to withstand multiple shocks*, including climate change and environmental degradation.

According to UN Zero Hunger Challenge, the challenge means:

  •             Zero stunted children less than 2 years
  •             100% access to adequate food all year round
  •             All food systems are sustainable
  •             100% increase in smallholder productivity and income
  •             Zero loss or waste of food*


MAF-SoL’s gender component aims to improve the nutritional status of women and children in Timor Leste’s farming communities

The fundamental elements of the UN Zero Hunger Challenge, and the eventual elimination of hunger in the Asia Pacific, are investments in agriculture, rural development, decent work, social protection and equality of opportunity*. 

How are the Ministry of Agriculture and Seeds of Life (MAF-SoL) contributing to reducing hunger in Timor Leste?

Staff member at Corluli seed warehouse in Maliana.

Staff member at Corluli seed warehouse in Maliana.
© Alexia Skok/Seeds of Life

The goal of the MAF-SoL program is improved food security through increased productivity of major foodcrops, with the objective that 65,000 farmers, or 50% of Timor-Leste’s farmers, have access to and are routinely using improved food crop varieties. Through the work of MAF-SoL, many Timorese farmers have seen the reduction, or elimination, of the “hungry season” by harvesting higher yielding staple crops in a sustainable fashion, and using improved simple grain storage technology (air tight steel drums).

MAF-SoL work to reduce food loss by promoting secure seed and food grain storage in airtight steel drums to eliminate the uses 20-30% losses to weevils and vermin.  MAF-SoL are also currently partnering with IFAD’s Maize Storage Project which is distributing 80,000 food grain storage drums (at only $10 each) by providing samples of seed of improved maize varieties with each drum.  Meanwhile , over 1000 Community Seed Production Groups have been trained to produce and securely store their own seeds of improved varieties for use by group members, for sale to other farming families in the community or distribution to vulnerable households using a voucher system supported by the program.

Implementing a nutrition strategy in 2013, MAF-SoL aims to not only ensure Timor Leste is fed, but that the foodcrops grown are of high nutritional value. This includes developing a high-yield, high-carotene (Vitamin A) variety of sweet potato, researching improved varieties of high-protein crops (e.g. mung bean, red bean) and engaging a nutrition specialist to oversee the strategy. MAF-SoL’s gender component aims to improve the nutritional status of women and children in Timor Leste’s farming communities.

The UN Zero Hunger Challenge sees programs such as MAF-SoL assist Timor Leste edge closer to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals:

1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

3) Promote gender equality and empowerment, and

7) Ensure environmental sustainability*

*Sources: http://www.un.org/en/zerohunger/challenge.shtmlhttp://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/