Skills development

The skilled butcher from Ebai Talho, Timor-Leste

Jeferino Aleixo Saldanha’s hands skilfully cut and slice the fresh beef into a variety of ready-to-cook cuts - sirloin, tenderloin, rump steak, cube roll and rendang. He also expertly trims the fat from the meat and ensures its hygiene and quality before selling the cuts to customers.

Feature | 27 May 2016
Jeferino Aleixo Saldanha or Joni together with his mentor and manager, Elisio Antonio da Costa
Jeferino Aleixo Saldanha’s hands skilfully cut and slice the fresh beef into a variety of ready-to-cook cuts - sirloin, tenderloin, rump steak, cube roll and rendang. He also expertly trims the fat from the meat and ensures its hygiene and quality before selling the cuts to customers.

Jeferino or Joni, as he is usually called, is 30 years old and one of the most skilful butchers in Timor-Leste. He has been pursuing this profession since 2012 when he joined Ebai Talho, the first butcher shop in, Timor-Leste. Ebai Talho officially opened for business in May 2012.

This curly haired man had never imagined himself as a butcher. The profession requires special skills, which are rare to find in Timor-Leste. The father of a three-year-old daughter previously worked as a labourer at a brick-making company. His main task was to carry heavy bricks, and in 2010, after two years, he decided to quit.

“Working on brick-making was very hard. I finally found myself quitting. Unemployed, I was doing small, odd jobs for two years before joining Ebai Talho in the beginning of March 2012,” said Joni, sharing his life experience.

Joni then took part in training in slaughtering and butchery techniques, provided by a professional butcher from Australia, for two months.

“At first I was very nervous because I had been performing butchery without any formal training. I found it difficult at first to learn proper butchery techniques,” said Joni, recalling the training.

The slaughter and butchery training was part of the partnership between the Institute for Business Support (IADE) under the Minister of State, Coordinator of Economic Affairs (MECAE) with the International Labour Organization (ILO) through its Business Opportunities and Support Services Project (BOSS) Project.

Funded by Irish Aid and NZAID, this partnership is aimed at unlocking business opportunities by developing functional value chains and promoting better coordination and alignment of private sector initiatives. Cattle business development is one of the selected sectors, as it is a major commodity in Timor-Leste.

I am delighted if I can help my co-workers in improving their butchery techniques... I am proud to have been given an opportunity to work here. My family is also happy because the workload is manageable with adequate earnings."

Jeferino Aleixo Saldanha
Cutting his hands, or improperly cutting the beef, were among the challenges he had to face.

“I improperly cut up more than two kilograms of beef. The beef then had to be minced and made into sausages,” said Joni. Yet, he refused to give up although his body and hands were once injured when a bull kicked him during slaughter.

After the training, Joni continued to improve his skills under the guidance of Ebai Talho’s manager, Elisio Antonio da Costa. Elisio, 43, also participated in butchery training with the Australian trainer.

“For me, Joni is a diligent member of staff and he is a fast learner. I just give him an example, and he can already do it,” said Elisio.

Joni’s hard work has now yielded results. To date, he is able to do the skinning and carcass dressing of a bull in only three hours. In one week, he is able to slaughter and butcher two to four cows to fulfil the customers’ needs. He has also provided butchery training for other employees in the shop, and even the employees of another new butcher shop, Talho Moris.

For me, Joni is a diligent member of staff and he is a fast learner. I just give him an example, and he can already do it."

Elisio Antonio da Costa, Manager of Ebai Talho
“I am delighted if I can help my co-workers in improving their butchery techniques, for example, on how to remove tendons,” said Joni. As the eldest of five siblings, his profession has even inspired his brother to follow his example as a butcher.

To date, Joni’s tasks are not limited to butchery. He is now entrusted to assist Elisio as an assistant manager. Joni is now responsible for managing administration and shop operations when Elisio is out of town for business. He is also in charge of meat weighing and registering, as well as serving customers if needed.

“I cannot work by myself. I must teach him managerial duties as I have to be able to delegate my tasks and somebody needs to take charge while I am out of town on business,” said Elisio.

Receiving a salary above the minimum wage, Joni’s hope is simple: making his family happy.

“I am proud to have been given an opportunity to work here. My family is also happy because the workload is manageable with adequate earnings,” said Joni, smiling.

This article was written by Egas Seraiva and Lurdes Marques, staff of the Institute for Business Support (IADE) under the Minister of State, Coordinator of Economic Affairs (MECAE)