Written by Kylie Gordon, CARE Australia
49-year-old Ines da Costa’s home is a hive of activity. Chickens peck the ground, pigs snort and forage for food and a large duck enjoys a bath in the backyard pond. The house is filled with the sounds of children playing and women chatting in the kitchen as they prepare coffee. Ines is perched proudly on her front verandah surrounded by members of her farmers’ group. It’s hard to imagine that not so long ago, Ines felt alone and powerless to change her future.
‘I felt that I was alone, I could not try to make my own home garden because it’s too big. I could not do anything, it was beyond my power,’ Ines explains.
Like many families living in Timor-Leste’s remote rural districts, Ines relies on subsistence farming to provide food for her seven children. She grew spinach, tomatoes, salad vegetables and chili. She would divide her harvest into good and bad quality. The good quality food would be sold in the market and the bad quality food would make up the family’s diet. If Ines managed to sell all of her vegetables, she was able to earn $17 per month. This was just enough to send her children to school and didn’t leave them any money to purchase food in the market. Meat was a rare luxury.
‘We needed to sell the good quality vegetables to get money to send our children to school. For us, it was alright to eat the ones that were not good quality, but we also faced some hunger,’ she explains.
Three years ago, CARE started working in Ines’ village through a food security and agriculture project called Improving Agriculture and Nutrition (HAN). CARE’s HAN project aims to increase food security for 3,000 families and create links to markets so families can sell surplus crops and earn an income, often for the first time.
When Ines saw the results of CARE’s HAN project in her village, she took the initiative to ask how she could get involved. She was advised to form a small farmers’ group so she could receive training, support and seeds to improve the variety of crops produced by the families. Ines wasted no time at all, gathering her neighbours and telling them of the benefits she saw.
Image: Ines is the leader of her farmer’s group, part of CARE’s agriculture and nutrition (HAN) program. Aldeia Hatumatilo, Suco Acumanu, Liquica District, Timor-Leste. ©Tom Greenwood/CARE
Ines leads a group of twenty farmers. Working together, they each grow a wider variety of crops and have increased food production to the point where they are now tripling their income – to $57 a month.
The extra income means that in addition to school fees, Ines is now able to purchase clothes for the children and food at the market including the luxury of meat once a month.
The training and support provided by CARE’s HAN project has helped Ines and the farmers in her group increase their knowledge and skills. They now use advanced planting practices and improved seed varieties that are resistant to drought, strong winds and rain. They have learned how to improve their land management techniques, planting seasonal crops, conserving water and preventing land inundation. They have also learned how to store their food and seed grain in airtight containers to prevent pest invasions and building resilience to crop loss during periods of food shortage.
Image: Ines with her farmer’s group, part of CARE’s agriculture and nutrition (HAN) program. ©Tom Greenwood/CARE
Ines is keen to share the knowledge and skills she gained with the community and encourages other families to form farmers’ groups of their own.
‘We share [what we have learned] with the other families in the community. I always follow up with them and encourage them to work together and create new groups. I also provide advice to them. And then we work together, the result is good and we feel happy,’ Ines beams.
The positive impacts the HAN project is having on the community are clear but, for the once lonely Ines, the true success of the project goes much deeper than this. Not only is she growing a future with her farmers’ group, she is cultivating friendships that may last a lifetime.
‘I feel happy because with this group we support each other. As just one, we cannot make it, but together we can make it. It also creates friendship between us, because we’re always together, so it makes us feel happy.’
Written by CARE Australia
Every day, there are millions of families around the globe going hungry. Australian aid is a very important part of the solution to lifting these people out of poverty. Our generation has already halved extreme poverty, now is the time to end it and give more families hope for a better future.
After years of skipping meals to ensure their nine children had enough to eat, the da Costa are finally able to enjoy three nutritious meals a day. Guilermino and Marcelina, who live in the remote village of Tutalo in Timor-Leste, grow everything they eat. In the past, their diet was unhealthy and they were often hungry.
Image: Guilermino and Marcelina da Costa, after years of skipping meals to ensure their nine children had enough to eat, are finally able to enjoy three nutritious meals a day. ©Tom Greenwood/CARE
They were not alone. Every night, 870 million across the world go to sleep hungry and more than 2.6 million children die every year of malnutrition.
Fortunately for the da Costas, three years ago CARE started working in their village and changed their lives.
CARE’s Improving Agriculture and Nutrition (HAN) program aims to increase food security for 3,000 families and creates links to markets so they can sell leftover crops and earn an income – often for the first time.
CARE provides training, tools and resilient seed varieties so the farmers are able to increase food production and build their resilience to cope during times of food shortage.
Guilermino was elected the leader of his farmers’ group and his wife, Marcelina, is also a member. Together, they have opened up their reinvigorated home garden to the local community so that everyone can benefit from the knowledge and skills that the family has gained.
‘I’m happy that I worked with the HAN project because it has changed my life. Now I have all these vegetables and am no longer hungry. We have enough food and eat three meals a day. For the children, they eat more than three meals,’ Guilermino laughs.
Image: CARE’s Improving Agriculture and Nutrition (HAN) program aims to increase food security for 3,000 families and creates links to markets so they can sell leftover crops and earn an income – often for the first time. ©Tom Greenwood/CARE