Cooperative-based initiative is supporting sales of ginger, coconut, and other produce.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Timor-Leste is supporting farmers in the southeast municipality of Viqueque to access the market for their products such as ginger, coconut, candlenut, and elephant foot yam. One of the main barriers to agricultural development in the region has been the lack of access to markets.
ADRA has been supporting farmers to increase the quantity and quality of production through the Farmers to Market (FarMar) project in cooperation with the government of New Zealand. In addition, ADRA has provided training modules on finance and business as a foundation for the commercialization of farming activities.
After three years of supporting farmers, ADRA has established twelve cooperatives and also assures ongoing mentoring support provided by the FarMar project. The mentoring support includes the training of Local Market Facilitators of each cooperative to help them establish links with buyers.
Training sessions from office of the Secretary of State for Cooperatives, with assistance from ADRA, empower these groups to do collective marketing. Cooperatives are expected to assist farmers in attracting buyers by ensuring an adequate supply of good quality produce. ADRA representatives said they will continue to mentor these cooperatives over the next five years. Presently, two cooperatives have already signed a supply contract with two buyers for ginger and coconuts.
Value Chain and Marketing Manager for ADRA Agostinho Belo said that these contracts demonstrate the increasing trust of buyers in cooperatives. Farmers hope that the increased sales will help, among other things, to provide a good education for their children. “ADRA has helped us to get contracts with buyers in Baucau and Dili. Now we are accessing the market more freely,” Antonio, a FarMar project farmer, said.
About the Project
FarMar project is a joint project between the government of New Zealand and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of Timor-Leste. The project will run until 2026 and will work with 1,500 farming families in 15 villages in the municipality of Viqueque. So far, farmers have sold more than 20 tonnes of ginger, 7 tonnes of candlenut, and 19 tonnes of coconut. Future activities to support the cooperatives will include purchasing and installing simple processing machines to increase the value of their products.
The project aims to spur economic growth in Viqueque and improve family well-being through agricultural enterprises and food security in Timor-Leste. It links the farmers to markets, mentors them to increase production, guides them in processing products, and helps accumulate deeper financial reserves. Women farmers are being encouraged in all groups, making up 45 percent of field school participants and more than 59 percent of savings-and-loan groups. Even women with disabilities are included, and some are even leaders of their groups.
Coordinators explained that the project promotes organic farming. The project is also addressing climate change issues, especially the changing weather patterns that affect crop production. It distributed tree seedlings and disseminated sustainable agriculture, they said.