Diversifying crops boosts farmers' incomes

Diversifying their crops and vegetables has led to a big boost in the incomes of a Bobonaro farmers’ group.

The farmers’ total revenue over three months in the middle of 2013 was $US925 or $308 per month. Earlier in the year their monthly revenue was between $50-$75, which is the average for rural Timorese. The head of the group, Baltazar Freitas, says that before World Vision began their project, the farmers had only grown rice.

“But once we received training and information from World Vision, we increased our production and grew many other things.”

The Bobonaro Food Security and Economic Development (BFSED) project is run by World Vision New Zealand and funded by that country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

The farmers’ group was formed as part of the project in Meligo suco in Poegua in March 2013. Sixty-five-year-old Baltazar and his wife Balbina Boe Loe were among the five men and five women who joined.

Initially, the seeds that were obtained through the project didn't deliver good results due to the lack of knowledge and growing techniques. However, Baltazar and farmers such as Jose Martins were keen to attend the agricultural production training provided by World Vision staff.

They quickly and creatively put their new-found know-how to good use. After the rice harvest in April 2013, 10kg of green bean seeds were planted over a 2000m2 area. Vegetables such as cabbage, soybeans, eggplant and tomatoes were planted over ​​another 2500m2.

The 10kg of green bean seeds produced 350kg of mungbeans for the group. Of this, 250kg were sold at a $1.50 per kg, earning $375.  Fifty kilos were kept for seed and the rest was fed to the children to improve their nutrition.

The other vegetables including cabbage, tomatoes and eggplant earned $550. The total $925 the group earned over three months represented a 281% increase in their incomes.

Baltazar and Balbina have seven children, with four still living at home and attending elementary school. The project has really helped his family to better their lives, he says. “As a final word, my family and I are very grateful to God for sending World Vision to us in our village.”