Zelia Pintu da Cruz lives in Maumeta village of Timor-Leste where, at age 32 she is mother to three children, ages 11, 5 and 4 years, and 6 months pregnant as well. She is a subsistence farmer and her husband is a motorcycle taxi driver who earns about $10 a month, which she supplements with a few additional dollars in seasonal earning from selling surplus mustard greens, spinach and cassava in the rainy season – so, only a few more months, and very little more money, each year.
Because Zelia’s situation is not unique, and since families across Timor-Leste experience poverty and hunger, CWS staff in Dili feel fortunate that CROP is expanding its Timor Zero Hunger initiative to their country. While most families grow some vegetables, including corn as a staple crop, for their own meals, most struggle to have enough food year-round, especially with increasing drought from climate change.
In August Zelia joined 28 of her neighbors for a 4-day education and training program focused on improved home gardening. Teaching and learning was facilitated by district government agriculture extension workers, who were supported by the CWS staff. When one CWS team member talked with Zelia during one session break, she said this, “To be honest, I’m not happy with our life and with the very small income my husband has from driving a motorcycle taxi. I want to increase my income and support the education of my children. My dream is that they attend university.”
With this dream as her motivation, Zelia was active in learning about ways to improve her gardening, including how to make and use organic fertilizer and how to do organic pest control; she was quick to practice what she had learned, too. “Although I already grow vegetables, I now have new information, more knowledge, ideas for better planting techniques and better skills to improve my gardening. And now I know that my husband will support me to increase our productivity”.
Since Zelia is a member of a CWS-supporter farmer group, she and her family will benefit from having additional seeds and tools for a new communal garden that will complement her own home garden, which is plans to expand, too, with new and different vegetable seeds from CWS.
At the end of the four days of learning and practicing, Zelia said, “You know, this is the first formal training of any kind that I have ever attended in my life. It was so good that facilitator translated all the information from Tetum to Tokodede, our local language, so we could follow more easily – so, thank you.”
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