The NTA and its local counterpart NGOs have worked hard on supplying 15,000 ferro-cement water tanks to households which previously collected drinking water from faraway sources. The tanks are erected next to houses with corrugated iron roofs, and fill up during the rainy season. Almost 1,000 tanks have been supplied over the last 10 years, and this has been one of the NTA’s most popular programs.
One problem, though, are the ‘shifting soils’ in much of West Timor, which mean tanks as currently supplied crack and become unuseable shortly after establishment. The NTA assisted by an experienced tank builder is now developing a tank which ‘floats’ on unstable soils, and can consequently be utilized for many years. We’re trying out two new tanks on this floating design in a remote area of central Timor where water access is very difficult. We have every confidence that our experiment will be successful, but must wait a year or so to find that out. Once we are successful, we can begin to supply this important facility to a much wider area.
We’ve been involved for almost 10 years in training teachers in West Timor to manage school libraries. Our approach has been to hold central training sessions in Kupang and another centre in central Timor, and to follow these up with training visits to individual schools. Now Pak Frans Wayan, the librarian of the Catholic University in Kupang who is our trainer, has decided it will be more effective to decentralize training. He also intends to hold it in better school libraries, so people from other places can see what can be done. Thus next Saturday we’re running our first decentralized training session at Bokunusan school in north Semau, and we’ll follow that up with a similar session in the south of the island. Some school libraries are excellent, but others are lagging and it’s important for people to see what others in similar positions can do. In all we’re organizing 5 decentralized training sessions, with each involving 5-10 schools and 10-20 teachers.
These small tractors, which propel themselves and are guided by an operator who ‘steers’ them by walking in front of two handles, have been common in Java, Vietnam and the Philippines for years. They take attachments including ploughs and harrows, and are really useful. They’ve only been introduced in NTT over the last few years, and the NTA has financed two of them. The tractors cost around $2,000 each, and the NTA has lent $1,800 per machine to two groups of cooperatives. One person is responsible for maintaining the implement and organizing its operation, for which a charge is made with money being paid back to the NTA over three years. Finding a suitable organizer has proved crucial, and in one of the cases we made the wrong choice of person. The machine deteriorated, and money was not repaid. Luckiy we’ve found another person to accept responsibility, and the machine is now being properly used. The tractors replace hand cultivation using digging sticks, which is arduous and time-consuming.
Cultivating irrigated vegetables in the dry season from June to October can be an important income source for farmers in the NTA’s target areas of West Timor. This is particularly true on the island of Semau in the Timor sea, which in certain places is suitable for garlic and chillies. It also applies to parts of the Timor mainland sub-shire of West Kupang, which are good for greens and melons. The NTA has previously helped these farmers by providing wells and piping. Now Pak Don Bosco has joined us a a technical officer we have special expertise in vegetable production, and will set up 6 demonstration farms where we introduce improved techniques. We’ll start this project in 2013, and expect useful impacts on the revenues of several hundred farm households.
The Team spent two days visiting the NTA’s cocoa improvement project, which involves 14 demonstration plots now converted to high-yielding cocoa trees giving 2-3 times the original yields. Cocoa is a major income-earner in the working area of the NTA and its local counterpart, the YPMF, and these higher yields translate into much greater incomes. We’re now concentrating on farmers around the demplots, trying to get their yields up to similar higher levels. This is a slow task, involving training, assistance with new high-yielding budwood, fertilisers, compost and other items. We’re working in this effort with local cocoa research workers and extension officers, as well as with teams of progressive farmers voluntarily assisting in the improvement. But people are beginning to respond, and based on experiences with similar ventures elsewhere we expect a steadily accelerating process.
The NTA and local community groups jointly sponsored a Song and Dance Festival on Wednesday, November 7th. It was held at Wetakara School near Maumere in Flores, involving 14 local primary schools in presenting traditional songs and dances. The event was a big success, with over 1,000 persons attending and one otherwise under-resourced school winning the competition. This was the 6th annual Festival sponsored by the NTA, and was attended this time by a teacher and two students from St Peter’s Anglican College at Broulee, NSW. Georgia and Holly, the students, gave well-received musical presentations. We finished the Wetakara event with a massive traditional dance involving many audience members, including all the Australians. These Festivals give kids a major stimulus, and those doing well in this competition also excel in more ‘academic’ subjects.
Colin and Ria are again monitoring NTA activities in Flores and West Timor in November and early December, doing this along with Ruth Radja, the NTA Regional Director and Don Bosco, the NTA Technical Manager. The Team spends most time visiting sponsored projects, checking outcomes, getting feedback and receiving suggestions for future initiatives. Lesley Potter is joining the Team in West Timor.
‘Oure 200 Tanks Initiative of 2010 has been very successful in terms of physical aclhievements, where we’re now approaching a total of 1,000 ferro-cement 15,000 litre tanks in Flores and West Timor. We have to thank not only 200 Tanks donors but also AusAID and DFAT for grants that have made this possible. One tank situated next to a building with a corrugated iron roof and getting water from the roof during the 3 month wet season can supply the drinking needs of a household of 5 persons for about 6 months, and this is a big improvement. Previously people had to collect water from rivers and other sources which might be several kms from their houses. Having such tanks is a big contributor to health and hygiene.
Our new technical officer, Pak Don Bosco, is currently running compost training for vegetable farmers on Semau island in the Timor sea, and in the sub-shire of West Kupang within 50 kms of Kupang. These farmers are heavily engaged in producing garlic and leafy vegetables for the Kupang market, but up to now have almost entirely been using inorganic fertilizer. The courses involve instruction in making compost, using a special compount P4 which accelerates the transformation of mixtures of chaff, corn stalks, household refuse and animal dung. It’s already been shown by several pioneers that such compost is a low-cost and effective alternative to mineral fertiliser, and can be substituted for it to some extent. About 300 farmers are presently involved in Pak Don’s training courses.
Jakarta Post, 17/9/12; Kupang Post, 10/9/12
The current extended drought (estimated to be affecting 13 of NTT’s 21 local government areas) has forced thousands of people in some areas to use whatever water they can get for domestic purposes. Residents in Kupang, TTS ad TTU are reportedly consuming unhygienic fecal-contaminated water from nearby dikes (originally designed for livestock), as their usual sources of fresh water have dried up in the last few weeks. Residents collect water before the herds of animals arrive to drink and defecate, according to one resident. In some areas, people have no option but to consume brackish water; and others have to walk long distances to collect poor quality water.