Project Everest

Work Update

Tunnel Vision

Lauren Merritt
Lauren Merritt | Dec 13, 2017 | in Agriculture Assessment

We have found that majority of farmers in Timor-Leste have 'Tunnel Vision' when it comes to farming practice, continuing to use basic and inefficient techniques passed down from previous generations.

We have, however, found a number of farmers who have instead had 'A Tunnel Vision'. They are adopting simple technologies such as Crop Tunnels to minimise the impact of the heavy rains in the wet season and have already noticed a significant improvement in the yield of their crops.

The two pictures below show 2 cauliflower crops. Same farmer. Same soil. Same age...Dramatically different growth rate and quality. 

The crop that is sheltered underneath the tunnel is protected from the heavy rains that occur almost daily during the wet season. It also helps to protect the crop from the harsh sun, which often dries the soil out in the dry season and stunts the growth of many crops. This has significant flow on effects as it increases crop size, prevents damage to the leaves/vegetable and therefore enables the farmer to sell this crop to the Supermarket. Having access to this market provides him with a reliable and stable income, allowing him not only to grow and develop his farm (he has ambitions to soon have 3 farms) but also to send his children to school.

Who would've thought there was so much light at the end of a simple, plastic tunnel. 


We are still in the very early research phase of our project but are eager to hear any information or opinions on simple farming technologies, such as this one, that people have found to be highly affordable, efficient and effective. We have also found impressive compost, trellis, drip irrigation and greenhouse/nursery systems on the farms we have visited. We are looking into how widely these are used, their costs and accessibility.


Timor-Leste Ag Assessment Team, Dec '17

Lucy Noble Dec 17, 2017

This is a pretty cool idea Lauren!

I would be interested to know if this technique is being employed with any other crops?
Also, any idea on how this technique came about? - Was it a lone innovative farmer or the result of Govt/expertise intervention?

Nice work


Roya Ghodsi Jan 10, 2018

Hey Lauren! Have the team had a chance to investigate the exact input costs for this tunnel system? And perhaps also then calculate the increased profitability of the cauliflowers which have had this shelter versus those which haven't? By comparing these two measurements you could quantify the economic benefit of using these crop tunnels (how much is the farmer saving/ how much more is he or she making by being able to sell cauliflowers of such larger size and quality). The Ag team in Malawi would love this information so we can investigate the viability of using a similar system in Malawi! Cheers.


Lauren Merritt Jan 24, 2018

Hey Roya! We found some costs for all of the materials and could make some basic estimations but didn’t get too specific. We proposed the idea of implementing plastic tunnels to the Farm Ed twins in Fiji and they got us excited with instead pursuing co-planting techniques that would mean you don’t really need the plastic covering. The premise was that you’d plant large leafy plant seeds next to smaller root ones to protect them from the rain (from what I can remember!) I appreciate how useful that info would be and encourage future Ag teams in Timor to look into it but it would be highly contextual as well. It might be worth looking into the specifics over in Malawi to figure out viability. Sorry for the belated reply - hope your project is going well!


Lauren Merritt Jan 24, 2018

I’ve only just seen your comment Lucy! Sorry for the belated reply. The tunnels were being used for a range of different crops yes, they usually covered a farmers predominate or best selling crop. We got a range of answers when we asked people about their inspiration for adopting the technique. Some people said they just ‘made it up’, responding to heavy rains and recognising the damage that was having on their farms. Others had been instructed by government/NGOs/community leaders. Definately not just this guy that had adopted the technology though - we saw quite a few tunnels throughout our month (although they were only on the slightly wealthier farms). Thanks for your comment!


Amber Johnston Jun 30, 2018

Status label added: Work Update