Tue 17, Nov 2020
Timor Leste is a tiny country being only 275 km long and 100 km wide. About 11% is arable land; 40% being on hill slopes with increased risk of erosion, especially in areas of high rainfall in the wet season. Agriculture/horticulture is the major source of food, employment, and income. 70% of the population relies on agriculture to provide for and support their livelihood. The total population is estimated at 1.3 mil and is growing at around 2% pa. Food security is an ongoing major issue in Timor Leste. Endemic malnutrition is common and moderate wasting often co-exists with stunting in the same child. Timor Leste Demographic & Health Survey findings indicate 46% of children under 5 years old are stunted. HIAM Health a local NGO has been implementing programs focused in reducing malnutrition in Timor Leste since 2003.
In 2016 HIAM Health was the first organisation in Timor Leste to introduce Nutrition Sensitive Agricultural (NSA) training programs. The first recipients of this training were the Ministry of Agriculture’s 400 Agriculture Extension staff across the 13 Districts. HIAM Health could see that the focus needed to be given to not only increasing the production and access to foods but also its consumption, ensuring that the poor have access to adequate quantities of safe, good quality food for a nutritionally adequate diet.
Inspired by the success of the NSA training and with years of experience as an NGO, providing agriculture training specific to Timor Leste, HIAM Health embarked on the path to accreditation to have its qualifications formally vetted and recognised. In October 2019 HIAM Health became the first institution in Timor Leste to be accredited to deliver not only Certificate I in General Agriculture, but Certificate II in Horticulture and Certificate III in Horticulture.
The image of agriculturetraditionally has been more about subsistence and many rural youths see farming as a poor man’s livelihood rather than a business. Instead, attitudes must change to put more value in food production as worthwhile employment. HIAM Health are now able to offer these valuable agriculture courses within a residential facility in the Capital, Dili, enabling rural youth to be able to attend. Bringing youth together to study has the added advantage of being used as a tool to unite them; build networks; and find employment while studying together.
HIAM was ready to open the Technical Vocational Education Centre (TVET) in 2020, however, the ongoing effects of COVID-19 has impacted the funding previously provided by donor organisations, 3 in Australia and 1 in the UK. HIAM is now seeking to fill funding gaps from other sources. For information on the latest projects HIAM-Health on Facebook. Information on historical programs run by HIAM Health can be found on the website: www.hiamhealth.org.
To donate please go via Action on Poverty (AOP) website to support HIAM Health’s TVET program. HIAM doesn’t have Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status, it relies on AOP’s DGR status to accept donations and issue tax receipts to Australian donors. Or alternatively phone them direct 02 9906 3792 to donate.
Article prepared by Jill Hillary, a recipient of the Order of Australia Medal, for her work as a volunteer working beside Timorese to assist them to build the capacity of HIAM Health since 2004.