Food security & income for Timor-Leste farmers


Sweetpotato is an important crop in Timor-Leste for food security and nutrition, but traditional sweetpotato varieties are low yielding.

CIP and its partner Seeds for Life – a program funded by the Australian government and the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries have been identifying high-yielding varieties to address the problem.

The project tested 14 sweetpotato clones bred by CIP for their yield, quality, and acceptance by local farmers, over a period of seven years. After extensive research-station-replicated trials and on farm demonstration trials across the country, three high-yielding varieties, producing average yields that were up to 80% higher than local varieties were identified.

The three varieties, (Hohrai 1, 2, and 3) released in March 2007 have proven to be very popular with farmers, who like them for the large tuber size, good eating qualities and rapid production. The new varieties also offer health benefits, providing higher levels of Vitamin C and A than local varieties.

In addition, they are providing important economic benefits to farmers. A survey of farmers growing the new varieties found that some are earning an added income of up to US$ 380.00 per year through surplus crop sales.

The extra income pays for such things as school fees, building materials, furniture, food, kerosene, and clothing.The benefits from the higher-yielding CIP varieties are significant and expanding. In 2009, 86,000 cuttings of the new varieties were distributed to farmers across the country, a 4-fold increase from the previous year.

Trials are continuing to identify further high-yielding sweetpotato varieties suitable for release in Timor-Leste.