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Project Case Study

Finding a future for farming in Timor-Leste

Increasing food security and providing sustainable livelihoods for families

The half-island nation of Timor-Leste lives mainly by agriculture, yet commercial agriculture is poorly developed and malnutrition is widespread amongst rural communities. Building the agriculture sector so that it provides nutritious food and better incomes for farming families is essential for the future, as the country’s finite oil reserves continue to dwindle over the coming decade.

With TOMAK, ASI is supporting the development of commercial agriculture as a way to provide sustainable livelihoods for families and address important nutrition gaps for rural households.

Project info

To’os ba Moris Di’ak (TOMAK)


  • 2016-2021



TOMAK is working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Ministry of Health and NGOs such as Mercy Corps to improve household nutrition and food security through better production, processing, and preparation of nutritious food. We promote better nutrition through a range of practices including home gardening, fish farming, and chicken husbandry.

And we are working with mothers as well as fathers and grandmothers to improve nutrition and reduce over-reliance on rice in meals. We use a variety of channels to change eating behaviours and to support better decisions and practices related to nutrition.

A key aim of the programme is to raise household incomes by improving productivity and production of crops and livestock, and removing barriers to agricultural markets. We set up demonstration plots to show farmers how to improve production of higher-potential products such as red rice, peanuts, mung beans, and onions. And we run Farmer Field Schools to engage and motivate neighbouring farmers to follow suit.

Because women play a vital role in agricultural production, household food security and nutrition, they are a core part of TOMAK activities. We support women’s organisations that represent the views of women farmers who have traditionally been neglected.

To connect farmers with buyers, TOMAK works with Timor-Leste’s national business support institute to offer agribusiness training to farmers. Training is designed to improve farmer’s understanding of basic business concepts such as supply and demand and accounting skills to calculate profits. The programme is also working to build links between commercial farmers and markets.

Project Achievements

Food security & nutrition

  • Helped more than 6,000 Timorese women and men build the skills and knowledge to produce and consume more nutritious food at home. NGO partners support farmers to build farm demonstration plots, home gardens, and fish ponds, and facilitate community nutrition groups to promote improved nutrition practice.
  • Developed a nutrition-sensitive agriculture (NSA) training package for extension workers, which was adopted as a national curriculum by the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries with endorsement from the Ministry of Health.
  • Supported NSA training for 90 extension workers and 80 NGO field staff, which provides skills and tools to promote NSA practices to farmers.
  • Supported people with disabilities to trial nutrition-sensitive agriculture practices such as keyhole gardens to support improved nutrition and household income.
  • Increased chicken vaccination coverage in TOMAK target areas from 13 to 48 percent.
  • Supported the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries to increase vaccination rates, integrate information on the nutritional value of eggs into their vaccination campaign, and enhance their monitoring efforts.
  • Developed a suite of social and behaviour change materials for key audiences using a variety of channels including radio, film, print, job aids, etc.

Market systems development

  • Helped more than 100 farmers establish demonstration plots to trial improved seed varieties and farming practices for high potential crops, including mung beans, onions, peanuts and red rice.
  • Supported Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries extension workers to facilitate Farmer Field Schools and Farmer Field Days at demonstration plots, allowing more than 1,000 farmers to directly observe the process and impact of improved agricultural practice.
  • Provided much-needed capacity development support for the government extension service, including training, materials, and mentoring in the field.
  • Developed an agribusiness training curriculum in partnership with the country’s national institute for business support, which has been delivered to more than 200 farmers. Farmers are applying these skills to improve planning, record-keeping and investment in their farming businesses.
  • Led a gender assessment of municipal marketplaces to identify key challenges facing women vendors and help marketplace management address their concerns.

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