Marcos Martins and his wife, Filomena do Santos, live in Maumetalau aldeia (hamlet) in rural north-central Timor-Leste with their two daughters, who are three and two years old. They are subsistence farmer like most families in their remote mountain village, and they are able to grow enough vegetables so that they can sell some in nearby Liquiçá town – for very little money, truth told, just about $15 each month.
To help Marcos and Filomena have more, and more diverse, food for their girls and themselves, because of their small income, they were prioritized among other villagers for help through CWS Timor Zero Hunger initiative. They, like others, are starting with a hen and a rooster. Since starting to breed them earlier this year, they already have four new chicks and 12 unhatched eggs right now. The eggs go first to add protein to the girls’ diet, and then some are sold for a small supplement to their vegetable profits.
In talking about adding protein, which she now understands to be essential to her daughters’ health, Filomena recently said, “We usually eat only corn and cassava,” but now, with information and “help from CWS, we are changing this.” So far, “we have learned how to raise chickens in a coop, which we built ourselves. This protects them from wild animals and from thieves. They are also vaccinated so they won’t get sick and will be assets to us for some time to come,” she added.
With their poultry-raising in hand, now Marcos and Filomena are preparing a new plot of land for more home gardening. However, access to water is a huge problem in all of Timor-Leste, particular now, during the dry season. So, the family’s existing home garden productivity is quite low. This is why CWS will wait for some time before distributing the seeds to support gardening expansion. And, in the meantime, in preparation for planting, CWS field staff will give farmers the opportunity to learn about water-saving ways to raise vegetables.
In describing the hamlet’s current water situation, Marcos notes, “We get our water for drinking, cooking, bathing and watering our garden from a spring that’s about 20 meters (220 yards) away down a steep hill by a narrow footpath. My wife and I both collect water every day in plastic containers, which we carry back up the hill.” Among CWS staff working in Maumetalau, this comment was heard, “Most people have no idea how heavy water is!”
FACT: One gallon of water weighs more than eight pounds, and Marcos and Filomena each carry at least two gallons at a time. www.quora.com
In time, CWS will work with Maumetalau and other hamlets, and local government, to assess affordable options for better safe water access. And, in the meantime, with CWS support and their own hard work, Marcos and Filomena will plant more nutritious vegetables to eat and to sell in the market. This will change their income enough that they will be able further to improve their lives and health. “With vegetables, eggs and chicken meat,” we will have a more nutritious and diverse diet, and a bit more money.” This is a good place to start!
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