KIKA Community Agro-Biodiversity Resource and Learning Centre

This is a project located in #TimorLeste.

Related SDGs:

  • #SDG1 (No poverty)
  • #SDG2 (Zero hunger)
  • #SDG3 (Good health and well being)
  • #SDG5 (Gender equality)
  • #SDG8 (Decent work and economic growth)
  • #SDG13 (Climate action)
  • #SDG15 (Life on land)

Location: Manatuto, Timor Leste

Data collection methods: Field visit, interview

Updated since: August 2016

Background:

The Centre is a collaborative effort between RAEBIA and a farmers’ co-operative, Ilimanuk. It has been running since 2012. The Centre serves 87 resettled indigenous families to increase their capacity in converting their livelihood from hunting-gathering and collecting fire wood to sustainable agriculture.

The approaches taken by the Centre include reforestation, introducing crop varieties, soil conservation, composting, creating terraces, restoring traditional village regulation of tara bandu (which protects everything that gives life, and is elaborated below). The 2.3 hectares of land that it is on was originally barren, able only to support the growth of eucalyptus trees and grass. This was compounded by the fact that the indigenous people were gathering firewood in an unsustainable way.

Besides their grassroots movement, RAEBIA also works on advocacy in the region and in Portuguese-speaking countries against the big agro companies that push for industry farming practices. They work closely with the government to implement projects from aid funding, and exert influence in what sorts of projects to accept. RAEBIA insists on agroecology and lobbies against farming practices that are unsustainable, including projects with hybrid seeds and chemical input.

Philosophy/Values/Traditional knowledge:

RAEBIA has facilitated more than 10 villages in performing participatory land use planning (PLUP). They help villagers to understand what the land use plan is, and the future plans as well. This information is then put into the village regulations. The tara bandu ceremony then officiates the village regulations. During the inauguration of the village regulations, all power players are invited – including religious and traditional spiritual leaders, as well as government officials, to sign the village regulations so that it would be respected by all. This process enables the community to understand the importance of resources and resource management. The PLUP process takes about 3-4 months, to go to the household level to collect information on land use, and to solicit participation in land use management. Tara bandu is a Timorese tradition, applicable to not only the indigenous people but all Timorese people.

Organisational model:

RAEBIA serves as a facilitator and the farmers are key actors. RAEBIA itself is a registered society, with a board including the founder, the patron, the management, and two farmers. Annually it has a gathering of farmers to provide feedback and comments in what help they would like to get.

Triple Bottomline:

Social sustainability:

  • Food security: the percentage of food that the villagers produce and consume (as opposed to food that they buy) has increased from 20% to 80% within the four years of operation of the Centre.
  • The focus is on family farming, not commercial farming, focusing on self-reliance and empowerment as RAEBIA does not want the farmers to be mere workers.
  • Women is a key thematic area, and RAEBIA makes sure that women’s involvement is there in farming, and food processing.
  • The work of RAEBIA is connected to health, because food and nourishment is intimately connected to health. In terms of health, the co-operative also sets aside money to help its members in health problems.
  • Healthy, strong and united communities are equipped with the knowledge and resilience to combat the effects of a harsh environment and the impacts of climate change.

Environmental sustainability:

  • The techniques taught by RAEBIA follow principles of agroecology (i.e. organic, no GMOs, no chemical pesticides).
  • RAEBIA serves as a seed bank, and a centre for experimentation for cultivation of crops.
  • Through converting land use to sustainable agriculture from hunting and gathering, as well as chopping down of trees for firewood, the environment is conserved.
  • RAEBIA promotes control grazing to minimise livestock impact on the environment.

Economic sustainability:

  • The farmers grow crops, and established the farmers’ co-operative Ilimanuk to process their produce, in order to diversify the economy.
  • Ilimanuk also has their own credit union, and livelihood opportunities for women, such as using sewing machines provided for tailoring, and selling fried fish.

Challenges

  • Land ownership is a problem in Timor Leste because of its colonial history with the Portuguese and Indonesians leading to a lot of confusion with land titles. NGOs are now fighting for land reform. Even in the case where there are no land titles, the community recognises the land ownership of certain individuals out of inheritances. The 2.3 hectares used by the Center belongs to the King, and RAEBIA has had to negotiate for the usage of the land.
  • Poor farming practices are challenging. Traditional free grazing is still in practice and is not sustainable. Slash and burn is also a problem, although this is not a traditional practice. Farmers are not so confident in their local knowledge of managing the land which does not involve slash and burn.
  • Other environmental challenges include water scarcity and deforestation.
  • There is also a “dependency mentality” of community members.