Subject: AAP: Misunderstanding nearly causes loss of Timor seed grain

Misunderstanding nearly causes loss of Timor seed grain By John Martinkus

DILI, East Timor, Dec 13 AAP - East Timorese guerrillas almost mistakenly destroyed maize seed supplied by relief agencies after it poisoned their pigs.

Falintil pro-independence fighters at Aileu wanted to burn the precious maize seed stock after a number of pigs died from eating it, agronomist Ernest Chamberlain told reporters in Dili.

They feared crops grown from the seed would also poison the people who ate it.

Aid officials raced to the town to convince the men the seed was only poisonous before it was planted.

A total of 330 tonnes of the seed has already been distributed to 70,000 East Timorese families so they can grow their own food.

Chamberlain said the Indonesian seed was distributed in bags that carried clear warnings not to feed it to animals.

"Look, it says here in Indonesian - don't feed to animals," he said, pointing to a sample bag of the seed.

Many East Timorese in remote areas do not speak Indonesian because education services were not provided to the largely illiterate subsistence farmers who live in East Timor's central mountain areas.

Pigs are a mark of wealth and the death of an animal is a serious matter, requiring the payment of compensation.

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