Mama Yasinta, an East Timorese farmer.

After the recent harvest, farmers along the border of Indonesia's West Timor and neighboring Southeast Asian country Timor Leste were in unison in expressing their festive mood.

Indonesian vegetable farmer Antonious Anton was one of the happy farmers. He is an organic water spinach and green bean farmer whose fields lie along the border. The 50-year old farmer is leading a small group of organic farmers in his village, and they managed to get 500 thousand rupiah (USD 40) from the harvest. The money is saved into the group's savings for future purchases of communal farming needs.

“We also ate the vegetables, they taste different,” he says smiling, adding that the organic vegetables tend to be fresher than the ones using fertilizer. 

It wasn't Anton's first successful harvest; after all, he was born into a family of farmers. But following economic empowerment trainings by UNDP and the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Anton was able to harvest his vegetables during the rainy season for the first time. The rainy season is traditionally an out of season time for harvesting, as the wet conditions hamper the quality of the crops. 

Anton is one of the 200 Indonesian and East Timorese farmers taking part in the one-year programme, which is supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy under UNDP’s South-South Triangular Cooperation. Organic farming is only one aspect of the programme, which also puts emphasis on peace-building and conflict prevention.

Across the border, not far from Anton’s village, East Timorese farmer Mama Yasinta also shares a similar sentiment about the recent harvest, describing the extra income as helpful to her family. 

“Following UNDP’s programme, I have earned extra income to buy household items and support my kids at school,” says the 50-something vegetable farmer, dressed in a simple sarong and brown blouse. 

She then proceeds to show her vegetable field that lies just behind her house. Squatting on her knees at the center of the vegetable field, she proudly demonstrates the organic farming techniques that she acquired from the same training programme that her Indonesian compatriot, Mr. Anton, attended. The programme, however, doesn't focus on the farming techniques alone. Farmers will also learn how to market and package their harvest in the one-year initiative.

The scope of SSTC initiatives in Indonesia goes beyond grassroots empowerment like those in the border of East Timor and Indonesia. Under SSTC, UNDP has also strengthened the capacity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in coordinating the governance of Indonesia’s international development cooperation. Additionally, with support from UNDP, the Indonesian MoFA has mainstreamed SDGs in development programs and policies and encouraged other South East Asian countries to follow suit. Increasing the commitment to the SDGs across the Asia Pacific region.

In Indonesia, the empowerment of local communities is set to become one of the key signatures of the SSTC’s programme. The border of East Timor and Indonesia, once riddled with tension, is now jubilant, with the mood likely to continue as communities embrace more frequent harvests. thanks to the new techniques in improving their farming skills.

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