“We used the money we made from selling vegetables to provide for our needs, but it was never enough.”
Maria lives in rural Timor-Leste with her husband, Salvador, and young children. She makes her living selling the vegetables she can grow at home. But it hasn’t always been easy.
“We were selling vegetables, but we could only get $20 for them,” Maria says. “We harvest most vegetables once a month, but some we can only harvest every three months. We weren’t making enough to buy things as a family and to provide for the children.”
Maria’s family was reliant on the small variety of vegetables they grew to feed themselves. With what little they made from selling their vegetables, they would buy essentials like rice and fertiliser, as well as setting money aside to travel from their mountainous village to the market. But Maria wasn’t earning enough to buy items like medicine or school supplies. It was a constant struggle living from harvest to harvest.
The difficulty of being a farmer in Timor-Leste was compounded by the dry season.
“In the dry season, water is really hard for us to get,” says Maria. “When it came to the dry season, the water would dry up.”
When ADRA began working in Maria’s village, she was eager to be involved. Through ADRA, Maria and Salvador received training on how to best utilise their land and soil to produce thriving harvests, as well as seeds to increase the variety of their crops.
“We learned about planting vegetables and how to use organic fertiliser,” Maria says. “Before, we were not using organic fertiliser, and the soil was not healthy. Now we use local materials and we don’t have to use our money to buy fertiliser!”
But for Maria and her family, the biggest change came from the addition of the vibrant and sweet strawberries to their garden.
“The strawberries have made a good change in our lives,” says Maria. “Strawberries in the dry season are good. We can harvest the strawberries weekly. And when we sell them, we can earn more than $30 per week!”
As the only strawberry farmers in their region, Maria and her strawberries are in high demand. Maria no longer travels to the markets, as her buyers come to her directly.
“Many people are buying the strawberries and we cannot keep up with the demand!”
To assist with the water shortage in the dry season, ADRA installed a water pump. Now, Maria has an irrigation system set up, saving her from carrying water in buckets to water her vegetables.
“It’s helping us the most, the strawberries being there,” she says. “I’m happy because I have the support. The strawberries are the best.”
Now, Maria and Salvador have the income they need to provide for their family. And their first priority is ensuring their children receive an education so they are set up for the future.
“We want all our kids to go to school. We want them to have a good education and go to higher education.”