Better returns for rice farmers

Oxfam helped rice farmers like Calisto and Francisca Martins improve their rice harvest so they could feed their family and produce a surplus that they sold 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, turned their lives around when they joined a farmer co-operative – a movement established by Oxfam’s then 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 meant that farmers could access small-scale loans and subsidies and purchased hand tractors, cows, buffalo and rice milling machinery, and also received training and technical support.

Joining the co-operative helped bring more land into production and increased farmers’ individual incomes. MCE-A had over 2000 farmer members who were encouraged and supported to produce crop surpluses. The surplus harvest was carefully marketed, and profits returned to the farming communities.

Harvested paddy rice, Liquica district.

Ensured quality, competitive rice

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

Improved financial security

The New Year looked positive for Calisto and Francisca and the other farmers in the co-operative. An increase in both the quantity and quality of their harvest helped improve their financial security and enabled them to provide for their family.

Rice revolution

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