Helping farming communities be more sustainable

More extreme and unpredictable weather has been causing havoc for farmers in remote areas of West Timor, Indonesia. With our partner Yayasan Mitra Tani Mandiri (YMTM), farming families are learning new and more sustainable ways to farm, and are building stronger communities.

farmers in Belu, West Timor

About the program

The main focus of this program is helping rural communities improve food security and generate greater income by developing more sustainable and organic farming methods. For example, with low soil fertility, many farmers in the area would traditionally use ‘shifting fields’ farming: once an area had been cultivated and harvested, a farmer would simply move on to farm another patch of land. The land that had been harvested was left open to the weather and would wash away in heavy rains. This sort of farming is not sustainable, especially with weather becoming more extreme. Many communities in west Timor experienced episodes of famine due to declining and unpredictable harvests.

With our partner YMTM, farmers have been learning how to terrace their lands to reduce erosion and increase their farm’s fertility. They have also learnt to grow new plants that provide a more stable supply of food and income.

However, as with our other integrated rural community programs, the objectives of this program go well beyond farm practices and land management. In consultation with communities, the program also:

  • Provides micro-credit loans for farming families to build on their own strengths.
  • Helps connect communities in the area so they can share knowledge and expertise.
  • Provides health training.
  • Helps communities develop strategic plans for their future.
  • Encourages women to have a voice in their communities.


Vinsen, a farmer living in West Timor, was worried he was not going to be able to feed his family. Increasingly erratic and severe weather was wreaking havoc on his crops. 

With help from YMTM, Vinsen has adopted better farming methods and planted a wider range of crops. His income is now higher and more predictable.

“Before the program I was very anxious,” says Vinsen. “But now I do not worry. There is always cassava, banana and taro in the garden. We will not be hungry.” 

Vinsen featured in Project Compassion 2015. Read more »

Program details

  • Issues: Food security and sustainable agriculture; Disaster risk reduction
  • Partner Agency: Yayasan Mitra Tani Mandiri (YMTM)
  • Funding in 2017/18 financial year: AU $160,000
  • Geographic location: East Nusa Tenggara
  • When established: 2010
  • This program is supported by Australian Aid through Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

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