IFAD Partnership with Australian-financed Seeds of Life to help sustain rural communities during ‘hungry season’ in Timor-Leste

Report
from International Fund for Agricultural Development
Published on 21 Feb 2013 View Original

Rome, 21 February 2013 – The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the government of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste have joined up with the Australian-financed Seeds of Life program combining maize storage facilities with higher-yielding maize seeds to help farming families reduce their “hungry season.” This can last up to five months, a period when food from the previous year’s crops has run out and the next harvest is yet to be reaped.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in Aleiu ditrict, Timor-Leste earlier this week to distribute 55,000 kilograms of high-yield maize seeds to small-farming households in the districts of Aileu, Manufahi, Manatuto, Ainaro and Viqueque.

Seeds of Life is a program within the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) funded collaboratively by MAF and the Australian Government, through the Agency for International Development and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The goal of the program is improved food security through increased productivity of major food crops.

The partnership between the IFAD-supported Timor-Leste Maize Storage Project and the Seeds of Life program has the potential to increase food production and improve food security for the 23,000 households targeted by the IFAD project. With this new partnership where small farmers will have access to improved maize seed varieties – which can increase harvest yields by around 40 per cent – together with better-quality storage to reduce post-harvest losses by approximately 30 per cent; food availability has the potential to increase significantly. In addition, securely stored surpluses, which gain value over time, can be sold in off-season markets or used for livestock or other activities. It is expected that by the end of 2015, around 81,000 farmers – 71 per cent of farmers in the country – will have access to Seeds of Life seed varieties.

Timor-Leste remains one of the poorest countries in the world with estimates that half the population live below the poverty line and around two-thirds are considered food insecure. Seventy per cent of the population live in rural areas. Low crop productivity, lack of infrastructure and rapid population growth contributes to the food insecurity situation where poverty remains endemic. Households often face up to three months without staple foods such as rice or maize during the ‘hungry season.’

In particular, maize-growing households are one of the most vulnerable populations in the country. High post-harvest storage losses intensify Timor-Leste’s low food production. Up to 30 per cent of stored maize can be lost to rodent and weevil damage as farmers store the maize in trees. When it is stored in their houses, it is near wood burning fires. The smoke generated from the stove flows onto the maize stored above, which is used to combat pests. There are high health and safety issues with this associated with the fire and smoke.

Press release No.: IFAD/11/2013

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their own lives. Since 1978, IFAD has invested about US$14.8 billion in grants and low-interestloans to developing countries through projects empowering over 400 million people to break out of poverty, thereby helping to create vibrant rural communities. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized UN agency based in Rome – the United Nations’ food and agriculture hub. It is a unique partnership of 172 members from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), other developing countries and the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD).