Better returns for rice farmers

Oxfam is helping rice farmers like Calisto and Francisca Martins to improve their rice harvest so they can feed their family and produce a surplus they can sell for a profit.

Meet Calisto and Francisca Martins

Calisto and Francisca with their family.

Calisto and Francisca Martins are farmers from Haburas-Sare, a small rural village in Liquica District, East Timor. They live with their seven children and two grandchildren on a small farm growing rice, maize and soya beans.

Haburas-Sare is typical of rural East Timor where agriculture dominates the economy. Like most Timorese farmers, Calisto and Francisca are subsistence farmers who grow food to feed their family.

Calisto and Francisca, along with 40 other farmers in their community, have started to turn their lives around by joining a farmer co-operative – a movement established by Oxfam’s partner MCE-A.

Before joining the co-operative, Calisto and Francisca rarely had anything left over to sell. Their average harvest was small, hampered by poor-quality seeds, infertile soil and erratic weather.

The benefits of joining the co-operative

Being part of the co-operative means that farmers can access small-scale loans and subsidies to purchase hand tractors, cows, buffalo and rice milling machinery, and farmers can also receive training and technical support.

Joining the co-operative helps bring more land into production and increases farmers’ individual incomes. MCE-A has over 2000 farmer members who are encouraged and supported to produce crop surpluses. The surplus harvest is carefully marketed, and profits returned to the farming communities.

Harvested paddy rice, Liquica district.

Ensuring quality, competitive rice

MCE-A is also working to make sure the rice produced on the co-operatives can match the quality and price of the imported rice by setting up milling and storage facilities where rice is prepared, packaged and stored until it is ready to sell. They also have a marketing division with their own brand and have established regular buyers.

Improving financial security

The New Year is looking positive for Calisto and Francisca and the other farmers on the co-operative. An increase in both the quantity and quality of their harvest will help improve their financial security and enable them to provide for their family.

Rice revolution