You are here

Visiting farmers in Same

We left Dili in the early afternoon and headed for Same (pronounced SAM-eh), a small town in the central highlands. Same is where Concern bases its efforts in Manufahi District, one of the poorest places in the country. Nearly half the population here lives below the poverty line.

The hungry season, November to March, is about to start. During these months, when harvests are over and people wait for new crops to appear, the majority of Timorese don’t have enough to eat.

Mothers and kids are particularly vulnerable. About one in four women and nearly half of all children suffer from malnutrition. 82 out of every 1,000 babies born don’t survive and of every 100,000 pregnant women, 830 die in childbirth. Concern, together with other organisations and the Ministry of Health, is responding with a variety of poverty-reduction strategies. Concern focuses on providing emergency supplementary feeding, nutrition and hygiene education. Concern is also helping local communities to increase their access to food through natural resource management and proper food storage. These techniques help reduce some of the risks posed by natural disasters, disease, malnutrition, environmental degradation and other factors.

Concern also works with farmers who volunteer to receive training in sustainable agricultural techniques. Through practising on their own farms and sharing their skills with other community members, they then pass this knowledge on. Three of these farmers agreed to meet with me on the porch of Concern’s Same headquarters.

“People are very enthusiastic to learn,” said Clemente Da Costa, 40, a father of eight from the village of Alas. “We want to improve and we work together with Concern to learn what works and what doesn’t.” Like Da Costa, Francisco Prego Lamos, 39, of Same, has farmed all of his life. Both men said they and their families go hungry for certain periods every year. Learning together with Concern is making a difference, both in terms of increasing food productivity and preservation with the use of silos and other storage methods.

“Before, we didn’t have any idea how to store our food. Now we do and it’ll help us during the hungry season,” said Lamos, who supports his wife, seven children and several other relatives through subsistence farming. Working the land constitutes both survival and identity in Same. Improving the soil’s capacity to sustain life is vital for these farmers. “Farming is our life”, said Ernesto Dearugo, 39, of Turiscai.