Seeds of Hope: Planting Home Gardens in Timor-Leste
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
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.
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.