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Parish lends land to farming groups

Plots provided so struggling farmers can improve their livelihoods

Parish lends land to farming groups
Reconstruction of Stella Maris church
Fransiskus P. Seran, Atambua

May 25, 2011

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The oldest parish in Atambua diocese, in East Nusa Tenggara province has provided three groups of mainly East Timorese refugee farmers with wasteland so that they can make a basic living “We gave them the land after our pastoral family program found out what they needed,” Father Maximus Aloisius Bria from the Stella Maris Church in Atapupu said recently. We are working together with local government and related NGOs in offering them further guidance into turning the land into arable plots,” Father Bria added. The parish, which borders Timor Leste, has more than 2,000 former East Timorese refugees among its more than 14,000 parishioners. The move follows a meeting last month between Church officials and local government authorities to discuss ways of helping poor farmers in the area. However, the land given over to the farming groups, which Father Bria calls St. Augustine, St. Joseph, and St. Peter, will not be theirs. The land has been provided so that they can grow crops like rice, bananas, grapes, cassava, corn and green peas. “Potential harvests look promising enough. Each group of farmers can earn more than ten million rupiah (more than US$1,163) each harvest,” the priest said. One farmer, Fransiskus Siku, believes the wasteland can easily be cultivated if the farmers put in a little hard work. “Well, it all depends on us as individuals and the help of local authorities and Church leaders,” he said. “By not giving us money, the initiative is encouraging us how to work hard,” the Catholic layman added. Related reports Farmers ‘need more help from officials’ Farmers Encouraged To Fight For Their Rights IS14297
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