Participants from FRB’s Timor Leste-Viqueque program recently reviewed their first-year progress and gave feedback on program strengths and weaknesses during a “beneficiary accountability” meeting. They expressed gratitude for updates from program staff on project goals and objectives and for the chance to weigh in, stating that it was the first time any programming organization had taken the time to report back to them or ask them their opinions. The staff of the local implementing partner appreciated knowing the farmers would like to continue participating in these types of updates on a regular basis.
The program, begun in 2011, has concentrated on improving yields and decreasing post-harvest losses by growing Sele, a high-yielding variety of maize, and giving instruction on proper drying and storing in airtight containers. Maize is the most widely cultivated crop in Timor Leste, but upland farmers have traditionally been unable to achieve high enough yields to sustain their families. This is due in part to a historic lack of improved varieties, and the inability to store grain well. Rodents, pests and mold cause yearly average losses of between 25% and 30% of the total harvest.
During the meeting, participants were given the chance to reflect on their hard work and successes, noting how many trainings they’d attended and which innovative farming techniques they’d learned and applied. Although they admitted that it had been challenging to learn and incorporate all the improved farming techniques in one year (planting in lines, spacing, 2 seeds per hole, etc.), they were then able to use them successfully by the second year. The farmers attributed the improvement in their skills, knowledge and abilities to having additional support and motivation from farmer group leaders and field staff.
Said one participant, “Before the project and training our maize was always attacked by weevils. I thought this was just part of what we had to live with. I did not know any way to protect my maize. Then we received training on how to dry it and store it in an airtight container. Last year, my group didn’t understand completely how important it was to dry the seed properly and some people lost some of their seed. But this year we are clearer and now we will not lose any seed because we learned to dry and test moisture better.”
One of the most important findings from the review process was that 76.3% of households had experienced increased yields of 30% or greater from the Sele variety over their traditional fields.
Timor Leste-Viqueque encompasses 3 communities, 630 households, and 3465 individuals