A Brief Outline of T-L`s Emerging National Seed


A Brief Outline of T-L’s Emerging National Seed System for Released Varieties

This brief outline aims to introduce and explain the logic behind the proposed national seed system for

released varieties (NSSRV) that MAF-SoL and others development partners are collaborating to build in

Timor-Leste. Related activities include demonstration and extension of improved varieties and methods of food and seed storage. The NSSRV acknowledges that >90% of seeds that farmers use are delivered by the traditional seed system using local varieties and traditional methods of food and seed storage.

The overall objectives of the NSSRV include:

1. ensuring sufficient quantities of proven varieties of planting materials (seeds and cuttings) of staple crops (including reserves for re-planting) are available in every aldeia and suco and are in farmers hands at planting, regardless of where and when the opening rains fall ("food security begins with seed

security" is a good catch phrase)

2. enabling big savings by T-L government and avoiding large opportunity cost to T-L farmers not having to buy, import, store, distribute and plant seeds that are not necessarily varieties well suited to

T-L and often arrive late, etc.


The four components that comprise the national seed system for released varieties (NSSRV) are:

1. Crop variety identification and development via controlled on-station trials and many small on-farm demonstration trials (OFDTs) under the full range of farmers' field conditions and practices. Once proven the varieties are officially released by multi-sector Variety Release Committee. This component is also responsible for the production of small amounts of “breeder seed” and "foundation seed”. All onstation and on-farm research is conducted by trained and increasingly capable staff of MAF’s National

Directorate of Research & Special Services (NDRSS) with SoL assistance and support. MAF-SoL have two low elevation research stations at Betano and Loes, two elevated stations at Quinta Portugal in Aileu and Urulefe in Maubisse, a station on Baucau plateau at Darasula and an irrigated rice research site at

Raimaten, Maliana. >350 OFDTs conducted each year cover all agri-ecological zones, N to S and E to W.

2. Government (MAF) quality assurance and carefully controlled inspection of production, processing, storage and distribution of “certified seed "by expert contract growers following all steps in the quality assurance system. All associated seed processing, testing, storage and bagging in 6 purpose-built and equipped warehouses spread across T-L are currently being done by trained and capable staff of MAF’s

Seed Department within the National Directorate Agriculture & Horticulture (NDAH) with SoL support.

3. Widespread farming community empowerment and engagement in local seed production by facilitating the formation and support of >1,000 Community Seed Production Groups (CSPGs) for their own seed production, safe storage and use by group members and for distribution in their community as “community seed" (not for commercial sale). The establishment of many CSPGs in each District is currently being supported by various stakeholders including MAF District Offices, international NGOs, local NGOs and MAF Development Partners. These are all working in collaboration with MAF’s National

Directorate Agriculture & Community Development (NDACD) and many with SoL assistance and support.

4. District-based and registered Seed Production Farmers Association (SPFAs) composed of self-initiated groupings of >25 members unite to engage in seed production, safe storage and sale of good quality

"commercial seed" grown each year from newly supplied ”foundation seed”. The quality of commercial seed is assured by each SPFA who must test, brand and “truthfully label” their products. Each SPFA can make its seed available on the open market to MAF, NGOs or others wanting to procure quantities of good quality commercial seed at competitive prices. Each SPFA’s production, processing and storage system and their branded and truthfully labeled seed are subject to spot checks by district officials of

MAF’s Seed Department who are also charged with annually renewing each SPFA’s district registration.

For more information on the MAF-SoL program see the website



Other Related Matters:

Each of the various typical "contra" issues can also be discussed in the context of the NSSRV, including: i.

The meaning of “hybrid seed”.

Because hybrid seeds are a “cross-breed” (i.e. “F1” or “first cross”) of two different parent lines they cannot themselves produce hybrid seeds but segregate out into the two parent lines from which they were first bred. It is therefore obvious there is no point MAF-SoL using or promoting hybrid seed because the many CSPGs, SPFAs and other farmers cannot possibly use hybrid seed to produce their own hybrid seed and farmer seed self-sufficiency is not possible. ii.

All varieties are officially assessed against a broad number of criteria, not only superior yield and agronomic adaptability but also social, environment and gender impacts. If deemed suitable they are officially released by the Variety Release Committee, hence all locally identified, developed and released varieties are owned by the Government of Timor-Leste and the people. iii.

Before they can be officially released each identified superior variety must have first been extensively location and farmer-tested in many hundreds of On Farm Demonstration Trials

(OFDTs ) over numerous years (good and bad). Included in the hundreds of on-station trials and

OFTDs are many tens of farmer field days where farmers and their wives prepare, cook and taste-test the identified varieties in comparison with known local varieties. iv.

In addition to helping reduce farming family food deficits, SoL is also working in other ways with

MAF, other MAF Development Partners, other Govt agencies, NGOs and renown international experts and universities to improve farm family nutrition.

For more information on the MAF-SoL program including all previous research and survey publications see the SoL website



For direct contact call 7798 4941, 7700 9049 or 7796 3577