Our mentoring program focusing on improving nutrition in Timor-Leste, the newest nation in Southeast Asia, is being led by Assoc Prof Robyn Alders AO, and also involves volunteers from the Australian Volunteer Program. Timor-Leste is battling high rates of undernutrition, with approximately half of all children under five years being stunted due to chronic undernutrition.
We are supporting the strong commitment by the Timorese Government to improving the nutrition of their people through agricultural activities that can directly improve maternal and child nutrition. Agriculture has a key role to play in nutrition-sensitive programs through its potential to deliver nutrient-dense food and generate income that can be used to purchase food to meet household food and nutrition security requirements, and the mentoring program will develop these opportunities.
In deciding on the best activities for this new mentoring program, Robyn and Johanna Wong (a PhD student from the University of Sydney whose research was conducted over 2 years in Timor-Leste) held a workshop in Dili on nutrition-sensitive agriculture and value chains to gather information and engage with partners. It brought together representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Ministry of Health, the National University of Timor-Leste, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and local and international NGOs – a first of its type meeting in Dili.
Robyn’s plans for the future of the mentoring program are to focus on long-term support to the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) by addressing strategic constraints to nutrition-sensitive agriculture. Applied, tailored research and development activities implemented by MAF personnel and a series of Australian volunteers with strategic support by Crawford Fund mentors will aim to deliver feasible, culturally appropriate and sustainable improvements to agricultural production in support of improved food and nutrition security, especially for mothers and their children.
Robyn is well known to the Crawford Fund family as a Crawford Fund medal winner, and to the international community for her life-long dedication to improving food and nutrition security through her work on animal health, with a particular focus on women and children. A good description of Robyn’s work is provided in a Crawford Fund video focused on her work in Africa.
Donations to this program will be used to increase farmer participation in agriculture and livestock R&D for food and nutrition security, provide key equipment and training to increase agriculture and livestock lab capacity at the municipality (district) level, and support for Timor-Leste agriculture students to complete field work with farmers.