Organic Agroforestry Benefits Farming Families in Timor, Indonesia

We are pleased to provide below a summary report by Yayasan Mitra Tani Mandiri (YMTM), Yayasan An Feot Ana (YAFA) and TWN on the results of an organic agroforestry programme in Timor, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.

The organic agrosilvopastoral intervention has led to higher crop productivity, food availability and income for farming families. Importantly, agrosilvopastoral farmers now have enough food reserves and income to buy food during the periods of food shortage.

The system is based on crop diversity, soil and water conservation and readily available, simple technologies. Farmers’ knowledge about the land and the crops is a vital contribution to its success.

With best wishes,
Lim Li Ching
Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister,
10400 Penang,

Organic Agroforestry for Soil Conservation and Food Availability in Timor, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

In: Papers Submitted to the International Conference on Organic Agriculture and

Food Security, FAO, Rome, Italy, 3-5 May 2007. Page 73-75.



Timor Tengah Utara (TTU) district is located in the semi-arid island of Timor, East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia. The area has limited rainfall and arable land, aggravated by slash and burn agricultural practices that reduce soil fertility, and cause erosion and sedimentation of rivers. As a result, the province faces annual food supply vulnerability during the dry season.

Yayasan Mitra Tani Mandiri (YMTM) and Yayasan An Feot Ana (YAFA) developed, for the past ten years, organic agrosilvopastoral programs with communities to address this problem. With support from Third World Network (TWN) and Vredeseilanden Indonesia office (VECO-Indonesia), a one year study was conducted in 2005-2006 to document the impact of the program in three villages: Manumean (Biboki Utara sub-district), Noepesu  (Miomaffo Barat sub-district) and Sunsea (Miomaffo Timur sub-district). Ten families were surveyed from each village, five practicing agrosilvopastoral methods, and the other five practicing conventional agriculture.  

The objective was to observe the difference in food availability and family income due to intervention of the agrosilvopastoral method. The documentation applied participatory research approach, with focus group discussions, semi-structured interviews and field visits.   


The organic agrosilvopastoral intervention has led to higher crop productivity, food availability and income of farming families as shown in Tables 1, 2 and 3. Each family may have different crop combinations so there is difference in income between families in the agrosilvopastoral system.  

Table 1: Average yield of selected food crops (Kg/Ha/family/Year)

Food Crops Village Manumean Noepesu Sunsea
1 Corn 78.44 12.18 48.86 36.91 23.43 18.88
2 Dry/wet rice 85.77 15.78 0 21.79 26.64 23.40
3 Ground nut 81.54 4.13 0 0 28.59 11.58
4 Kidney bean 0 0 36.36 18.28 0 0
5 Green bean 32.31 7.67 0 0 0 0
6 Tali bean 0 0 2.23 3.37 1.61 1.85
7 Potato 0 0 38.45 5.09 0 0
Total 278.06 39.76 125.90 85.44 80.27 55.71

Source: primary data analysis

ASP = Agrosilvopastoral system; CF = Slash and burn conventional system

Note: Noepesu is not suitable for dry land rice farming due to high rainfall. Rice is planted in a different location from the garden and therefore is not been measured. 


Corn and rice are not sold in the markets. Both conventional and agrosilvopastoral farmers keep part of the harvest for seeds, traditional rituals, and donations to the church.  Agrosilvopastoral farmers had about 65-118 kg more corn, and aside from Noepesu, had 28-54 kg more rice for family consumption (Table 2). 


Many conventional farmers face food shortages during November-February, since the food is consumed during the dry season. In the past, agrosilvopastoral farmers also faced similar shortages. Now, agrosilvopastoral farmers have enough food reserves and income to buy food while conventional farming families with limited income have to look for wild tuber crops for food or work as construction labour in the cities. The larger supply of vegetable crops also provides more nutrients to the agrosilvopastoral families, who also have enough money to take their children to the public health centre. 


Table 2: Average food availability (Kg/family/year) 

Crop Usage & Availability Village Manumean Noepesu Sunsea
Corn Average production
260 133
215 107
216 151
Seed reserve
30 30
20 30
30 30
Other use
10 10
0 0
0 0
Average availability
220 93
195 77
186 121
Rice Average production
260 172
0 63
246 187
Seed reserve
25 25
0 20
30 25
Other use
0 10
0 0
0 0
Average availability
235 137
0 43
216 162


Source: primary data analysis

ASP = Agrosilvopastoral system; CF = Conventional farming


Table 3: Average income (Rp./family/year) from selling farm produce

Products Village Manumean Noepesu Sunsea
1 Food crops
1,763,000 473,000
1,966,000 486,400
1,298,000 463,000
2 Perennials
2,230,320 518,840
3,824,200 718,400
798,600 168,320
3 Vegetables
1,054,600 149,000
4,089,600 708,800
476,600 132,000
4 Livestock
4,528,000 1,390,000
5,990,000 1,878,000
3,027,000 1,397,000
9,575,920 2,530,840
15,869,800 3,791,600
5,600,200 2,160,320

Source: primary data analysis

ASP = Agrosilvopastoral system; CF = Conventional farming;1 US$ = about Rp. 9,000


Both agrosilvopastoral and conventional farmers select and save about 20-30 kg of rice and corn and 10-20 kg of beans for seeds. Agrosilvopastoral farmers have about Rp. 3-12 million more income (Table 3). 

Several factors have lead to the success of the agrosilvopastoral intervention. First it is an integrated system involving soil and water conservation, planting perennial crops and vegetable crops, and livestock rearing, and existing food crop cultivation. Soil and water conservation measures, by making terraces strengthened by trees and burying organic matter into the soil, make it possible to trap groundwater, provide fodder for livestock, and allow farmers to shift from slash and burn practices to permanent cultivation systems.

Secondly, the diversity of crops and livestock provide for a steady income, fodder and manure. An organic agrosilvopastoral garden can contain up to 20 crops in a single land area; they rear 1-4 goats and cows compared to an average of only one livestock by conventional farmers. Third, the technology used is simple and can be practiced independently by farmers such as creating terraces with trees, making compost from livestock and garden waste, and organic pesticides using local plants. Finally farmers are encouraged to develop their own knowledge system about land characteristics, seasonal variation and water availability. Thus they are able to plan their gardens carefully using their self-developed seasonal calendar. 


The organic agrosilvopastoral system is based on crop diversity, soil conservation and knowledge about the land and the crops. In this way, agrosilvopastoral farmers harvest products all year round, making sure food is always available. In addition, the agrosilvopastoral system provides ecological and social benefits.

Permanent gardens have increased soil fertility and prevented erosion. The increase in tree cover helps to protect against wind erosion. Having been introduced to more diverse crops, farmers began to develop a local variety of the root crop iles-iles (maerato) as a food reserve. The three villages have become a learning centre for farmers and agricultural extension workers from East Nusa Tenggara and Timor Leste who want to learn and practice agrosilvopastoral farming. Farmers have also developed seed exchange mechanisms as a tool to encourage slash and burn farmers to shift to agrosilvopastoral systems.


This study is based on documentation by YMTM and YAFA staff.


YMTM and YAFA are NGOs in Timor, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia that aims facilitate farmers’ independence, welfare and justice through the agrosilvopastoral system based on community empowerment and environmental conservation. The agrosilvopastoral program is supported by VECO Indonesia and World Neighbours.

TWN is an international organization in Penang, Malaysia, whose aim is to promote awareness and activities, especially in the Third World, that would help bring about a more equitable, just and environmentally sustainable world.