In 2007, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) invested in a hydroponic greenhouse facility that enabled 20 Timorese farmers to grow high-value vegetables such as capsicum and tomatoes. These high-quality products for local supermarkets replaced vegetables that previously had to be imported, jumpstarting production in Timor-Leste’s Aileu District and increasing cash income for its farmers. Since then, the Developing Agricultural Communities, or Dezenvolve Agricultura Comunitária (DAC, 2010–2015) project and its predecessor Dezenvolve Setor Privadu (2006–2010) have engaged more than 400 farmers in greenhouse and outdoor vegetable production and helped build a stronger fresh produce value chain.
DAC launched in 2010 with 94 farmers in one subdistrict linked to one supermarket; it now includes 416 farmers who cover three subdistricts and serve two commercial buyers. These farmers have earned $550,000 and substantially improved the housing, school participation, and nutrition in their communities. Our value chain approach provides technical and management assistance to input suppliers, farmers, traders, wholesalers, retailers, and even lenders, and is designed to ensure that these initial successes will sustain. Driven by the market demand for better and more diverse fresh produce, this approach has helped establish local horticulture as a contributor to the non-oil economy of Timor-Leste.
Crucially, DAC received support for expanding and diversifying its activities through a Global Development Alliance with ConocoPhillips, and a unique Trilateral Food Security Cooperation activity funded by China Aid, USAID, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
DAC links subsistence farmers to commercial markets and builds their capacity to meet market demand for quality, quantity, and consistency of production. In 2011, the 200 farmers working with the project sold 124 tons...