Seeds of hope in West-Timor

18 Dec 19

The dry plains of West-Timor, a province of Indonesia, can be a hostile place to make a living. Though parts of the island are lush with forest, a prolonged El Nino has caused drought, with analysis of long-term rainfall data for the last 100 showing a strong overall decrease in rainfall.

Imanuel Bay, 31, lives in the village of Fatukoto in the Tengah Selatan District of West Timor. Though farming has the potential to be a profitable profession in Timor-Leste, it was untenable for Imanuel because of an uncertain climate and a lack of training,

“Until 2014, I still work as a motorcycle taxi driver,” said Imanuel. “Finding work was unpredictable. I used to make 20,000 Indonesian Rupiah ($2 Australian dollars) a day. During the busy working day, I could only make up to 30,000 a day,” Imanuel recalls.

These casual jobs didn’t pay much, road conditions to and from his village were rocky and unstable but Imanuel had two children and needed the extra income. His experience with farming simply wasn’t satisfying his needs.

“Before, this I only plant corns and red beans. My family eats the crops and we sell the extra. In one planting cycle [around 3 months], we can get from 500 thousand to 1 million rupiahs from selling the crops. Surely, we do not have enough to have any saving,” Imanuel said.

Yet he needed to make a change, so, in 2014, he decided to join the Integrated Village Development Project implemented by Yayasan MItra Tani Mandiri (YMTM) and supported by Caritas Australia and DFAT through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

Imanuel’s life started to change for the better immediately. He attended training about how to increase crops [vegetables] production from his garden, learnt how to make organic compost and simple techniques for water and soil conservation.

 “I learnt to diversify my crops and started growing corns, sweet potato, beans, and nuts” Imanuel explains.

Imanuel was astonished as he learned that he was indeed able to get much more income than he first expected, with smarter farming techniques. Drought resistant crops, slow drip water filtration and improved soil mean that Imanuel can earn 10 million rupiahs in one planting season. There was a time when I get so many valuable crops and got 70 million rupiahs,” said the 31-year-old man.

In 2014, Imanuel got enough income which later on he used to buy 15 calves. In 2015, he and his wife started saving money to build a kiosk. The kiosk, which cost him 20 million rupiahs was paid with money he saved from the selling of his crops.   Since the closest market was located about 12 kilometres away and could only be accessed through bad roads, the kiosk was a huge success and generated additional income for the family.

Now, Imanuel’s increased income from selling vegetables and selling goods helps him be more economically resilient, independent and enjoy increased dignity in his family life. “Before I joined the YMTM program, I was just hanging about wasting my time. I have learned many things now from the trainings and have become motivated to change my family life in many ways. 

Your support of Caritas Australia is ensuring the continuation of livelihood programs like these in Indonesia.