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Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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ChildFund Timor-Leste is supporting farmers in the Lautem municipality to learn sustainable farming techniques as a part of the COVID-19 economic response plan. Farmers are learning about irrigation, organic pesticides and fertiliser and how to identify different types of diseases.

Five groups of farmers were selected to take part in the program. Working with local partner, Fraterna, ChildFund delivered training over the course of six months in sustainable and resilient farming.

The farmer field school explored drip irrigation, multi-crop production and crop diversification, compost fertiliser making both dry and wet kinds, plastic mulch techniques, soil, pest and disease identification. 

After learning about these techniques, the farmers are planting cabbage, lettuce, eggplant, tomato, spinach, water spinach, banana, and papaya trees. Most group members have created their own gardens and are applying what they learned. The project is also supplying farming equipment and helping the farmers install sustainable irrigation systems.

“At the farming school we don’t really do any book work, we put what we learnt directly into practice. We all work together to learn to make compost fertiliser,” said Hermenegildo, a farmer who attended the training in August 2021.

There are, 11 women and three men in this group. All of them attended farmer field school once a week. Now they share the responsibility of growing the vegetables and the crops in a communal area that are then equally divided amongst themselves.

Maria, is also a member of the group. “Before I attended the school, I did not know how to grow vegetables with different methods. But since I came to this training, I learned how to prepare soil and make compost fertiliser and it has helped megain valuable knowledge.”

The group meets regularly to plan and schedule farm work. Hermenegildo hopes that they will be able to harvest extra food to sell in the local markets.

 “Our plan for the future is to find more space to grow vegetables. If we have extra vegetables, we’ll sell them,” said Hermenegildo.

By learning these new skills, farmers can yield more sustainable crops to help them be self-sufficient through the dry season and put healthy food on the table for their families. They can also sell the extra vegetables at local markets to supplement the household income.

This project, implemented by ChildFund, is funded by the Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP). Along with teaching new farming techniques, the project is distributing food packages, hygiene kits in schools, seed kits and food storage in selected households.

Dedicated teachers and parents can make all the difference to a child’s education. This World Education Day, we’re celebrating Mr. Chung, a dedicated parent who is making sure his and other children at a boarding school in Bac Kan Province, Vietnam have a safe, healthy space to learn.

Chung has been a been involved with the boarding school for four years and knows that accessing education in rural Vietnam can be challenging, but he is committed to making sure his children have a place to learn. “No matter how difficult problems are, I will never give up trying to give the children a good education,” he said.

In January 2022, ChildFund Vietnam collaborated with teachers and parents to improve the boarding school’s facilities through its Safe and Supportive Semi Boarding Schools project, by doing helping to build a kitchen school canteen, renovating boarding rooms and has provided blankets, mosquito nets and other necessities. This helped the school’s 30 students live more comfortably there.

Children at the school used to travel five to six kilometres from a nearby town, and had to cross steep slopes and rocky hillsides. Due to lack of housing, kitchens and cafeteria staff, parents like Chung must take turns staying at the school to care for the students.

The parents come together once a year to create a schedule for the year and decide when each parent will stay at the school. Together, the parents constructed a kitchen to help with daily food preparation. The kitchen is stocked with cooking utensils and every week parents deliver rice, vegetables, meat and eggs for the students to make their meals.

At the end of each day when the school bell goes, children fill the schoolyard playing and laughing. Then they go to the kitchen to prepare their own rice bowls.

Although Chung loves caring for the children, he acknowledges it is extremely challenging given his limited access to resources and infrastructure. “I can’t always care for all 30 students that board. I can only do so much, and I must look after my own children too. So sometimes the children must look after themselves. When they have an issue though, they let me know and I can usually help.”

The ‘Safe and Supportive Semi-Boarding Schools’ project brings together parents and educators to improve the quality of life and education that boarding students in Vietnam experience, so that they can learn in a safe, healthy space. There is also a specific focus on ensuring children from ethnic minorities have access to the same level of education.

“Since having a kitchen and the parent roster, the needs of the children at the boarding house have been completely taken care of,” said Chung when asked how the project had improved the boarding school.

ChildFund is committed to partnering with local communities to ensure that projects like this provide children with the best possible access to quality education – particularly for those living in hard-to-reach places.