Stories of Change

Filomena and one of her daughters.

Each gallon of water weighs more than eight gallons to carry.

Chickens and vegetable seeds: a great start for a young family in Timor-Leste

Like most families in their remote mountain village, Marcos Martins and Filomena do Santos focus on growing enough food to feed their families. The spouses grow enough vegetables to sell some in the nearby town in this part of Timor-Leste, Liquiçá. While this is an important income stream for them, it doesn’t earn as much as they would like it to. They make about $15 per month by selling vegetables.

Marcos and Filomena have two little girls. Local officials knew that Marcos and Filomena were struggling and wanted to make sure that they could provide enough diverse food for their daughters. They prioritized the family to be part of the CWS Timor Zero Hunger initiative.

Their Timor Zero Hunger story, like so many others, started with a hen, a rooster and information sessions on how to best care for them. Since starting to breed them earlier this year, Marcos and Filomena already have four new chicks. Their daughters are now eating eggs as part of their diet, which adds protein. Their parents sell extra eggs for a little bit of additional income, too.

Filomena says she now has a better understanding of how adding protein is an essential part of her daughters’ heath. “We usually only eat corn and cassava,” she says. With new information and “help from CWS, we are changing this. We have learned how to raise chickens in a coop, which we built ourselves. This protects them from wild animals and from thieves. They are also vaccinated so they won’t get sick and will be assets for us for some time to come,” she added.

Now that they are established in raising chickens, Marcos and Filomena are turning their attention to expanding their home gardening. They are preparing a new plot of land to add to the size of their garden. Getting access to water is a big problem for them, though.

Actually, it’s a problem for lots of people in Timor-Leste, especially during the dry season. As a result,  now isn’t a good time to plant gardens. As we wait for a better time to plant, our team is working with families here to learn about ways to grow vegetables that require less water. Then we will distribute vegetable seeds so that families can get started.

In the months and years to come, we will also be working to improve water access here. Marcos says that for now, “we get our water for drinking, cooking, bathing and watering our garden from a spring that’s about 660 feet away down a steep hill by a narrow footpath. My wife and I both collect water every day in plastic containers, which we carry back up the hill.”

One of our team members overheard another community member remark that often people don’t realize how heavy water is. Each gallon of water weighs more than eight pounds, and Marcos and Filomena both carry at least two gallons on each trip up the steep hill. In time, CWS will work the local government to investigate affordable options for better access to safe water here and in neighboring communities.

In the meantime, with CWS support and their own hard work, Marcos and Filomena will plant more nutritious vegetables to eat and to sell in the market. This will change their income enough that they will be able further to improve their lives and health. “With vegetables, eggs and chicken meat, we will have a more nutritious and diverse diet, and a bit more money.” This is a good place to start!