Regenerating soil in Timor-Leste with trees!April 19, 2021
How can farmers steward an agricultural oasis? Patience, hard work, environmentally friendly farming—and trees.
Before the rainy season starts, the lands around Dili, Timor-Leste are parched, brown and desolate. Years of war and repeated landscape burning have eroded and degraded the soil around the capital city, making growing food really difficult.
But tucked away in a valley on the outskirts of town is a brilliant burst of bright green called the EcoFarm and Biodiversity Learning Centre, created by our partner organization, RAEBIA (Resilient Agriculture and Economy through Biodiversity in Action).
How did they steward this agricultural oasis? Patience, hard work, environmentally friendly farming—and trees. Learn more below!
Support farmers using environmentally friendly practices this Earth Day!
Regenerating soil in Timor-Leste with trees
It may seem counterintuitive to plant trees in a desolate landscape, but if you use the right trees, they can actually help.
RAEBIA began the process of regenerating the landscape by planting leguminous trees. As they grew, the leguminous trees grew the soil health, too, with a natural process called nitrogen fixation. Plants need nitrogen—an element abundant in the atmosphere—to grow. But for most crops, nitrogen is only useful if it is in the soil. Leguminous trees are able to help translate nitrogen from the air into a form in the soil that plants can use.
Over time, the trees RAEBIA planted increased nitrogen content and soil fertility. Once the trees were done their jobs, they were cut down and turned into compost and mulch, so the nutrients in them could be returned to the soil. At that point, farmers planted food crops to take advantage of the increased nitrogen in the soil.
It’s like recycling: all the work, energy and nutrients contained in those trees goes back into the soil so that other plants can benefit from it.
- Learn about other ways farmers in Timor-Leste are using trees and agroecology.
In addition to strategic tree planting, RAEBIA carved out terraces into the steep slopes of the EcoFarm, creating steps in the landscape that allow crops to be planted on the horizontal surfaces and reduce erosion. Learn all about how terracing works—and how tasty it can be—here.
Regenerating soil in Timor-Leste with trees and terracing is just one way we’re supporting farmers using Earth-friendly agroecological practices. It takes time and patience but it works.
Spreading Earth-friendly, agroecological farming practices
The EcoFarm is also a learning centre that helps demonstrate the benefits of Earth-friendly farming practices to farmers around the country, whether they’re supported through RAEBIA or not. Farmers, university students from Dili, and government officials alike visit the farm to learn about sustainable farming. For government officials, a tour of the EcoFarm helps them understand the potential of policies that support farmers in using these sustainable techniques.
So not only are SeedChange supporters helping farmers improve conditions on their farms, they’re helping our partner, RAEBIA, advocate for farmers across all of Timor-Leste.
The EcoFarm is an example of how the right farming strategies can rebuild soils and bring life to barren landscapes. You can support these strategies!