by Aloisio Assis and Zoe Hogan, ChildFund Timor-Leste
Rosita is no stranger to the difficulty of feeding a family. For more than 20 years, she has been farming a small plot of land, growing what vegetables and crops she can, to support her 10 children. A few months of each year, Rosita and her family experience the “hungry time,” when harvests are sparse. During this time, some families sell a pig or some chickens to buy enough rice to eat, while others struggle to make do.
“Sometimes we didn’t have enough food,” Rosita says. “Normally, the children would eat three times a day, but when we didn’t have enough food they had to eat less. Sometimes we didn’t have very nutritious food, but we just had to eat what we could find.”
Rosita has been farming for decades but just recently learned about new farming techniques that could help her feed her children throughout the year. In 2011, she joined a farmer’s group assisted through ChildFund Korea’s food security program. Since then, ChildFund Timor-Leste has worked closely with that group to facilitate training sessions on horticulture and coffee production and has provided farming tools.
For Rosita, the training sessions have already had an impact – she now sorts through her coffee harvest, dividing the beans in terms of quality. As a result, she can sell her high-quality coffee beans for a better price and increase her overall income.
Rosita is also now able to grow enough vegetables to feed her family and sell the extras. Twice a year, at the end of each harvest, she earns an estimated US$200 from selling her surplus crops. She uses the additional income to cover school costs for her children and other basic needs of her family. “With the money from vegetable harvests, I can buy uniforms, books, pens and bags,” she says.
Through the provision of seeds, vegetable cuttings and a new water tank, ChildFund Timor-Leste is also helping to establish a small aquaculture enterprise in Rosita’s community. Farmers are able to grow more, which increases farm productivity and enhances the nutritional value of families’ meals.
“During the hungry time from January to March, we usually just eat cassava, maize, jackfruit and bananas. We had to conserve foods so we’d have enough to eat at that time of year,” says Rosita. “The project is supporting us with seeds and cuttings to plant in our farm.”
After school, Rosita’s 9-year-old daughter Elia sometimes helps her mother by watering the vegetables. She says her favorite vegetable from her family’s farm is black mustard. If the farm continues to improve, Elia will have the opportunity to pursue an education, an accomplishment Rosita has experienced with only one of her children.
Reporting by ChildFund Ethiopia
As Yewubnesh finished the afternoon milking, she paused for a moment. Was it really more than two years ago that her husband Balcha had died? That had been a difficult time for her and the children. She recalled wondering how they would survive.
In the Ethiopian village of Buee, ChildFund has helped establish and train village committees to identify and help families and individuals in need in their community. At a committee’s recommendation Yewubnesh was put forward for a livelihood sponsorship, and two years ago this sponsorship arrived for the family in the form of a cow.
In Buee a month’s supply of milk — a liter of milk a day — costs approximately US$12. The cow is now producing more than 10 liters of milk each day, so Yewubnesh’s income has substantially increased.
Yewubnesh has five children with dreams of completing higher education. In Ethiopia, advanced education is made possible by the government if families can afford books, fees and the cost of living away from home at college or university.
The family’s milk cow, which last year gave birth to a calf — a heifer — has provided the necessary income for Yewubnesh to support her children in their educational pursuits.
Daughter Emebet, 20, is studying administration at a university in Addis Ababa; Alemu, 18, is now at Dila University studying economics; and son Zeneba, 17, who also has a ChildFund sponsor, is studying horticulture at Walito.
Yewubnesh’s third son Simi, 15, attends Butajira technical college, where he is studying horticulture. Her youngest son Abush, 12, attends Buee primary school.
The cow will have another calf soon, as will the heifer. So the family’s herd is steadily growing. ChildFund has provided veterinary support in the form of artificial insemination and medicines as needed for the cows.
As for her part, Yewubnesh spends considerable time collecting forage for the two animals. Additional feed for her prized cows costs about US$20 each year. Yet, she goes about the morning and evening milking with the comforting knowledge that the family’s income is secure and her children’s futures now look brighter than she thought possible just a few short years ago.