This is a farm: Agroforestry feeds communities in Timor-LesteJuly 9, 2020
Tomas Pinto grows an astonishing blend of different foods in a very small area. Using agroforestry, he is feeding his community in Timor-Leste.
To the untrained eye it might look like a scruffy forest with a messy understory of weeds. But on closer inspection, Tomas Pinto has created a multilayered ecosystem rich in biodiversity. Under Tomas’s careful stewardship, this forest feed communities in Timor-Leste.
This is agroforestry.
To people accustomed to seeing crops grown in straight, neat rows, the idea that a farmer would encourage such a complex jungle may seem odd, or inefficient. But Tomas, the chief of his village, Batara, grows an astonishing volume of different foods in a small area: coffee, pomello, avocado, banana, taro, palm, corn, cassava, and variety of vegetables and herbs.
Despite appearances, this is not a random forest. It’s fully intentional—from the timing of planting and the spacing of different crops, to the creation of contour lines and terracing to hold soil and organic matter in place. Tomas even considers how water will infiltrate the different layers of crops.
The result is a fertile farm, teeming with life from the upper canopies of the fruit, nut and palm trees to the decomposing leaf litter on the forest floor. The farm produces a diversity of crops for local market sale, and export, meaning not only a diversity of crops, but a diversity of income streams. Plus, it means good food on the table at home: agroforestry feeds communities in Timor-Leste.
Many of the skills Tomas used in creating his food forest came from SeedChange-supported training, provided by our local partner organization, RAEBIA (Resilient Agriculture and Economy through Biodiversity in Action). The community seed bank we support in Tomas’s village serves as a storage facility for local seeds and as a training facility where farmers can share their knowledge with each other.
When neighbouring farmers notice the results on Tomas’s farm, they start to replicate what they see. They too begin using agroforestry to feed their communities. Together, farmers in Timor-Leste are using local solutions to address long standing issues of food insecurity, access to seed, and soil fertility. Over time, they’re improving their farms.
The proof is in their fields: agroforestry feeds communities in Timor-Leste!