Ms. Paulina Beno is the head of the recently established farmer group of Eno-Nesu, located in Neofmolo Village, Oecusse. With assistance from World Neighbors, she has been leading this group of 17 women since September 2021. They are now expanding their vegetable gardening through the FO TOMMAK project funded by the Canadian Embassy’s Canada Fund for Local Initiatives program.
Before the group was formed, Ms. Paulina was a member of another farmer’s group whose plantation area was located far from her house so she decided to look for a potential site closer to home. After she had identified one, she discussed with other community members how to better utilize the land so that they could earn income by planting vegetables and tomatoes. Supported by World Neighbors, she was able to realize her wish, and she now has an established group and gardening plot.
Though newly established, in 2021, Ms. Paulina and her group members succeeded in piloting the cultivation of tomatoes on a small scale. Her group started by nurturing 700 tomato plants grown on a small plot (0.5 hectares) of their group’s vegetable garden. At the end of 2021, they managed to harvest over 1.6 tons of tomatoes and sold them to local and regional markets, returning a total revenue of $1,270.
Their success in tomato cultivation motivated them to grow even more. This year, assisted through the FO TOMMAK project funded by Canadian Embassy’s Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, Ms. Paulina along with her group members, are expanding the area used for tomato planting. They also constructed water storage ponds to improve water access for irrigation. Currently, more than 2,500 new tomato seedlings have been planted and diligently nurtured through quality maintenance including watering, fertilizing, weeding, and installing wooden stakes to support the tomato plants.
Eno Nesu farmer group members are transplanting the 3-4 inches tall tomatoes seedlings into their garden.
Ms. Paulina and her group members are notable examples of women with persistent spirits who continue to work hard to improve their family and group members’ economy. Since August 2022, Ms. Paulina and her members have been working with the FO TOMMAK’s technical staff in their agricultural activities such as planting hole preparation, seed germination, compost production, planting, and irrigation.
Tomatoes are an annual crop which is not only delicious and nutritious for household consumption, but it is also now becoming a promising business to improve household income sources, which corresponds well to the FO TOMMAK’s objective of improving the lives of women farmers in Timor-Leste through the growing and selling of commodity crops.
Banner photo: Ms. Paulina Beno (white shirt) and her farmer group members with their tomato seedlings ready to be planted in the garden.