Felis’s innovations – Number 2

Felis's three row weeder for SRI rice

Felis’s three row weeder for SRI rice

Not content to streamline SRI rice nurseries, MCE-A staff member Felis Bere has turned his ingenuity to how to weed the crop as it grows. One of the downsides of SRI rice is that the beds must be weeded four times before harvesting, a task which often falls to already overworked women. “Hmm, less effort and work faster”, mused Felis. Normally the rice is weeded one row at a time. Felis’s invention does three rows at once and his contraption is pushed by two people to make the going easy. A locally made one row weeder has already been produced as well which works better than the imports. Good one, Felis!

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Felis’s Innovations in SRI rice techniques – Number 1

Felis’s Innovations in SRI rice techniques – Number 1.

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Felis’s Innovations in SRI rice techniques – Number 1

Felis and his gigantic seedling nursery

Felis and his gigantic seedling nursery

Gee, we have some creative problem solvers on our staff at MCE-A! Felis Bere, SRI Implementation leader, had a problem. Lots of rice seeds to germinate and later plant out. To build the usual bamboo nursery frames was time consuming for cooperative members and everything would have to be transferred to the fields for transplanting – more work! Plus he needed enough seedlings for 8 hectares of rice fields. Here is his solution. These frames are placed on existing rice field land. The trays of seedling plants can be easily picked up and taken to another location for translanting, and the trenches of water keep the bugs away. This nursery will produce enough rice seedlings for 8 hectares of SRI rice in Sekar, Maliana. That’s 32 tonnes of rice soon to hit Timorese tummies!

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Mr. Jose Martins, Cooperative Haburas Sare

Mr. Jose Martins weighing rice in Haburas Sare 2013

Mr. Jose Martins weighing rice in Haburas Sare 2013

Sare Asulau village is in the sub district Hatulia, Ermera district. Jose Martins is 58-years-old, his wife’s name is Virginha Maya. They have two sons. Their youngest is currently in junior high school. He has leprosy. Mr Jose is a rice famer, while Virginha Maya is a homemaker and spends most of her time providing for her extended family. There is no running water, no electricity, no stove or any other appliances. Water is pumped from a well, boiled on an open fire and left to cool before it can be drunk. There are no water tanks, no drainage. The roof of their house is a mixture of used corrugated iron and bound palm leaves. Gawain Sharp, a volunteer working on SRI rice trials for MCE-A, lived with the Martins for a week recently on a diet of rice and papaya. One night the children shot a chicken with a slingshot so they ate that. There are no wire fences, no chicken coops so eggs are hard to find. Illiteracy is prevalent and Mr. Jose works on his fields and plantations to provide sustenance and to afford to pay for his son’s education. They live right next to the mill which OXFAM NZ/MCEA provided along with a hand tractor. They are fortunate in comparison with many in the community because of this. Malnutrition is a problem in Jose’s community, everyone is very thin.

Care is taken to store rice. Building dry and vermin free storage is a big problem for farmers.

Care is taken to store rice. Building dry and vermin free storage is a big problem for farmers.

Food security is also an issue and upon harvest great care is taken to move the processed rice to a secure location.

Mr. Jose has an area of ​​4 ha of private land; two hectares are used as paddy fields, and two hectares for other crops such as corn. Before the cooperative was set up, Jose cultivated the paddy field with water buffalo.

Mr Jose on the far right sweeping escaping rice back to the pile of newly threshed rice - every grain is precious!

Mr Jose on the far right sweeping escaping rice back to the pile of newly threshed rice – every grain is precious!

Mr. Jose Martins joined the MCEA cooperative at Haburas Sare in April 2008 with 30 other people. The cooperative was formed and people commenced carrying out their roles from then. In October 2009, members of the cooperative received a dehusking machine from MCE-A with a 10%, down payment of $500.00. In December 2009 members of the cooperative Haburas Sare received a Hand Tractor also with a 10% down payment loan.

The Hand Tractor has replaced the buffalo once used; the energy and time saved with the use of the tractor at a rate of 1-2 people can now do the work of 4-8 per hectare of ploughing. The presence of a rice milling machine is also another reason to be proud: Mr. Jose says that in one day’s work with the mill 1-2 tons of rice can be produced compared to the traditional system where one day’s work would produce just 10-25 kg of rice production.

