Stories of Change

Zelia sells her vegetables.

CWS expanded the Timor Zero Hunger program from West Timor, Indonesia, to neighboring Timor-Leste in 2018.

A mom with a dream, and a plan, in Timor-Leste

“To be honest, I’m not happy with our life and the very small income my husband earns from driving a motorcycle taxi.”

That’s what Zelia Pintu da Cruz told our team during a recent information session on improving home gardening. Zelia’s husband earns about $10 each month driving a motorcycle taxi. Zelia herself is a subsistence farmer who can earn a few extra dollars during the rainy season by selling surplus mustard greens, spinach and cassava. She is also a mother of three children between 4 and 11 with a fourth one on the way. “I want to increase my income and support the education of my children. My dream is that they attend university,” she tells us.

Unfortunately, Zelia’s family’s financial situation is common in the part of Timor-Leste where she lives. Families across Timor-Leste are facing hunger and extreme poverty. While most families grow some vegetables for their own meals, especially corn, many struggle to have food year-round. Increasing droughts as a result of climate change are making the problem worse, too. That’s why our team in Dili, the nation’s capital, are so excited that we’re expanding our Timor Zero Hunger program, which was started in the island’s other half – West Timor, Indonesia.

In August, Zelia joined 28 of her neighbors for a four-day education and training program focusing on improving home gardening. The class was taught by government agricultural extension workers, with support from CWS staff. Zelia loved it, saying, “Although I already grow vegetables, I now have new information, more knowledge, ideas for better planting techniques and better skills to improve my gardening. And I know that my husband will support me to increase productivity.”

She is already putting into practice what she learned about making and using organic fertilizer and organic pest control. Since Zelia is a member of a CWS-supported farmers group, she and her family will also have access to additional seeds and tools for a new communal garden that will supplement her home garden – which she also plans to expand with new and different vegetable seeds from CWS.

Here’s just one of the things that makes Zelia so amazing. Remember that her dream is for her children to attend university? Well, she told us during the class, “You know, this is the first formal training of any kind that I have ever attended in my life. It was so good that the facilitator translated all the information from Tetum to Tokodede, our local language, so we could follow more easily – so, thank you.” Moms like Zelia, who eagerly work every day so that their children have opportunities that they themselves never did, are a source of inspiration to us every day. And we’re privileged to be part of helping them – and their children – achieve those dreams.