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The progress being made in building food production and reducing hunger in East Timor through the ‘Seeds of Life’ program is the focus of a special feature on ABC TV’s Landline program.

The majority of East Timor’s people in rural areas have been living in grinding poverty, surviving on less than $1 a day, and enduring several months a year of near starvation.

But when Landline reporter Tim Lee visited East Timor he saw first-hand how the distribution of new varieties of seeds for crucial staple crops such as rice and maize is starting to transform whole communities.

Seeds of Life is a program within the East Timor Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), funded collaboratively by MAF and the Australian Government, through ACIAR and AusAID. The Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) at the University of Western Australia coordinates the program’s Australian-funded activities.

Since 2006 the program has tested selected varieties of staple crops from International agricultural research centres on 2,000 - 3,000 East Timorese farms, seeking farmer opinions on their yields, storage abilities, taste and returns at the market.

From hundreds of hopefuls, nine new varieties of the five staple crops maize, rice, sweetpotato, peanuts and cassava have been released so far. The next step is to build up enough quantities of seed to try to meet the overwhelming demand.

“We tested the new varieties on thousands of farms. As a result, last year we distributed about 100 tonnes of seed in five kilogram lots that have gone out to more than 20,000 farming families. So we are starting to have a large impact on farming families in East Timor,” Australian Team Leader Rob Williams said on the ABC Landline program.

ABC Landline stories on Seeds of Life:
Seeds of Life (14/03/10):…
Food Security (28/03/10):…

Other related ABC story:
Sowing hope in hungry East Timor (ABC online):…

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