With a passion for food, gardening and climate activism, Joana hails from the rural mountainous area of Baguia where she lives with her mum, husband, brothers, sisters, cousins, children and grandparents. In her short life thus far, she’s achieved an outstanding amount for her community, country and planet through her keen interest in, and dedication towards, reforestation and food preservation.
She now plays a pivotal role in the Timorese arm of Corner Store Network (CSN) and was recently selected to go to Laos on a YSEALI scholarship, winning a grant to help her continue her important work.
We interviewed Joana about her work, home and vision for the future. This is her story.
Back to where it all began
Joana’s journey with our organisation began when her parents co-founded the WithOneSeed community forestry program back in 2010. The program sees Timorese tree farmers paid an upfront and annual amount to plant and nurture trees on their properties. As the initiative progressed and grew, Joana witnessed the positive effects it had on both farming families and the local environment and decided to get involved.
She became employed as the Baguia Hub Enterprise Coordinator and Finance Officer, a role in which she has learned how to become an effective leader through new experiences every day.
Her passion for her work at WithOneSeed is palpable, as she explains four direct impacts she’s seen the program have on farmers and communities:
Environmental: planting trees is making the land visibly greener, returning dry springs and reducing carbon in the atmosphere
Economic: farmers are directly paid 50c per year for each tree they take care of
Education: the program is teaching communities about climate change and the importance of trees to human life and maintaining biodiversity
Partnerships: it’s helping build strong relationships within the community, the broader municipality, the entire country and friends from abroad
Her fight against food insecurity
It was while working for WithOneSeed that news of the CSN preservation initiative in Dili piqued Joana’s interest. Each year between November and February, the ‘hungry season’ sweeps across Timor-Leste, where dry weather leaves many families with barely enough food to survive. Joana knows first hand how this period of intense food scarcity affects her community, telling us that every year her family runs out of food, fruit and vegetables to consume. When CSN founder Alice discussed these issues with Joana, and floated the idea of establishing a preserving hub within Timor-Leste to actively solve the problem at a local level, Joana was eager to get involved.
In the three years since, Joana has become an integral part of the CSN Timor-Leste’s preserving program. Every day she teaches preservation skills to women from other villages, showing them how to preserve local produce such as fruits, vegetables and legumes for year round use. The program also encourages women from different areas to share their knowledge of food preservation with each other, enabling them to take different skills back to their villages.
For women, farmers and youth
Joana loves that the Corner Store Network is driven by two female leaders, Alice in Melbourne and Dina in Timor-Leste, who have both empowered and worked alongside her to do this meaningful work in Baguia. She also loves the direct economic impact the preserving program has on local farmers, whose produce is purchased by the program to be used preserving. She believes providing year round food, work and income for farmers, women and families is key to helping all Timorese develop their lives for the next generation.
Her end goal is to create a better world for her children, with whom she has already nurtured a passion and understanding for the need for real climate action. On holidays and after Sunday mass, Joana enjoys taking her husband and kids to their garden to tend to their trees and veggie patch. In fact, her favourite food is that which is picked from her own garden. She makes a point to involve as many young locals in the WithOneSeed program as possible, teaching them how trees can benefit themselves, their community and country.
What the future holds
Joana plans to continue developing her leadership skills, learning new things, sharing knowledge and having new experiences. In 2022, she hopes for good results in her garden and within the preserving and tree planting programs. Longer term, she aims to ensure that her community does not go hungry by giving them secure access to nutritious food all year round. And of course, she wishes to grow more good connections, something that the entire world has struggled with over the last two years.
We are so grateful to have such a smart, driven and passionate woman on our team and look forward to collaborating on our important work for many years to come.