Juanico is 38 years old and has lived his whole life in Liuhumo, a small village in the coffee producing areas of Ermera district.
Juanico was a carpenter when he met Guido Sequeira the director of Josephina Farm. Guido was working for the President Office to improve lives of rural poor and Juanico’s village had been identified for support. Guido formed a farmer group of 16 people that started producing vegetables. Juanico continued working as a carpenter but made a meager income as he dependent on local orders that were few.
My dream is to build a new house for my family closer to the road where I already have land”. But his house is still the same he always lived in with bamboo walls and stamped earth floor. “Kultura Timor."Juanico Soares
At that time there was some instability in Dili and to protect the cool truck owned by Josephina Farm, the driver of the company Carlito was asked to take it to his home village, Liuhumo, Juanico’s village. As the situation in Dili went back to normal, Guido called the car back and to his surprise it arrived full of vegetables, from Juanico. From that day Guido began picking up vegetables weekly.
In 2012, Josephina Farm partnered with the International Labour Organization (ILO) through its Business Opportunities and Support Services (BOSS) Project and began contract farming with farmers in Maubisse, Ainaro district. Jointly funded by Irish Aid and NZAID, the ILO-BOSS project works in partnership with the Institute for Business Support (IADE) under the Minister of State, Coordinator of Economic Affairs (MECAE) to deliver business development services to micro, small and medium enterprises, unlock business opportunities by developing functional value chains in specific sectors and promote better coordination and alignment of private sector initiatives.
ILO supported Josephina Farm to develop and deliver the offer to farmers, including providing agriculture input supply, regular technical assistance and delivery to markets. As the company expanded it needed additional staff and, although Juanico is illiterate, Guido had seen his potential and recognized his strong work ethics rarely found in rural areas.
Juanico began commuting between his own plot in Ermera and Maubisse to assist farmers there. He has since received additional technical training from BOSS and he has proven to be the most receptive of all farmers in learning and applying new knowledge in his field and when assisting others. Although small, his plot is one of the neatest and most productive in the country. He is still responsible for the production on his family land but while away in Maubisse assisting others, his cousin Alfonso Soares is leading the farmer group.
After years of selling vegetables and recently receiving salary from Josephina Farm, one would think that Juanico has made enough money to realize his dream “My dream is to build a new house for my family closer to the road where I already have land”. But his house is still the same he always lived in with bamboo walls and stamped earth floor. “Kultura Timor” he replies when asked why. Especially in rural areas in Timor Leste culture obligations weight heavy on people.
This year Juanico’s grandmother died and he had to purchase a bull for the ceremony. As he was short of cash, he paid $1,000 to buy the bull on credit, which almost equals one year of salary for him. This reality however has not deterred him from continuing working hard to one day realize his dream.