Growing Vegetables for Growing Children

CWS Timor-Leste | July 31, 2019

Lucia and her mom outside their house in Liquisa. Photo: CWS

Lucia Martins lives with her mother, husband, two children, and 10 siblings in a modest bamboo house in rural Timor-Lest – Liquisa village about several miles outside Dili. And, even though the village is not all that far, distance-wise, from the country’s capital city, it is light years away in terms of socioeconomic development. This is the main reason that CWS is expanding the Timor Zero Hunger initiative there. The project has several aims one of which is to work with families to improve young children’s nutrition. There is a focus on pregnant women and nursing mothers, too, so their newborns will benefit directly from their mom’s improved eating habits.

Lucia and her family are farmers like most of their neighbors. They plant seeds and seedlings found in Liquisa: cassava, corn, pumpkin and potatoes. Since dry season began in May, just like dozens of dry seasons before, the family has had a hard time making ends meet. So, as he does year in and year out, Lucia’s husband commuted to the district capital six days a week for work. He makes $15 a week shoveling sand from the riverbeds for construction projects. This backbreaking work earns the family enough money (just!) to buy rice, soap and other household essentials.

Dry season in Timor is one of hunger. No families plant seeds or seedlings because there is no water to nurture them to harvest. Food shortages between May and December affect everyone. But they place young children at most risk nutritional losses and sickness. This is something CWS staff are teaming up with mothers and government health workers to change. One way is to help farmers like Lucia learn to plant wisely and well when the
rainy season begins each mid-December. For example, Lucia was recently in a hands-on training where she and her neighbors practiced making raised garden beds, natural fertilizer and compost. “We learned that if we plant close to our house, and use drip watering and homemade treatments, we can continue planting through dry season. This means we can eat more and better food year-round, which will be very good for my children”.

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