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.
Guest post by Mark Lukowski
Editor’s Note: Yesterday was World Food Day. Mark Lukowski, CEO of Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, and a member of the ChildFund Alliance, shared a recent experience where he visited those in need in the Horn of Africa.
For example, I met children who receive their only meal of the day at school – a single serving of protein mix for lunch. I met a beleaguered mother who said, “When my children are crying because they are hungry, all I want to do is run away.” I met children who lacked energy and were very quiet because they did not have enough to eat, and I observed babies with swollen feet due to malnutrition. I met a father who walks 40 km to get potatoes to feed his family. I met two men that had walked for more than half a day to find food in a nearby town. And those who were able to secure food were often eating the same thing every day — maize, cooked wheat, wild cabbage, or protein mix.
So this World Food Day will be different for me. I am grateful for what we have, but at the same time I am inspired to do more for all the adults and children I met in the Horn of Africa for whom access to food is a constant struggle that never seems to end.