Timor-Leste: achieving #ZeroHunger through local & nutritious foods

More than half of the children in Timor-Leste are malnourished, and high levels of poverty are keeping nutritious foods out of the hands of those who need it the most. But Timor-Leste is also home to a wide variety of healthy, locally grown foods that have the power to transform families’ diets.

World Food Day was a chance for the National Council for Food Security, Sovereignty and Nutrition (KONSSANTIL), the World Food Programme and partner organisations to come together to promote the role that local communities and families can play in reducing hunger and malnutrition.

Mr. Filipe Da Costa from KONSSANTIL (first on the right) observing the local food cooked by Ms. Etelvina from a mother support group in the village of Daudo, in Bobonaro. Photo by: WFP/ Seungwoo Kang

World Food Day celebrations in Timor-Leste kicked off in villages across the country that promote eating local foods. WFP, KOICA and KONSSANTIL, supported the celebration in Daudo, which included cooking competitions by local groups, including mother support groups, shared meals they had made using locally-available ingredients. This was a chance to highlight the important role that Timorese recipes and ingredients can play in reducing hunger, especially in rural areas. The winners had a chance to showcase their meals to members of the government.

For children, drawing competitions were a chance to get creative and draw a world where local foods can help their communities to stay healthy and have more balanced diets.

Primary school students participating in the drawing competition of local ingredients for World Food Day at Daudo village, Bobonaro. Photo by: WFP/ Seungwoo Kang

On World Food Day, KONSSANTIL and development partners organised a national conference to mark the day, renewing the commitment from Timor-Leste to ending hunger by 2030.

From left to right: KOICA Country Director Mr. Sikhyon Kim, H.E. Vice President of National Parliament Mr. Luis Roberto da Silva, WFP Country Director Mr. Dageng Liu, Assistant FAO Representative Ms. Paula Lopes da Cruz, and Director General of Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Ms. Maria Odete do Ceu Guterres. Photo by: WFP/ Laura Ballester Nieto

A symposium to discuss policies and programmes towards achieving the 2030 goal took place during the morning, where WFP presented the Fill the Nutrition Gap approach, while the afternoon focused on showcasing nutritious local foods by Agora Food Studio or the East Timor Development Agency (ETDA), the latter supported by WFP and KOICA.

KOICA Country Director Mr. Kim, and Korean Volunteer at WFP Mr. Seungwoo Kang, with the ETDA staff during the cooking demonstration at Ministry of Finance for #WFD2018. Photo by: WFP/ Laura Ballester Nieto

Resident Coordinator ad interim and WFP Timor-Leste Representative and Country Director, Dageng Liu, highlighted in his speech: “Strong leadership in multi-sector planning and programming is essential. We must make sure the policies, strategies and action plans across and within sectors such as agriculture, food, environment and health, pursue coherent objectives to address food insecurity and malnutrition.”

From left to right: WFP Deputy Country Director Mr. Patrick Teixeira, UNTL Medicine Faculty Vice-dean Dr. Teresa António Madeira Soares, KOICA Manager Ms. Hyun Jin Kim, and UNTL Medicine Faculty Dean Dr. Joao S. Martins. Photo by: WFP/ Denita Baptista

In parallel, with WFP and KOICA’s support, Timor-Leste’s National University (UNTL) organized an event for its students to celebrate World Food Day. Students from the Nutrition and Dietary Department together with senior high school students and community members showcased local foods from all municipalities and conducted nutrition education sessions at the university in Dili to promote local nutritious foods that can help end hunger and malnutrition in their country.

First year nutrition student at UNTL, Lujeta Sofian Carvelita Magno from Covalima, said it was important to celebrate events like World Food Day “to raise more awareness and promote local foods, so that everyone can access and consume healthy foods”.

Lujeta and Roberto, nutrition students during the cooking demonstration supported by KOICA at the National University for World Food Day. Photo by: WFP/ Denita Baptista

Seungwoo Kang, KOICA International Development Volunteer (KIDV) who joined WFP Timor-Leste in June and led the organization of World Food Day said: “It was a great opportunity for me to lead and celebrate this meaningful day. There is no doubt that World Food Day is a step more towards reducing malnutrition and achieving Zero Hunger in Timor-Leste. I would like to express my appreciation on the many efforts from the Government, partners, community, and especially the contribution from KOICA, who made this possible.”

In Timor-Leste, despite notable progress registered since the country restored independence, food insecurity, malnutrition and hunger remain issues of concern. The 2017 Global Hunger Index still rates hunger levels in Timor-Leste as ‘serious’. Malnutrition levels remain worryingly high with 1 in every 2 children under 5 years old are stunted, too short in height for age. It is estimated that undernutrition costs the country US$ 41 million a year in lost productivity, poor work performance and increased health costs, representing 1–2 percent of the country’s GDP.

The World Food Programme in Timor-Leste supports the Government to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030. With field monitors present in 6 out of 13 municipalities, WFP works also directly with the communities to make a direct impact in kitchens and classrooms across the country.

Read more about WFP’s work in Timor-Leste.

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

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