Change People’s Lives Through Organic Rice Farming

June 7, 2023

UNDP AccLab Timor-Leste team and Local Communities are doing rice harvest

@UNDP Timor-Leste/Maria Silvia dos Reis Lopes

Agriculture is vital for Timorese livelihood. More than 70% of the population relies on agriculture as a primary income, contributing over 25% of the country’s GDP. Especially, rice is the heart of Timorese agricultural business. We consume rice every day, our lives largely depend on the rice cultivation. However, rice cultivation has been largely impacted by climate change. We have experienced harvest failures after extreme droughts and flash floods over the past few years. On the other hand, the heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for rice cultivation exacerbates the impacts of climate change, increasing the risk of deforestation, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, and water pollution. Thus, it is crucial to improve the method of rice cultivation to be more sustainable, eco-friendly, and climate-resilient.


In response to the challenge, the Accelerator lab introduced a contemporary model of low-land organic farming, called Jajar Legowo System (JLS) to a community of farmers. The JLS is a comprehensive approach focused on the importance of spacing, water management, and soil health, it enables farmers to increase yields with greater resilience to environmental stress while reducing the costs of agricultural inputs. It is important that local farmers find a balance between agricultural practices and environmental impacts to promote sustainable farming practices in the country and promote a sustainable future for all.

The Jajar Legowo System (JLS)

The Jajar Legowo System (JLS) is a cropping pattern fro rice farming

@UNDP Timor-Leste/Acclab Timor-Leste

The Accelerator lab selected a rural village called Kandera Uatucarbau in the Municipality of Viqueque to conduct a pilot application of the JLS method for the following two reasons; firstly, the region is a low-lying area with high water availability which is a perfect condition to apply the JLS method. Secondly, the JLS method is feasible for farmers in Kandera Uatucarbau who have a limited budget for agricultural inputs including fertilizers and pesticides. The JLS method is low-cost and uses simple tools, especially suitable for small-scale farmers.

Prior to the pilot application of the JLS method in Kandera Uatucarbau Viqueque, the Accelerator lab had several meetings with the President Municipal Authority, the Regional Director of Agriculture, and local stakeholders to brief them about the JLS and its potential benefits and risks. We also invited 15 farmers, community leaders, and local government officials to participate in the experiment. At the meeting, we received positive feedback on the JLS method, “JLS promotes a sustainable and environmentally friendly way of producing rice for the community” said The President of the Authority and Regional Director of Agriculture. The community stakeholders are enthusiastic to learn more about the method, a farmer who had implemented the JLS shared his experience “We had seen increased productivity and income in our rice yields with the JLS method”. 

A short meeting with Mr. Januario Soares (Bolly), The President of Authority of Viqueque Municipality

@UNDP Timor-Leste/Acclab Timor-Leste

After the meetings, the Accelerator lab team embarked on practical training for the local farmers in Kandera Uatucarbau. In accordance with the JLS method, the farmers learned to plant rice seedlings in a grid pattern with wider spaces to allow each plant greater access to sunlight, nutrients, and water. Rosa Fernandes, a female farmer who attended the training described the new technic that "I used to struggle to produce enough rice to feed my family. But now with the new planting method, I can harvest more rice with less effort. Although it takes less cost for fertilizers and pesticides, my rice is healthier and tastier than ever before."

Jorge Martins, the Accelerator lab Head of Exploration, explained the expected outcomes on local households saying that the "JLS method enables farmers to increase their rice yields while reducing production costs. They can sell surplus rice at better prices to enhance their economic livelihoods." While strengthening cooperation with local governments and NGOs is underpinned to promote sustainable and equitable agriculture practices across the region. “This sustainable method of rice cultivation has the potential to not only improve household income generation but also to promote environmentally friendly agricultural practices that can benefit communities for future generations,” said Jorge.

Children are helping out the parent transplanting the rice, and farmers are doing rice harvest

@UNDP Timor-Leste/Acclab Timor-Leste and Maria Selly