In many developing nations, food scarcity and malnutrition are serious problems, and Timor-Leste is no exception. This country, connected by land to one of Indonesia's islands, faces many challenges, but child malnutrition remains one of the most urgent problems. Although Timor-Leste is rich in natural resources, insufficient infrastructure and underdevelopment mean that healthy, nutritious food is often hard to come by. ChildFund has worked in Timor-Leste since 1990, and although we have accomplished much during the past 23 years, there is still a lot of work ahead of us.
According to the United Nations World Food Programme, Timor-Leste currently ranks 120th out of 169 countries in the U.N.'s Human Development Index. As in many other developing nations, agriculture plays a large role in Timor-Leste's economy, accounting for a significant part of its gross domestic product. About 90 percent of its rural population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods.
Although Timor-Leste has the potential to produce enough food to sustain its population, weaknesses in its infrastructure remain serious obstacles. Insufficient road networks, underdeveloped marketing systems and a lack of investment in crop production technology, such as irrigation systems, create food shortages. To address these shortfalls, Timor-Leste has to import food.
In addition to its infrastructural difficulties, Timor-Leste has suffered weather events and disasters that place even greater strain on the agricultural sector. Floods, droughts, strong winds and pest infestations have contributed to increasingly unpredictable crop yields, resulting in widespread food scarcity across much of the nation. For families living in rural areas, this can have potentially catastrophic consequences.
To address the urgent problem of food scarcity and child malnutrition in Timor-Leste, ChildFund launched a home-gardening initiative in the country last year to empower families to grow their own food and provide for their children.
Before helping communities establish home garden projects, ChildFund provides basic agricultural training to families to ensure they can maximize the yield of their gardens. For some families, this initiative has meant they can feed their families and also sell their excess produce to supplement their incomes.
Last year, Irene, a young mother living in rural Timor-Leste, invited her friends Felicidade and Guillermhina to participate in the home gardening program with her. They received training, tools and seeds from Graca, ChildFund's local partner organization, thanks to funding from ChildFund Australia and AusAID's Maternal and Child Health project. Last year, the women, assisted by Irene's mother, harvested vegetables from the garden worth more than $110. The proceeds allowed them to buy supplies and seeds for the next growing season, as well as clothes and shoes for Irene's son.
Although access to water is still a challenge in some areas during the dry season, the home garden project has brought hope to some of Timor-Leste's poorest families and given them the means to provide for themselves and their children.
To help us make a difference in the lives of people like Irene and her family, please consider sponsoring a child in Timor-Leste.