Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Wild plant food in Timor-Leste.

Abstract

In Timor-Leste food insecurity is seasonal with the hungry season prior to grain harvests. Foraging for wild foods is often cited among coping strategies for household food insecurity. Historically from 42,000 to 4,500 BP all food (100%) came from wild sources in Timor-Leste. From 4,500 BP up to the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century, despite the presence of domestic animals and plants, the predominant food sources were hunting, gathering and fishing. Thereafter there was a slow decline in the importance of wild food until the early 20th century when the pace of decline steepened as swidden agriculture, particularly with maize, increased. Today, wild food consumption fluctuates widely over the year being much reduced in the wet season (December-April) compared to the dry season (May-November). Comparing wild food use in a normal year (2007) and a food-deficit year (2011) (with a severe hungry season), wild food foraging, particularly by poor households, was dramatically higher in the food-insecure season. The most widely eaten wild foods in Timor-Leste are lesser yam (Dioscorea esculenta) which is consumed by 30% of households, followed by elephant's foot yam (Amorphophallus paeoniifolius) and bitter bean (Phaseolus lunatus). Looking ahead in Timor-Leste, the wild food resource in woodland ecosystems will continue to provide an important food buffer in food-deficit years, especially to poor at-risk households, increasing their resilience and reducing their vulnerability to shocks.