About AI-Com

 

Agricultural innovations for communities for intensified and sustainable farming systems in Timor-Leste.

 

AI-Com is a collaborative research program between the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the National University of Timor Lorosa’e, World Vision Timor-Leste and the University of Western Australia. AI-Com is funded for four years and eight months by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and research partners.

AI-Com aims to improve agricultural productivity and profitability in communities in Timor-Leste by:

  • Addressing technical and social impediments to annual crop intensification; and
  • Establishing fodder tree legumes and sandalwood as sustainable options for income and land management.

 

AI-Com will be implemented in Timor-Leste and led by a project management group including MAF, UNTL, World Vision and UWA, with inputs form major development and private industry partners. AI-Com builds on the successful collaborative project management approach used in Timor-Leste by Seeds of Life.

AI-Com is a focused research program and won’t scale out its own work. Instead, AI-Com works with development partners, who will adopt and scale AI-Com research in their own activities. Over time, most farmers will adopt AI-Com-researched innovation, produce new crops, sell surplus crops to food and feed processors and generate new income.

AI-Com research targets Timor-Leste’s irrigated areas and irrigable south coast. These two livelihood zones cover approximately 25% of the country’s rural population and have strong potential to increase agricultural productivity. Initial activity will commence in the municipalities of Bobonaro, Manufahi, Baucau and Viqueque.

 

AI-Com has four key objectives.

Objective 1

To understand community decision-making for natural resources management (NRM) and to pilot a cycle of land use practice change.

Key outputs: Improved understanding of how communities judge NRM practices, and an assessment of how farming communities adapt to new economic opportunities.

Objective 2

To understand and develop intensive irrigated cropping systems sustainably utilising limited spring-fed irrigation water in mid-altitude and groundwater on the south coast.

Key outputs: Methods for increasing rice yields by improved agronomy and water management, assessment of alternative crops to rice, methods to establish legume crops before rice harvest, evaluation of dry season crops for groundwater irrigation on the south coast.

Objective 3

To understand and develop crop management packages to intensify annual rainfed cropping and increase the financial viability of maize, peanut, cassava and food legume producers.

Key outputs: Guidelines to profitably incorporate legumes into dryland cropping systems, approaches to profitably improve maize yields in soils with low P, low N and/or low pH, guidelines for sustainable cassava production for processing, and a robust system of composite sampling for aflatoxin testing to increase market access for maize and peanut sellers.

Objective 4

To design and evaluate methods and practices for communities to increase forage supply from forage tree legumes (FTL) and sandalwood production to provide both short-term and long- term economic opportunities.

Key outputs: Pilot demonstrations under different environmental conditions, analysis of costs and benefits from production of FTL and sandalwood, guidelines for community planning, planting and management of FTL with sandalwood, a village- based nursery system for tree seedlings.

 

Benefits

AI-Com will benefit a broad range of stakeholders, including farming families, farming communities, local development partners, MAF and UNTL. AI-Com is expected to improve farm profitability and productivity for approximately 5,000 farming families, and its technology is designed to have both an economic impact and introduce resilience to the local farming economy. AI-Com will also develop the capacity of local partners, MAF, UNTL and UNTL students, and will provide International Public Goods through scientific outputs published in a range of formats for the benefit of research partners.