Hope Growing Among the Produce

A new Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA project aims to improve the lives of Timor-Leste’s farmers. The nation’s farmers stand at an important cross road in the country’s development.

Project Officer – Vietnam, Cambodia & Lao PDR Karine Laroche explains how organising farmers can lift the standard of living for an entire nation.

The new project, Supporting Sustainable Rural Farmers Organisations In Timor-Leste, was launched in July 2016. As the name suggests, its chief aim is to help a network of farmers’ organisations assemble within the country and then act as a voice for the nation’s farmers.

Karine said groups were needed at village, provincial and national levels.

“Currently about 80 per cent of the population are small scale farmers,’’ she said. “The vast majority of people have very small farms that generate small income levels, and they have difficulty making enough income for themselves let alone to supply the national market for the country. As a result of this, there is a lot of competition from imported food.”

Karine said fostering the creation of famers’ organisations would enable lobbying for government policies that would create favourable conditions for local farms to flourish.

“A really good example of this has been in the coffee sector,’’ she said.

“Recent initiatives have had really positive impact on returns for farmers. We want to accomplish something similar here,’’ she said.

“The idea is to support the organisation of new cooperative groups and have a representative body set up by the end of the year that is speaking on the national level.”

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA aims for the project to be active in five provinces: Bobonaro, Covalima, Ermera, Liquisa and Aileu.

“Currently, the farmers are very isolated and a national body can actually play an advocacy role for farming and they need policies that respond to their needs.” Karine said farmers would also benefit enormously from banding together to share costs of production, marketing, storage and transport to increase their income.

“There is a tremendous need to improve production and to be able to sell together and find avenues for selling their products in a way that they will not be short changed by a middle man along the way.”

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