The First Conference on Farmers' Associations and Cooperatives was held on 23rd November 2017 at Hotel Timor under the cooperation of MAF, the Project and other International Development Agencies.
The event was attended by members of the Farmers' Associations and Cooperatives from various places in Timor-Leste such as; Farmers' Associations called Karau Ulun from Same, Raibere from Ainaro, Webaba from Suai, Baguia AO3 from Baucau, Laleia, Vemasse, Aileu as well as Farmers' Association from Oe-Cusse. H.E. Mr. Estanislau da Silva, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), Mr. Cipriano Ferreira, Secretary of State of the MAF, Mr. Noriaki Niwa, the Chief Advisor of the Project, representatives from European Union, USAID, GIZ, FAO and MAF staff from Agro-Commerce department also participated in the event.
The main purpose of the conference was to professionalize members of both farmers' associations and cooperatives through transformation from subsistence farming towards market oriented agriculture with the emphasis on quality control and increase of production. The conference was also an important occasion for all the farmers' associations over the country to share their experiences as well as the challenges and difficulties they faced in running their organizations.
During his opening remarks, Minister Estanislau praised the efforts of Agro-Commerce and all the involved parties for organizing the first ever conference of Farmers' Associations in this country. He said that the conference is important for all the association members as an opportunity to get together for sharing information and experiences about their activities in productivity, quality and marketing access. He requested the farmers' associations to be more motivated in various farming activities, increasing production as well as improving quality control for being able to compete with other competitors in the market.
Moreover, Minister Estanislau urged the CAAKUB to further promote domestic rice to the market despite all the challenges it faces, while advising other farmers' associations to learn from the CAAKUB's experience. He explained that apart from seeking the assistance from the MAF, they can also apply for loans from the World Bank to expand their businesses.
On the other hand, the conference presented numerous speakers from JICA, GIZ, FAO, USAID and others to talk about roles and functions of farmers' associations particularly in areas of production, quality control and market. Among other speakers, the CAAKUB also shared its experience in working together with the Project in the promotion of domestic rice.
The Project took this opportunity to present the Japan Agricultural Co-operatives (JA) of Okinawa to the participants because of its well-developed markets which attract thousands of tourists to the island, while on the other hand, Timor-Leste has similarity to Okinawa in geographical areas and has huge potential in both agriculture and tourism.
Mr. Shinji Hironaka, Japanese Expert on Agricultural Distribution and Sales who was himself a staff of the JA said that since Timor-Leste and Okinawa have similar landscape and geographical location, in the future TL farmers' associations can create a market of farmers' association in Dili as in Okinawa where the public and tourists can go to buy the local agricultural products.
The participants were thankful for the presentations on farmers' associations prepared by the international agencies from JICA, FAO and USAID. They said that even though the farmers' associations in other countries like Japan and Germany are far more advanced and resourceful, there are also some activities that can be applied in the current context of this country such as creating various types of products and developing bi-products out of rice and other agricultural products. On the other hand they were also surprised to know about other functions and services of farmers' associations particularly in providing employment and life insurance for people.
Mr. Mirando Araújo (33), a member of Raibere Haburas Asociation from Ainaro who is also promoting domestic rice as a main product in his farmers' association said that he was able to learn new things from the presentations particularly on the structure of the farmers' association. According to him, up to now his farmers' association still has some issues with unclear organizational structure and less involvement from the local farmers. Through the presentations, he observed that the farmers' association can be stronger in the future if they have the clear structure and good management in place.
Another female farmer and association member from Laleia, Rita Gusmão (33) said that as a member of the new established farmers' association, she is very keen to learn more about the operation of the association. Since she comes from a rice growing area, she was very much interested about bi-products from rice like rice powder, pop rice and cake by the JA Okinawa. So far farmers in her village only sell plain rice to the market without making any bi-product out of it. Therefore, if such idea is implemented in her new farmers' association in the future, the women's group will benefit more from the activity.
Mr. Diamantino dos Reis,President of the CAAKUB presenting his association activities to members of the other farmers' associations.
Mr. Shinji Hironaka presenting about the JA Okinawa to the participants.
Farmer association members from other municipalities visiting the CAAKUB rice stand.
Minister Estanislau testing the traditional brandy made by the farmers' association from Aileu.
Representatives of Farmers' Associations, International Development Organizations and MAF.
Mr. Noriaki Niwa explaining to the Minister Estanislau about the project activities displayed on the panels.