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Young Women in Timor-Leste Find Opportunity and Income from Agribusiness Training

January 2010

Maria Fatima has found that her engagement with the USAID-funded Land O’Lakes agribusiness education project in Timor-Leste—Building Agribusiness Capacity in East Timor (BACET)—has not only changed her life, but also has improved the financial status of her family. Fatima said, “I come from a poor family. Last year, when I really wanted to continue my study at the university, my parents could not afford to pay for my university fees, so I decided to join the BACET Program. Now that I have income, I can afford to send my younger sister to study at the university.”

Maria and three other women, Isolina Soares, Juliana Fatima, and Roberta Passos, are all graduates of the BACET program that Land O’Lakes implements at three technical agricultural schools. After attending the year-long specialized program in agricultural business training, the four graduates have found employment leading vegetable production and marketing at special horticulture production areas near Aileu, a mountainous region in the center of the country.

Agricultural producers in the area utilize greenhouses, irrigation and other technologies to grow vegetables. The BACET graduates work closely with farmers and farming groups and are involved in the complete agribusiness cycle from seed selection, planting, cultivating and marketing of variety of horticulture products that range from herbs to broccoli to eggplants. The producers then transport and market the goods to traders and retailers in the capital, Dili.

East Timor - Maria Fatima in greenhouse in Aileu. - 3 inches

Maria Fatima checks seedlings
in a greenhouse in Aileu, Timor-Leste.

The objective of the BACET program, which has graduated 232 young people in two years, is to preparegraduates to become proficient technicians, entry-level managers and entrepreneurs within Timor-Leste’s agricultural sector. The four young women illustrate the impact of the BACET program—to not only increase the beneficiaries’ competency in farming operations, management and marketing, but also to enhance personal and family livelihoods. Twenty-five percent of the BACET participants are female, of whom 66 percent are now either working in professional employment or agricultural production groups, or have chosen and gained the resources to continue their formal education.

Mr. William Bere Ati, Agribusiness Team Leader, USAID Private Sector Development Project shared his experience working with BACET graduates: “Compared to others, BACET graduates are different. They are very diligent and keen to work in the field. They are very well-equipped and have very good communication skills. They communicate with farmers and traders and report their activities using computers.”

The four young women from poor rural communities each earn average wages and benefits of nearly $350 per month in a country where over half of the population earns only 88 cents per day. The women also are at the base of creating a sustainable, sufficient and commercial domestic food industry, where currently over three-quarters of the population still survives on subsistence farming practices. (Source: 2007 Timor-Leste Survey of Living Standards.)