Also traditionally only 1-1 ½ tons of husked rice would be produced per hectare which was less than satisfactory coupled with other traditional means of production which compound issues of poverty and disease. But in February 2013, the implementation of SRI in Haburas Sare, on ½ a hectare of land, yielded 3 ½ tons of dry husked rice. This was processed in two day’s milling. The increases in productivity coupled with infrastructure meant that the farmers become increasingly confident that they can break out of poverty.

  • In 2009 rice yields in Sare Haburas cooperatives totalled 22 Tons of 30 cooperative members
  • In 2010 the rice harvest failed, as did the corn.
  • In 2011 rice yields in Sare Haburas cooperatives totalled 28 Tons of 30 cooperative members
  • In 2012 rice yields in Sare Haburas cooperatives amounted to 45 tons of 30 members of the cooperative. (There was no means of delivering any to the market)
  • In 2013, rice yields in cooperative Haburas Sare are yet to be counted…but at last they can now get rice to the market through MCE-A.
  • Mr. Jose earns money from the family’s rice grain yield, from livestock, their cows, pigs, goats and chickens. Jose had in a given year received US $800.00 – $1000.00.
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SRI Rice Trials bring income and increased productivity to farmers

SRI rice generates more stalks (pinnacles) than conventionally planted rice and gives bigger yields per hectare

SRI rice generates more stalks (pinnacles) than conventionally planted rice and gives bigger yields per hectare

MCE-A through OXFAM Timor-Leste with the support of OXFAM NZ began SRI trials at 16 sites (totalling 30 hectares (HA) of land) throughout Timor-Leste. The SRI team formed gained in knowledge and experience and provided much needed information and documentation which played its part with OXFAM New Zealand’s successful proposal to the NZ Foreign Affairs and Trade Aid programme, to be implemented over the next 5 years.

The  SRI Rice trials were revealing; of the initial harvests in June-July 2013, a substantial increase in farmers’ income and productivity per area was achieved. Reports from all implemented sites at their different stages of growth are also indicating that they are on a similar track. Even in areas where there were adverse conditions such lack of sufficient water causing food shortages, the SRI result still demonstrated a substantial increase in productivity compared to even ICM sites in the same area.

The areas that have been and are being trialed are: 1.Bacau 1 HA, 2.Suai- Bago uno oan 1 HA, 3.Fitun Nabilan 3 HA, Beco Yes, 4.Halek 3 HA, 5. Mota Kiar Holbelak 2 HA, 6. Apapolo 2 HA, 7. Pemuda  2 HA, 8. Haburas Saree 1 HA, 9. Ramaskola 4 HA, 10. Maumali 3 HA, 11. Sekar 2 HA, 12. Seloi 1 HA, 13. Same 1 HA, 14. Watulari-Incosta-Mestri 2 HA, 15. Watulari Ossu 2 HA, 16. Watulari Laihunuu 1 HA

Rice harvest dehusked and bagged in Haburas Sare

Rice harvest dehusked and bagged in Haburas Sare

Trials are indicating an average of 58 rice pinnacles (stalks) per plant compared to 10 in the traditional method. The following case study is of the trial at Haburas Sare June 2013 which is one of three sites that have been harvested so far.

Women coop members weed the crop while it is growing and help hand cut the rice at harvest time

Women coop members weed the crop while it is growing and help hand cut the rice at harvest time

The total yield of processed rice was 76 X 25 kg bags and one kilo, or 1,901 kilos. As presented below. 1901/5,147 (Area) =.39Kgs per M2 or 3.693 tons per hectare of processed marketable rice. It is recognised that the trial hasn’t reached its potential yet however the yield represented a six fold increase on the conventional system used in the area and dramatically outperformed ICM. Critical information about the program’s capability has been obtained.

MCEA through SAL bought the 76 X 25 kg bags above from the trial at 65 cents a kilo or $1,235 for the 1.9 tons. This was income that a very poor community would not have otherwise earned. The community has since begun to organize itself to implement over 20 HA in the next planting season. MCEA has since through SAL organized to sell and distribute the rice.

The work Integrated well with OXFAM’s GROW campaign and has attracted the attention of both the Minister Marian Assanami Sabino and Vice Minister of Agriculture, Marcos De Cruz. The Vice Minister  met MCEA staff, cooperative members and Oxfam partners during this event and requested from M K Ali (OXFAM TL Country director) a presentation from OXFAM. The Minister of Agriculture has requested to visit sites in Suai which we are also pleased to present.

The Director of MCE-A, Jose AMX Goncalves and Vice Minister for Agricuture and Fisheries Marcos da Cruz at OXFAM's GROW campaign

The Director of MCE-A, Jose AMX Goncalves and Vice Minister for Agricuture and Fisheries Marcos da Cruz at OXFAM’s GROW campaign

Cooperation between MCEA and Government extension officers has begun in earnest in Sekar -Maliana  with a joint project opening up a three kilometer water way using government equipment.

