This year Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA ran an appeal to support farmers in Timor Leste. Below is an update from APHEDA country manager for Timor Leste Elisabeth Lino de Araujo about how farmers are using these donations to establish food cooperatives and provide for their families.

We recently visited farm groups across Timor-Leste to see the development of their recent projects. It was great to see how much progress is being made thanks to the training, support and mentorship they receive from our three partner organisations – Instituto Edukasaun Popular (IEP), Kdadalak Sulimutuk Institute (KSI) and Uniaun Agrikultor Ermera (UNAER).

However, farmers continue to face many challenges, especially as we experience the impacts of climate change.

Turning to cattle farming

In Loes, Liquica, west of Dili, we met with Manuel, who is the chair of the local farmers’ group. With IEP’s help, his group was making an income of USD$20,000 per year through vegetable farming. This was enough to pay for housing, healthcare and school fees for 20 group members and their families.

But the unprecedented Easter floods in April last year washed away their biggest field, permanently turning it into a river. With a much smaller area to farm, their income has dropped to USD$3000.

The group plan to recoup their losses by raising cattle, which have a high cash value and strong domestic and export market. Practicing integrated agriculture, they will use their manure as fertiliser, helping them to grow even better vegetables.

Bumper vegetable harvest

Further east, high in the hills of Ermera, where coffee is Timor’s major cash crop, another farmers’ group supported by UNAER is celebrating a bumper harvest thanks to their integrated nursery. Now growing tropical fruits, vegetables, and spices, as well as coffee, they can ensure year-round income for the village so Ermera is not known as “three months rich, nine months poor”.

Supporting 40 families, the produce they grow – from dragon fruit, durian, pineapples and passionfruit, to capsicums, vanilla, galangal and chilli, provides a varied, nutritious and delicious diet for the whole community.

Thanks to the funds raised in this year’s appeal, the group plans to expand their nursery and plant more than 5000 rambutan trees supplied from a new seed bank to be initiated by APHEDA’s partners.

These are just a couple of stories from the hundreds of farms and villages supported by this project. Each has their own story, challenges and needs, and they couldn’t do it without your support.


This program is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and members of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA.

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