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Timor-Leste is one of the world’s newest and poorest countries — a small nation with around 74% of its population living in rural areas. It is also a land vulnerable to droughts, flash flooding, cyclones and unpredictable weather.
Inequality between urban and rural communities is increasing, while issues of food security, unemployment, environmental degradation and gender-based violence are widespread.
In Timor-Leste, Oxfam is working with local partner organisations to deliver a three part program that reflects major challenges in Timor-Leste now and for the next five years: integrated rural development, Land Inclusive development and Humanitarian Preparedness and Response.
This project has three core outcomes for rural communities:
Male and female farmers were trained in agricultural techniques such as seed selection, System of Rice Intensification (SRI), Sloping Land Technologies, intercropping, process and post-harvest management and storage.
Farmers were trained in market analysis, marketing concepts, developing marketing plans, small scale processing and packaging. These training programs rose out of a focus group discussion conducted by Oxfam partners. The participants said the primary reason that informs their crop choice is the need for food. The households primarily have diversified farms to reduce risks and always have something to eat. The diversified farming approach was inherited from their ancestors.
Common crops are corn, rice, sweet potato, cassava, pumpkin, and peanut. Many of the crops are mixed plantings. In some of the aldeias farmers were provided with seeds of the improved Seeds of Life varieties for peanut and corn. The participants said that they do not really know when there is a demand in the market for particular commodities, but just go to local markets any time there are products to sell. Many households are not proactively selling, but will sell if people come to their house, or if prompted to sell by an emergency or need for money to send to their children to school or university in other locations. This emphasised the importance of providing training in marketing and market analysis.
Oxfam partner FPWO has provided mentoring and training for two groups who have piloted drying fish and meat for sale. FPWO has targeted this training towards male group members in order to encourage men to become more involved in food preparation and processing. The intention in targeting men is to challenge gender norms around men not performing cooking activities.
33 women and 24 men were trained on small business management. The training focused on record keeping, and participants reported that the training has helped them to analyse and manage their family budgets.
158 men & 105 women participated in the development of 11 Community Action Plans this reporting period. Community Action Plans (CAP) were developed, including analysis on value chains for each of the potential markets. The tools used to support this process were a range of participatory strategies including mapping of the community area, resources and disaster risk, Venn diagrams and a transect walk.
Community groups met with representatives from municipal governments to share a summary of the key issues identified by them through the Community Action Plan process. Government officials provided feedback and ideas on strategies to respond to the issues identified by communities, and recommendations for crops to focus on.
As a result of this coordination there was an agreement to include one water source in Somanasi village on its water conservation program. The government will provide material support for the community to construct a fence.
Five trainings were provided to representatives from five communities on Climate Change, El Nino and mitigation strategies. This training and messaging will be further consolidated under Oxfam’s Action for Resilient Communities project, which involves activities to raise awareness about El Nino and disaster risk reduction strategies.
Our teams in Timor Leste and Cambodia worked together to understand how the methodology has been applied across different groups. They also facilitated workshops to provide further training to partner representatives on the Savings for Change Methodology. After the one week training on the Savings for Change Methodology was completed all participants voted unanimously to pilot the methodology in Timor Leste.
Partners worked with communities to increase their capacity to understand, monitor and feedback on government services, from a rights based perspective, in order to influence government policies and practices related to food and livelihood security.
They also provided training to four partner NGOs on utilising Advanced ARC GIS. The training was successful and all participants felt confident after the training to use the software to produce maps. The partners intend to use the mapping to record locations of infrastructure development, to develop land use maps, and to map key community resources. This information will be used to strengthen advocacy around PNDS and agricultural land use priorities.
Oxfam also coordinated with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries at a national level through participation in the quarterly Donor Working Group on Agriculture and Fisheries and the Horticulture Working Group.
Subject: Gonzalo Mendoza Photo Credit: Rodney Dekker / OxfamAUS
Roberto Porto, 36 lives in the village of Monaven. The village is a two hour drive up a rocky, unpaved mountain road in Oecusse. The road is accessible only when it is dry. A river runs at the base of the mountain and cuts of access in case of rain. Oxfam partners work with the community in Monaven. They have been working on food security and livelihoods in the community.
Roberto Porto says
“I am Roberto and I want to talk about the activity in our aldeia Monaven. There are 241 households with a total population of 1116. There are 543 men and 582 women. We form groups here and have 15 groups. I am involved in one group which has 100 households. There are 83 men and 17 widows in my group. We have our savings and loans activity here and to support this we have established permanent vegetable gardens. We water these gardens using the gravity fed water systems that were built by Oxfam. We also have permanent toilets. Before this system, we had to go down to the river to get drinking water and for hygiene and we did not have water for the gardens. Now water is close to the house. Now we are happy because we do not have to go very far for water. We use this water for drinking, cooking, washing and permanent gardens.
“For the garden we get training in terracing. We also make a live fence to keep animals out. Before this we used the traditional system of cutting and burning, but we could not keep doing that all the time. Also we did not get much food. With the permanent gardens we get lots of food. We are not moving the garden every year. We plant food. We also plant different things so we can have food at different seasons and we don’t have to buy very costly fertiliser. We also get training from Y-ACTS on compost gardening, tools for the garden and crop rotation. We sell the extra vegetables in the market and put that money into the savings and loans group.
“We now also have fish ponds. It helps us have good nutrition. We also salt and dry the fish and sell it at the market. We put that money into the savings and loans group. Before we had savings and loans groups, we had a lot of problem with money. Now we have 16 groups and together we have saved USD 11,595.50. We use that money for family needs, to buy food when the rains fail and we cannot grow, sending the children to school and buying uniforms. We do not need to go to money lenders and pay big interests anymore”.
Based on the achievements of last year, Oxfam and its partners will continue to train farmers on agricultural techniques such as seed selection, System of Rice Intensification (SRI), Sloping Agricultural Land Technologies (SALT), intercropping, processing and post-harvest management and storage.
Women and men farmers will be trained in market analysis, marketing concepts, developing marketing plans, small scale processing and packaging. This will help these women and men to establish and manage small businesses.
Oxfam and its partners will also support communities to develop action plans that will address disaster and climate variability mitigation strategies. Oxfam and its partners will endeavour to enhance awareness on disability inclusion concepts and women’s leadership. Efforts will continue to increase capacity of communities to understand, monitor and provide feedback on government services, policies and practices related to their food and livelihood security.