The theme for the conference was ‘food security in Timor-Leste through crop production’ and discussions were held around factors affecting crop production in Timor-Leste and the success technical advances have made to improving productivity. Two days of oral papers and posters were delivered across a number of sessions focusing on food security, elements for agricultural development in Timor-Leste, crops and their environments, reaching a food surplus, and communication of agricultural innovations. There were 260 registered participants and the conference was conducted in both English and Tetum, with simultaneous translation.
Day two ended with local farmer Francisca Pinto sharing her story of success. Francisca became involved with the SoL project in 2009, initially as an on-farm-demonstration-trial (OFDT) farmer testing sweet potato and cassava varieties. She then became a Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) contract grower of certified seed and is now an active member of a commercial seed producer group named ‘Unidade Sameklot’. Francisca spoke of the direct impacts the project has had on her family and her life: they now have enough food to eat and enough corn to last them the whole year, sometimes they can’t even sell it all; her and her family no longer get sick for no reason; she has been able to fix up her house and cover the cost of education for her five children; and she is now able to cover the cost of cultural ceremonies, which can be very expensive. It was amazing to hear the impacts the project has had on this family’s life and how excited Francisca was to be contributing to her family’s income.
|Francisca Pinto addresses the conference. Photo: Laura Carew, ACIAR|
|The CCT Learning Centre in Railaco, Timor-Leste. Photo: Laura Carew, ACIAR|
|Sampling sweetpotato in Soleil Kraik, Aileu, Timor-Leste. Photo: Laura Carew, ACIAR|
In collaboration with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the MAF, the ACIAR has played a key role in the Seeds of Life project, which is working towards a sustainable national seed system for Timor-Leste. The project has improved food security through the introduction, testing and initial distribution to farmers of improved germplasm of the major food crops: sweet potato; maize; cassava; peanuts, and irrigated rice.
|The Seeds of Life project team. Photo: Laura Carew, ACIAR|