Project Everest

Work Update

Timor Agriculture Assessment Steps Off

Harry Telford
Harry Telford | Dec 5, 2017 | in Agriculture Assessment

The Agriculture Assessment team in Timor is just over a week into its first month and we have made some great progress! Through empathising with various farmers in the Liquicia and Hera farming districts, as well as at different produce markets, we have been able to build a growing understanding of farming practices here in Timor, as well as identifying some key areas of potential improvement, such as education of more efficient farming techniques, and less weather dependency.

In the next weeks we will be looking at finding a plot of land set up as an experimental farm, where we will try different methods of farming and also plan to run workshops where we can demonstrate these methods to local farmers. One of our plans on the plot are to experiment with Lehe (velvet bean) a native Timorese nitrogen fixing crop that can be co-planted with corn which can double yield within two harvests. There are also other natural nitrogen fixing methods such as planting legume and other bean varieties before a crop of corn or rice is planted to to increase yield size. We have found organisations such as Kadi who have ran programs implementing these nitrogen fixing methods in areas of Timor, but have no evidence that they are still running, however, we believe that many Timorese farmers would benefit from this.

We have noticed that hydroponic systems have been implemented in local supermarkets, growing different kinds of lettuce. We are trying to get a meeting with a manager of one of these chains of supermarkets to see where they learnt about these systems, and to potentially make a partnership with them. It would be huge to implement these types of systems in more supermarkets, as well as farms as it would increase food security by reducing the variance of yield size and their dependance on the weather.

Although we all feel as if we are rapidly learning from our farm and market visits, we have acknowledged that none of us have any prior experience with Agriculture, and that having some expertise help would speed up the design thinking process by 10 fold. To get this expertise we have had meetings with the the secretary general of the Timorese Ministry of Agriculture, the first secretary of Oxfam Timor Leste, the Deputy Chief of Cardno Emerging markets USA, Avansa Agrikultura Project (USAid), and a farm leader in Hera. These meetings have lead to an in-depth insight to the agriculture, health, and nutrition scene in Timor, as well as setting us up with leads to more organisations, and offers of support when we come up with a business model.

Besides the meetings with organisations our most exciting lead came after meeting with the Dean of the national university of Timor, UNTL. From this we have planned a time next week where we will be able to pitch Project Everest to the students of the Permaculture Faculty to get new, knowledgable interns driven to make a change. The team also plans to run a design thinking workshop after the pitch to entice the students by getting them to define problems in the agriculture scene and get them to ideate what solutions they think would work. We believe that the Timorese locals will not only have a wealth of invaluable information about agriculture in Timor, but would also be able to connect us with many more farmers. We have also set up our data collection system through Google Forms, so after teaching the new interns how to perform soil tests they can go out and collect data for us themselves. With Timorese students on board, it is also our hope that we can also get them to work on the trail farm through the months where PE isn’t in Timor.

We are all really excited about the potential positive impacts this Agriculture venture could lead to in Timor, and with this excitement as fuel we will continue to hustle and make the most of our remaining time here in this beautiful country.

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Lily Partridge Dec 5, 2017

Love it team!
Running multiple workshops with different kinds of students, not just agriculture students, would be able to reveal a lot about shifting attitudes towards farming as a lifestyle in Timor. I know that often farming isn't seen as sexy or cool, but perhaps you could do a 5 Why's analysis to understand the root cause of how this attitude came to be? Really interested to see the results of the workshop!


Scott Jucius Dec 5, 2017

Having talked to an aquaponics enthusiast in Vietnam and visited the National University of Agriculture, the system has multiple benefits but also disadvantages. The largest problem people face, is the large upfront cost due to the piping, tanks, mechanical components, fish and other factors. Making it an unaffordable option for many people in developing countries. The system requires year-round maintenance to ensure that gravel blockages are cleared and that all fish are constantly fed. Both of these requirements can be automated, but again at a further cost. Aquaponics generally results in a larger yield per square/metre and at a higher quality, however cannot grow many types of food, i.e. root vegetables. Due to the cost, required maintenance and farmer’s unwillingness to change methods, aquaponics is generally only used in urban centres in areas where traditional farming cannot take place. Therefore, at a small scale, aquaponics are more suitable for personal use. Profits will only be sustainable if there is a large market for high quality vegetables sold at a higher price.

*Also a constant electricity supply is required to filter the water through the plants growing. Not sure on the state of electricity in Timor-Leste.

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Amber Johnston Jun 30, 2018

Status label added: Work Update