Small-scale farming success brings big life changes

26 Jul 18

Thirty-three year old Marta was struggling to meet her family’s needs. Married with four children, living in a rural village in Timor-Leste’s western Oecusse region, Marta felt trapped.

She and her husband worked hard as farmers but food was scarce and money was tight - and much to her distress, she could only send two of her four children to school.

201807 Marta Timor Leste (1)
Photo credit: Caritas Australia

Photo credit: Caritas Australia

“My husband and I had to borrow money at high interest but we had no choice,” Marta says.

“We weren’t able to meet to all of our daily needs, including buying food, clothes and paying our children school fees.”

With funding from the Australian Government, through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and support from Caritas Australia and its Timorese partner, local NGO, Bale Alekot Neu Oecusse, Marta had a chance to turn her life around.

She attended training programs in small business management and local food processing, as well as learning water and land conservation techniques, as part of Caritas Australia’s Sustainable Livelihoods Program.

Marta was also introduced to a sustainable loan scheme. This encourages participants to build up their savings which improves their financial resilience and ability to participate in community life.

“I got the opportunity to borrow the money from the savings group to run small businesses,” Marta says.

“I am able to sell my farming produce, like cassava, sweet potato and banana, as well as chips and cookies. I’m earning money every day,” Marta says. “We have enough food for the whole year and have enough cash for emergencies.”

Caritas Australia Acting Manager for Timor-Leste, Ranmal Samarawickrama, says the ANCP-funded program has helped Marta to improve her economic independence.

“We’re seeing Timorese women build their confidence and take more leadership in household decisions through this program. Families are more resilient now,” Ranmal says.

For Marta, the greatest improvement in her situation and the cause of her greatest joy is the satisfaction of knowing that now all four of her children will have a fair chance at an education.

“My family and I now have a better life compared with before I joined the group. We have enough food for the whole year and have enough cash for emergencies,” Marta says.

Through her hard work, with the support of Caritas Australia and the Australian Government’s ANCP Program, Marta has a better chance at life for herself and her family.

This program is supported by Australian Aid through Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).