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East Timor: Seed distributed in time for planting season

19-11-1999 News Release 99/46

Between 11 and 13 November, the ICRC distributed 44 tonnes of seed to 11,000 families in the easternmost district of Lautem. The supplies were delivered in 20-kg parcels to groups of five families, from the main town of Los Palos to the most remote villages in the area. The distribution was carried out in time for the sowing season and should ensure the production of sufficient food and seed for the East Timorese until the next planting season.

In addition, ICRC delegates are supplying maize grain for immediate consumption. The purpose of " seed protection " distributions is to feed the farmers and thus ensure that the seeds are used for planting and not eaten; so to clearly differentiate the food grain from the seed for planting, the latter has been treated with natural purple colouring.

" The seed distribution is designed to ensure food security as quickly as possible, using the area's agricultural production potential " , said ICRC agronomist Peter Schimann. With the beginning of the rainy season, seed is becoming the most urgent item the population needs to regain self-sufficiency. " In one of the villages, our distribution coincided with a heavy shower of rain, so the farmers set off to plant the seeds straight away " , added ICRC delegate Grégoire Crettaz.

The next step will be to ensure a full production of rice through the distribution of seed before the rice planting season in December and January, which are usually the wettest months. Humanitarian agencies engaged in agronomy have agreed to provide local farmers with bags of milled rice in exchange for surplus rice seed. This is a coordinated effort aimed at re-activating the local economy. The ICRC agronomist has been designated as coordinator by all the agencies concerned.

So far, in East Timor the ICRC has distributed over 100 tonnes of seed in the districts of Lautem, Ainaro, Aileu, Baucau, Bobonaro and Ermera, and around the main city of Dili.