MCE-A (Movimento Cooperativa Economica – Agricola MCEA) is a home-grown NGO supported by Oxfam New Zealand and Oxfam Timor-Leste working with over 2500 people in 48 cooperative groups around Timor Leste to improve agricultural practices and support business initiatives with the aim of improving farmers’ livelihoods. The cooperatives produce mainly rice or coffee depending on their location. All grow their own vegetables. Over 6,000 adults and children directly benefit from MCEA cooperative activities.
MCE-A farmers and their families become financially strong through working collectively and improving agricultural practices.
To assist cooperative member farmers to develop the skills, resources, markets and land tenure necessary to be successful small farmers with sustainable livelihoods sufficient to improve their families’ health, education and wellbeing.
- To increase the income of food crop and coffee farmers
- To increase land productivity using environment friendly methods
- To encourage gender equality within the cooperatives
MCE-A Core Programmes
Increasing farmers’ income, intensification, extension and diversification of agricultural production are the key strategies used by MCE-A to increase farmers’ incomes.
Key activities include:
- Assisting with the establishment of new cooperative structures
- Strengthening the management and operation of existing cooperatives
- Establishing centralized locations for processing cof fee and rice harvests
- Providing training to improve agricultural processes from preparation through to processing
- Supporting reforestation efforts (to increase/restore water supply) by providing training and plant nurseries
- Assisting farmers repair irrigation systems
- Providing vegetable crop seeds
- Financially supporting small business enterprises which increase income for all cooperative members by providing business loans
- Democratically lobbying government to improve the prices received, and to secure markets locally
- Assisting and developing the earning opportunities of women’s cooperatives
- Working with government to implement alternative energy projects such as bio-gas and solar power.
Advocacy, Mediation and Dispute Resolution
MCE-A is developing skills in advocacy to act on behalf of farmers and cooperatives members. The main focus of advocacy work is to act as a mediator between disputing groups, and other stakeholders including government agencies, around land ownership issues and the protection of communal land, with the aim of resolving issues
Training and education
Improving the skills and understanding of farmers is central to MCE-A’s work. MCE-A believes all farmers, regardless of gender, need a basic education to participate fully in the new democracy of Timor-Leste. All MCE-A members are offered training in:
- Democracy and human rights
- Leadership and the management of an organization
- Advocacy and how the cooperative system works
- Gender analysis to identify established patterns of gender-based inequality in economic life
- Improved rice planting techniques and planting with the SRI system
- Training on making and applying organic fertilizer.
How MCE-A began
MCE-A was formed in 1999 by a group of young Timorese to help address the social and health problems caused by the flow of refugees into the capital city, Dili, following the uprising of the Timorese people and their move towards independence from Indonesian rule. The people of Timor Leste faced severe economic, food security and social issues in this time of great political and social unrest. The group aimed to encourage people to return to their villages and work collectively to solve the problems facing them, particularly around food shortages. MCE-A initially worked with groups of coffee and rice farmers in four districts to set up cooperative structures. The original MCE-A group dispersed soon afterwards as key founding members took up positions in the newly formed government and other agencies. In early 2006 MCE-A was re-established after a meeting of MCE-A founding members and Oxfam New Zealand who wanted to support an agricultural project in Timor Leste. Since that time MCE-A has grown substantially and has helped establish 30 cooperative structures in seven districts.
What MCE-A does
MCE-A operates on principles of equal rights, with an emphasis on gender equality, access for all to education, housing, healthcare and economic wellbeing, as well as respect for all members of the community and Timorese culture.
As an agricultural movement MCE-A aims to:
- Build the economic independence of Timorese people through increasing farmers’ productivity and developing a market for surplus product
- Provide employment opportunities in rural commun- ities to help stem urban drift
- Encourage the use of sustainable agricultural practice
- Strengthen the position of women in the community
- Provide basic formal and informal education opportunities to increase active participation in the economic, social and political development of the country
MCE-A works on the basis that farmers will be able to produce a surplus if they are provided with technical knowledge and skills, and have sufficient manpower. At the same time they are encouraged to improve the quality of their produce in order to achieve the best price, and compete successfully with products being imported into Timor Leste.
MCE-A also actively looks to source new markets for its members’ crops, including Fair Trade opportunities and the potential to form a stand alone cooperative structure to market and sell on behalf of cooperative members.