Stories of Change


Marcelino works on his farm, caring for the beans that he planted.

In the face of water scarcity, new information and resources have a ripple effect

Lebucaileti is a small community high in the mountains of Timor-Leste, where living conditions are extremely hard. Most of the time, there is limited water, and during the dry season from July to December, there is almost none.

This makes farming – which is most families’ main livelihood and household food source – extremely difficult.

During these months, families must carry water from a stream about an hour’s walk away. Then, if family gardens do flourish and produce extra vegetables to sell, the mountain road conditions make it nearly impossible for cars to come and go. As a result, wholesale buyers don’t come to Lebucaileti, and those who want to sell their vegetables struggle to get them to the market.

It is these dire circumstances, and people’s resulting poverty and vulnerability, that led CWS to accept the invitation of the Timor-Leste Ministry of Health to work in the area around Lebucaileti to help families change their lives.

One of the people CWS is proud to work with is Marcelino Soares Pereira who, along with his wife and six children, was prioritized to join in Timor Zero Hunger activities. And, thanks to his hard work and willingness to learn and change, after just six months Marcelino says he has already seen change for his family. “We have benefited from working with CWS; thanks to CWS, our income has become more stable and we have better nutrition,” he says.

This progress has been possible for two complementary reasons: first, families who are prioritized to join Timor Zero Hunger activities are invited to learn about modern farming techniques, including crop diversification, soil preparation and care, plus water management. They also learn how to raise chickens in a safe, healthy way.

Second, and only after education and training workshops, they receive chickens and a variety of vegetable seeds, both of which can help them improve their diets, and sometimes earn extra income. In talking with CWS field team members recently, Marcelino said this: “Before CWS helped us start helping ourselves, we would eat eggs only a few times a month and our vegetables were corn, cassava and sweet pumpkin. But now, we can plant and eat a variety of vegetables, and we eat more eggs.”

Juliana, Marcelino’s wife, gave more details, explaining that their income used to be about $2-$3 a week from selling cassava and pumpkin. But now that they can sell surplus eggs and vegetables, their weekly income is between $5 and $15! This means that the couple can continue feeding the children more nutritious meals than in the past; it also means they can begin to save for their children’s future, especially education.