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families, but will target 130,000 households---
about 90% of the rural population---under SoL 3.
The population is expected to double
within 30 years, but expansion will see seed
production active in most of the country's 13
districts over the next five years. Dr Nesbitt
believes East Timor can achieve a 30%
productivity increase over that period.
"SoL 3 aims to find productive varieties of a
wider range of crops including beans for higher
protein, potatoes that can be grown in the
uplands, wheat, barley, cowpeas and pigeon
peas," Dr Nesbitt says. "We will also look for more
current crop varieties to reduce risk."
Agronomy improvements associated
with the release of new cultivars may further
improve yields, and trials will explore fertiliser,
plant spacing and weed control using
biological methods including cover crops.
ACIAR's Crop Improvement and
Management research program manager Paul
Fox says introducing forage legumes to the
rotation could also support East Timor's cattle
and buffalo industry, underpinning a stronger
livestock export trade to Indonesia.
SoL 3's formal seed-production program will
feed into a community-based system of more
than 1,000 producer groups, who will distribute
seed locally, selling the surplus at market.
About 400 MAF officers have been recruited
to extend technology and knowledge to
farmers, and up to 700 demonstration trials
will allow researchers to evaluate on-farm
performance against research station results.
Dr Fox says building strong relationships
between the MAF and CGIAR centres is also
a priority to ensure germplasm flow "after the
system driven by farmer demand for seed, not
by the Ministry's capability to release seed,"
Dr Fox says. n
Seeds of Life
Seeds of Life is funded jointly by East Timor's Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries
(MAF) and the Australian Government through AusAID and ACIAR. The Centre
for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) at the University of Western
Australia (UWA) is commissioned to coordinate the Australian-funded activities.
SoL 2's non-government organisation (NGO) partners included:
n Ainaro and Manatuto Community Activation Project (AMCAP)
n CARE International
n Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
n Concern Worldwide
n Friends of Luro
n German Technical Cooperation (GTZ)
n Oxfam International
n Plan International
n Rai Maran
n United Nations Development Programme
n World Vision.
Seeds of Life achievements since 2000
n In conjunction with the East Timor Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries
(MAF), SoL has released nine new varieties of five staple food crops:
n maize---Suwan 5, Sele
n sweet potato---Hohrae 1, Hohrae 2, Hohrae 3
n cassava---Ai-luka 2, Ai-luka 4.
n Since 2000, SoL has imported and tested 210 prospective crop varieties.
n More than 2,500 households have grown at least one of the new maize, rice,
peanut or sweet potato varieties, with yield increases of 23--80%.
n 70% of participating farmers actively replanted at the first opportunity.
n SoL has been directly responsible for food productivity improvements in
26% of East Timor's 442 villages.
n SoL completed rehabilitation of the MAF Betano Research Station in 2007. Work
on the Loes Research Station in Liquica is almost complete and preliminary
work on the Darasula Research Station site in Baucau is under way.
n SoL has conducted or supported formal training courses for East Timorese
staff, exceeding 1,000 'people training days' each year.
More information is available at seedsoflifetimor.org
Socioeconomic benefits grow from 'Seeds'
Reducing poverty and hunger is the major objective of Seeds of Life, but
many East Timorese farmers are realising profits beyond food security.
Baucau district farmer Martina Boavida planted sweet potatoes for
household consumption after receiving stems from SoL in 2006.
The mother of seven used cuttings to multiply the new varieties and now
has 1.5 ha under crop, generating US$2,000 each year. The healthy income has
transformed lives. "I pay school fees for all my kids, buy them new clothes and
have improved their diet since I can now afford beef and chicken," Martina says.
"This success has given me the motivation to work hard every year. Sweet
potatoes are good for my family to eat but [the surplus] is easy to sell on the
market so we gain in two ways."
Martina's experience is shared by others. A report of economic benefits
derived from SoL varieties in 2007--08 indicated some farmers generated
income that was predominantly used for food and household materials. SoL
researchers believe cash may also be set aside for inputs to increase yields in
Suwan 5 is one of the new maize varieties released in East Timor by Seeds of Life in
conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
PHOTO: ROB WILLIAMS AND SALLY BOLTON, ACIAR
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