Over 30,000 farming families in Timor Leste are now growing one or more improved varieties of food crops produced by ACIAR’s Seeds of Life program.
A mid-2013 survey, which involved 672 households in 55 sub-districts across 13 districts, found the average rate of adoption of improved varieties had risen to 25% of all crop-farming families, up from 18% in 2011.
Tens of thousands of families are reaping the benefits of the program.
The Seeds of Life program (SoL) in Timor-Leste aims to improve food security through increasing the productivity of major food crops (maize, rice, peanut, sweet potato and cassava). Plant varieties released through this program are yielding up to twice as much as local varieties of the same crops, and are highly valued by farmers.
The survey showed adoption rates are the highest for maize and rice, with 15% of the farmers growing improved varieties of these crops, while 11% of peanut growers, 7% of sweetpotato growers and 3% of cassava growers were also using improved varieties.
Compared with a 2011 survey, far more farmers now know about the Seeds of Life, are members of farmer groups, and know extension workers in their region.
A key finding of the survey was that although many farmers are aware of the new varieties, almost all who don’t grow them said it was because they don’t have access to seeds or cuttings. Increasing this access will be a top priority in Seeds of Life’s future activities, and the report notes the need to target isolated communities and women farmers.
Seeds of Life is a program within the Timor Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), funded collaboratively by MAF and the Australian Government.