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“No-Burning” and “Zero-Tillage” Maize cultivation in Betano – MANUFAHI, 10/07/2019

10/07/2019

Manufahi Municipal Administrator, Mr. Arantes Isaac Sarmento, invited local leaders, representatives of the government and FAO to observe the good growing conditions of maize cultivated under ‘no-burning’ and zero-tillage’ practices in Betano Suco, on the 10th of July.

FAO’s preliminary analysis suggests that ‘slash and burn’ and uncontrolled fires are potentially the top contributors to Green-House-Gas (GHG) emissions in Timor-Leste. The use of fire is also detrimental to biodiversity, soil fertility and crop yield in the medium term.

Participants to the event had the opportunity to observe the positive effects of organic mulch from unburned crop residues on maize plant development and soil structure. The practice of ‘no-burning’ is counter-intuitive to most farmers in Timor-Leste who are practicing ‘slash and burn’ shifting agriculture. In Betano, farmers who adopted Conservation Agriculture (CA) did not burn and till their land for the past 5 cropping seasons and, as a result, experienced increased yield, reduced land preparation and cultivation costs, increased resilience to drought and improved soil fertility as un-burned organic matter enriches the soil.

Representing FAO, Mr. Raphy Favre, said that ‘today’s event is an opportunity to have concrete evidence that ‘no-burning’ and ‘no-tillage’ cultivation practices work and have multiple benefits for farmers as well as the environment. We shall establish partnership across institutions to demonstrate these simple practices throughout the country, in every Suco and Aldeia. Intercropping maize with legume crops such as lehe, cowpeas or soja beans, would provide additional benefits to farmers.’

The Municipal Agriculture Directorate has secured financial resources from the Government to scale up CA technology to 500 hectares for the next cropping season. The Municipal Administrator, Mr. Arantes Isaac Sarmento, highlighted that ‘Manufahi aims to become a sustainable maize production hub in Timor-Leste. We shall work hard together to achieve our objectives. After 500 hectares under CA, we can target 1000 hectares. We request FAO to continue providing technical assistance to Manufahi Municipality with its ambition to become a model in sustainable agriculture.

Guests to the event included the Director of research representing the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), the Municipal Director of Agriculture, the Chief of Cabinet of the State Secretary for Environment, the President of Manufahi Disaster Management Committee, representatives of famers groups and representatives of FAO Timor-Leste.

FAO’s support to Manufahi Municipality has been possible thanks to the financial support of the European Union to its ‘Pro-Resilience’ project. The project aims at increasing livelihood resilience of vulnerable farm families in 7 Municipalities through integrating early warning for food security, disaster risk management (DRM) and the promotion of climate-smart agricultural practices such as CA.--