Brigita Maria Kefi is a 35-year-old mother of three girls, all under the age of 10. She, her husband and daughters live in simple straw house in Maumetalao, which is a coastal village near the Banda Sea, which defines the north coast of Timor-Leste. For the past several years, changing weather, especially drought, has greatly affected her family as their access to water has become more and more difficult. Before the drought’s increase, Brigita and her husband planted vegetables near their home, which she could tend while also watching the girls, who were always nearby. But, because of the drought, Brigita and her husband started planting their vegetables close to a spring – but a bit far from their house. So, besides the time-consuming walk, which took Brigita away from her young girls, another issue with planting so far from the house was that their valuable vegetables, and lives and livelihood, were vulnerable to theft, pests and animals.
“Working so hard, and having little to no results was exhausting”, Brigita said to a few CWS staff who were visiting Maumetalao to explore ways our work might help vulnerable families like her. Seeing that they were losing money because their harvests were so low, Brigita and her husband stopped vegetable gardening. They, like most others, returned to planting only the Timor-Leste staples of corn, cassava and sweet potatoes. So, the girls’ nutrition degraded, and there was no possibility for extra cash from selling surplus vegetables, which could have been used to improve their diets, and lives, even more.
CWS staff met Brigita when, along with other community members, we finished a freshwater spring protection project in Maumetalao. Now, spring water collects nightly in a tank the project funded and, by morning, families can access 16,000 liters of water for all their needs. There is water for drinking, bathing and housekeeping. And there is enough for vegetable gardening – even in the dry season.
Now, once again, Brigita and her husband can garden near their home. And, they can garden year-round, which means more income from surplus produce. Brigit estimates that she makes an extra $20 per month now, and this income has already changed her life. “I was able to get some medical care I had put off”, Brigita said. “I now feel healthier, which will add to productivity. Now I will start saving for some home improvements”.
A key Timor Zero Hunger objective is to increase access to safe water. By building a water spring protection in Maumetalao, more than 400 people, including Brigita, have such access. All CWS team members are excited to see that Brigita’s participation in Timor Zero Hunger has created such a change in her family’s life.
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