A big first step towards self-reliance in Timor-Leste


January 3, 2020

At only 20 years old, Marciana has faced a lot of challenges. She got pregnant when she was in high school and had to drop out. She married her son’s father, but he left her after a short marriage.

As a single mom, Marciana took her son and moved back in with her parents. And her 11 siblings. 

Unfortunately, the family is very poor and no one has been able to get a full-time job. They rely on subsistence farming; they grow corn, cassava and pumpkins. But they didn’t have the information or training to farm effectively. They usually just scattered seeds on the side of a mountain near their home and hoped for the best.

Because of the family’s extreme poverty and vulnerability, our team in Timor-Leste invited them to participate in our Timor Zero Hunger program. It was an offer of a hand up, but not a handout. 

In early 2019, Marciana joined a CWS information session about better, more modern farming practices. She listened attentively and joined other participants to practice making organic pesticides, fertilizer and compost in a community demonstration plot. She told us that she enjoyed working on the demonstration plot so much that she decided to team up with some of her neighbors who maintain another community plot closer to her home. She could borrow tools from that community plot to build her own garden near her house. 

Now, with access to better tools and the knowledge of better planting and caring techniques, Marciana has a large garden. “I planted the vegetables the way I learned in the information session, and was surprised to see that a few seeds could go such a long way,” she says. 

Her hard work is already paying off. Her garden had enough vegetables for her family to eat every day during the harvest season, and she even had some left over to sell to her neighbors. She earned $10 from these sales, which she used to buy milk and other nutritious foods. She bought fish and other vegetables for her 2-year-old son. 

While she still has a long way to go to achieve true economic stability, Marciana is the kind of person who we’re proud to work with. She’s hard at work building a better future for her son, her family and her neighbors. She’s already using her new knowledge about how to save seeds to plan her next planting season. We’re excited to continue to work with her, and likely other members of her family, as they reach a new level of self-reliance.