USAID’s Avansa Agrikultura Project

Avansa Agrikultura field of crops, USAID project in Timor Leste

Cardno’s agribusiness and marketing skills are helping turn subsistence farmers into commercial growers, boosting nutrition and livelihoods, and unlocking the profitability of Timor-Leste’s horticulture value chain.

USAID’s Avansa Agrikultura Project (“Advancing Agriculture”), implemented by Cardno, working to address the key challenges of rural poverty, natural resource degradation, food insecurity, and under-nutrition across six municipalities in Timor-Leste. 

Launched in 2015, Avansa Agrikultura uses a market systems development approach – working with farmers, buyers and communities to implement locally owned solutions.  

This work has been essential in assisting to break down critical barriers that were preventing households from achieving sustainable economic growth. And this has resulted in poverty reduction and improved food security across the project’s zone of influence. 

In key-targeted areas, hunger has reduced from an average of 15% (from the baseline) to 1.4%. Three municipalities reported ZERO-Hunger, according to USAID’s Avansa Agrikultura Project Annual Agribusiness Survey Results.

Timor Leste farmers show their crops on Farmer Field Day, USAID project

Achieving project goals to date has been possible due to the dedication from committed farmers and agribusinesses we partner with, the Government of Timor-Leste, cooperating projects and NGOs, our partners, and the individuals on our team.

In particular, farmers and the private sector in Timor-Leste have demonstrated their willingness to take risks and try new approaches, tools and modes of business.

Through the past five years, our dedicated team has reached more than 28,000 individuals helping them build the skills they need to improve their agriculture productivity, transition to commercial farming, invest in off-farm businesses and improve their incomes and family nutrition.  

By first analyzing and identifying gaps in the market systems and then facilitating targeted interventions, Cardno has been able to scale up local solutions to strengthen market linkages between retailers, agricultural suppliers and farmers. 

More than 100 MSMEs have partnered with the project, including input suppliers, producers, processors and collectors, through technical assistance, sub-contracts and grant opportunities that strengthen their business.  

More than 500 farmers have accessed financial assistance by participating in the project’s risk-reduction cost-share scheme, enabling them to invest in agriculture inputs such as irrigation systems, hand-tractors, tillers and rain shelter tunnels.

De-risking initial investments in these areas have helped to demonstrate their value, and some farmers are now transitioning to taking loans for additional investments through financial institutions. Key inputs for quality agriculture production are more readily and consistently available in the project’s Zone of Influence.  Private sector input supply stores reported a $204,441 increase between Year 4 and Year 5 of project implementation.

At the start of the project, farmers were growing an average of 12 crops, with near zero horticulture production in some sub-districts. However, now many semi-commercial farmers across are growing and selling approximately 20 crops.

With this increase in availability of products for market, an emerging sector of horticulture collectors is facilitating movement of crops throughout the country.  Currently the project is supporting the establishment of 11 collectors, linking 476 production households to over 14 supermarkets and numerous local wet markets.

Women and youth-led micro-enterprise partners working in food processing, compost making, fruit plantation, and fresh flower production help to expand food processing and value added horticulture products while demonstrating the possibility of viable business models in Timor-Leste. The project supports these business leaders with basic business training and funding.  

In the process of implementation, Cardno is also building an up-and-coming generation of agriculture experts ready to provide key extension support services to rural farmers.

With more than 80 local staff members, Cardno has provided Training of Trainer sessions, skill building and specialty technical training. This transfer of knowledge enables our team to provide farmers with high quality expert knowledge for on-farm and off-farm issues. We expect these future leaders to shine in key roles in both the public and private sector in the future.  

Through our multifaceted approach to strengthen the communities and market systems, we support Timor-Leste’s ability to continue on the Path to Self-Reliance.