Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

FAO honours model farmer from Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste, 18 Oct 2010 -- Bangkok − Today, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presented FAO awards to four Asian farmers from Nepal, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and Timor-Leste for outstanding achievements.

Domingos Pires
a model fisher from the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

Nine year’s ago fisherman Domingos Pires, found himself with growing business opportunities when, after more than 450 years of foreign occupation, Timor-Leste became an independent country. Domingos, the son of a fisherman, has been fishing since he was nine years old.

Domingos wanted to complete his schooling, but when his father died, leaving behind eight children, finishing school was no longer an option. He managed to complete primary school using some of the money he earned from fishing, saving any extra in the bank.

Sizing up the fishing business, between 1980 and 1985 Domingos began organizing some of the fishermen into a group of about 10. He began with five fishermen going out to sea to fish and five remaining behind to clean and divide the catch. At the time, because of power outages and a lack of ice, there was no way to keep the fish cold for very long, so Domingos needed to find ready customers for the daily catch. Once the catch was landed and divided, group members would set off by bicycle, or on foot, to sell as many as they could.

“It wasn’t long before we had many regular customers including a number of very good restaurants and even a fish market,” says Domingos.

He continued to expand the business in 1990, buying a motorbike to deliver fresh fish into the upland areas of the country. Soon Domingos bought an ice truck and freezer to make ice and to freeze some of his more high-value catch.

After the Timorese voted for independence in a referendum, Domingos reorganized the fishing group and opened a group micro-credit bank account.

His business model: He shares all profits above US$100 among the group members.

His success was widely recognized in society, and other fishing groups have been formed modelled on his own. Says Domingo, “We all work together for the good of the community, sometimes we buy fish from the other groups and sometimes they buy from us when they are short.”

“I’m happy to see how the whole community is benefiting from the availability of fresh fish,” says Domingos. “It has also generated good incomes for us in the group. Now we can send all our children to school.”

Domingos has eight children. One is studying at a university in Indonesia. Two others are in high school, one in junior high school and three in elementary school.

Domingos says, “I hope we will be successful enough to afford putting all our children through university. That is my hope for future.”

Domingos not only counts some of Dili’s top restaurants among his regular customers, but also delivers daily fresh fish to Prime Minister Xanana Cousmão, who hosts Domingos and his group for Christmas and New Year’s dinners every year since 2007.

“I told the Prime Minister that I’ll be in Bangkok for the World Food Day celebration as a model fisherman, and won’t be able to deliver fish to his residence from 17 to 20 October,” explains Domingos with a shy but accomplished smile.

The award ceremony was part of today’s Asia-Pacific observance of World Food Day - the 65th anniversary of FAO’s foundation in Quebec, Canada on 16 October 1945.

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided over the ceremony. The Thai minister of agriculture and cooperatives, other senior Thai government officials, Bangkok based members of the diplomatic corps, UN organizations and civil society were in attendance.

A keynote address “United against hunger” was delivered by Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

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Print quality photographs of the award ceremony are available from pornsiri.kosiriaksorn@fao.org

More information at:
http://www.fao.org/getinvolved/worldfoodday/en/