The activity of acceptability trials on fortified rice will contribute towards the achievement of national targets for improving nutrition and access to adequate, nutritious and affordable food all year round, as stated in the national Zero Hunger Challenge plan of action, National Nutrition Strategy and Food and Nutrition Security Policy. The overarching goal is hunger and malnutrition-free Timor-Leste by 2025, contributing to the achievement of SDG target 2.2 by 2030.
Food fortification is considered the most cost-effective way to improve nutrition especially when it comes to fortified rice in the country where rice is the main staple food. Therefore, WFP supports rice fortification as an effective approach to improve access to nutritious foods to 13 countries in the world. As more than 80 percent of the household in Timor-Leste consume rice as their staple food, the supplementation of a small number of micronutrients will bring benefits when the fortified rice becomes available through its social safety nets programmes including school feeding and/or through discussions to advocate for mandatory rice fortification in the commercial market. This is because rice is a good vehicle for fortification in schools to reduce malnutrition in Timor-Leste as it has proven in Bangladesh, India, and Cambodia. Therefore, the Government of Timor-Leste through the Ministry of Education requested an official letter to conduct the acceptability trials on fortified rice in 2018 but it has been deterred and completed in 2019.
Therefore, WFP is engaging with the Ministry of Education (MoE) to trial the acceptability of the fortified rice on testing and organoleptic (sensory) quality tests at two schools in the Metinaro administrative post in Dili. The Government of Timor-Leste has established the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) as a taskforce for rice fortification (RF) under the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) as a secretary of KONSSANTIL. This TAG group members decided to pilot the initiatives of rice fortification to be implemented in two schools in Dili municipality, an administrative post of Metinaro. These schools were EBC 03 Metinaro and EBF 1,2 Lebutun. The TAG group members consisted of technical staff from line Ministries under the umbrella of KONSSANTIL who supported the acceptability trials in these two schools. The pilot program will then be considered in 2020 in five schools in Dili Municipality if the acceptability trials of fortified rice are accepted in these two schools.
There were five schools such as EBC 03 Metinaro, EBF 1,2 Lebutun, EBC Farol, EBC 30 de Agosto - Comoro and EBC Esperanca da Patria-Becora defined by MoEYS to replace the 8 pre-selected schools in three different municipalities such as Baucau (EBF 1,2 Quelicai Antigo, EBF 1,2 Eubere, EBC 3 Afaça /Quelicai, E B Catholica 1,2,3 de Afaça) Bobonaro (EBF 1 Daudo) and Manufahi (EBF 1,2 Boraulo, EBF 1,2 Daramata, EBF 1,2,3 Fahinehan) by TAG-RF taskforce members under KONSSANTIL. The reasons why these 8 schools were replaced by MoEYS is because the pilot program on fortified rice needs strenuous monitoring, supervision, and evaluation to understand the challenges and successes found during the period of the pilot program. Therefore, any challenges and the corrective measures could be documented and well addressed during the scaleup of the rice fortification program in 80 schools in three Municipalities (Baucau, Bobonaro, and Manufahi) in 2021 and beyond. These are the main purpose of having a pilot program for rice fortification because it is scaled up to 80 schools in 2021 and covering more schools beyond 2021.