Seeds of life: Social research for improved farmer yields in Timor-Leste

Andrew McWilliam, Modesto Lopes, Diana Glazebrook, Marcelino de Jesus da Costa, Anita Ximenes

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    The Seeds of Life project (Fini ba Moris in the Tetun vernacular) is an applied research activity to promote sustained improvements in the production and productivity of staple food crops in Timor-Leste (Borges et al. 2009). A key element of the strategy is the introduction of high-yield seed germplasm to supplement well adapted but often low yielding local varieties. On-farm participatory testing of seed varieties combined with bulk seed multiplication programmes offers an important new opportunity for agriculture in Timor-Leste. The second phase of the project (2005-2010) included a social research component that sought to develop a range of field-based social assessment methodologies for use with baseline social indicators, to monitor farmer adoption rates of the new crop varieties and to provide insights into the range of constraints and opportunities facing smallholder Timorese farmers. This chapter reports on the results of those efforts to date. It offers some critical reflections on the role and prospects of applied social science in Timor-Leste agriculture, especially in vulnerable upland farming systems, and on the prospects for strengthening the socioeconomic research capacity of the National Government of Timor-Leste. Social science perspectives and social assessment provide a potentially valuable complementary resource for policy development and programme intervention. However, they remain comparatively underdeveloped within both Timorese technical services agencies and government administration. The reluctance to integrate applied social science within government bureaucracies is part of a continuing preference for addressing specific identified problems or commodities with technical applications, rather than taking a more holistic approach to social knowledge and understanding risk and diversification as key factors informing livelihood choices in developing contexts.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationMaking a difference? Social assessment policy and praxis and its emergence in China
    Editors Susanna Price and Kathryn Robinson
    Place of PublicationNew York and Oxford
    PublisherBerghahn Books
    ISBN (Print)9781782384571
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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