“The trials in Sekar have the potential to open up 200 Ha to rice cultivation where that had not previously been possible” says Mr. Jose AMX Goncalves, Director of MCE-A. “In all, 9 Ha have been put in SRI in Maliana to date. Discussions and plans between MCEA and the government continue to integrate, which we hope will be included in the design for next year, including items such as warehousing, logistics and large tracks of paddy implementation.”

Successful harvest sold to MCE-A at 65 c per kg. Next year will be even better!

Successful harvest sold at 65c per kg. Next year will be even better!

 The increase in productivity resulted in a cash sale which was before not possible. The mobilisation of the community to get to that point and the wealth injected into the community vitalises communities with a genuine desire to keep going as they prove to themselves that they can transform their community and make the hoped-for progress happen – that is what they are doing with the implementation.  It also sets the scene for the larger planned movement of increased production and economic sovereignty which is attractive to stakeholders and members alike.

Vital measures in terms of productivity and costs have also been learnt in terms of both planning and implementation which are vital for further planning. Skills by administrators and implementers alike have been sharpened with the experience and perhaps most vitally at this stage relationships with members and partners have been formed and strengthened giving purpose to further training and integration.

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Minister of Agriculture to visit Suai SRI fields

All this SRI rice comes from one tin y rice seed!

All this SRI rice comes from one tiny rice seed!s

Ir. Mariano Assanami Sabino

Ir. Mariano Assanami Sabino

Good news today, we are honoured that the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Ir. Mariano Assanami Sabino, has requested to visit Suai MCE-A co-operatives growing SRI rice this week. Suai is a district that often faces food shortages and has been badly flooded recently. The government department is exploring the possibility of working with MCE-A on planting 100 hectares of SRI rice in Baucau and 100 hectares in Suai, but its still early days yet. More and more, it is becoming accepted that the people want and need a Timor local rice market so they can buy and sell their own local produce rather than imports.

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Promoting local food – not imports

Local rice - restoring the local rice market in Timor-Leste

Local rice – restoring the local rice market in Timor-Leste

Although a rice – growing country itself, most of the rice bought and sold in Timor-Leste is imported from countries such as Vietnam because it is cheaper than local rice. Rice farmers grow rice to feed their own families, but there is no real market for locally grown rice because a combination of transport costs, wastage through poor storage and the system of government purchase of rice results in Thai and Vietnamese rice retailing for 67 cents /kg versus US$1 / kg for local rice.

MCE-A is working towards restoring the local rice market by increasing cooperative members’ rice yield per hectare to create a surplus for farmers to sell at a low enough price to compete with imported rice and still get enough money to put the children through school and pay other household expenses. The technique of SRI rice is doing that: yields per hectare have increased from 2 tonnes per hectare to seven point six tonnes this season in sample plots.

Counting rice heads, pinnacles and seeds to document SRI rice growing trials

Counting rice heads, pinnacles and seeds to document SRI rice growing trials

The other strand of creating a market for local rice is to increase the loyalty of Timor people to buy local food. Our partner OXFAM supported a GROW local campaign this June to increase awareness in Dili of local products. It included a cooking contest and a local procession. Rice farmers from MCE-A participated and it was great to see MCE-A rice and vegetables on display.

Marching for food sovereignty in Dili

Marching for food sovereignty in Dili

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MCE-A Cooperatives

Our cooperatives are serviced through 5 regional Centres. In the graphic, Cafe is Tetun for coffee and Hare is Tetun for Rice. The numbers are numbers of  recorded members (1151 member households  from 38 coops), but there are many more members  known locally. Based on 50 coops we estimate MCE-A has 1,514 member households with about 6,200 adults and children. 21% of member households are headed by women. We’d be delighted to hold a census and keep it updated, but our limited funds are prioritized elsewhere to directly benefit the farmers, so we go with “fit for purpose” and try to improve data collection as we can.

Map cooperatives  by center June 2013

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Welcome to our new website

Hi, everyone,

We are setting up our website. So far we have information in “About”, “Rice Farmers” and “Coffee farmers” but we will have lots more plus many photos, maps and stories from our cooperatives around Timor Leste. Also we want to post in Bahasa and Tetun, but hey, we just started today and we have our annual report to prepare for Oxfam, our main donor.

Oxfam logo

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