Tourism Sector in Timor-Leste Oil accounts for 90 percent of Timor-Leste’s government revenue, but since 2017 the government has focused on diversifying the economy, attracting investors and developing its rising tourism industry. The small island country gained independence in 1999 and reduced its poverty rate from 50.4 percent in 2007 to 41 percent in 2014. It plans to develop the tourism sector in Timor-Leste in order to attract new visitors, increase revenue

and add jobs. USAID, Chemonics and private investors are seeing economic opportunity in the emerging tourism sector.

Benefits of Tourism Industry Investments

The benefits of developing the tourism sector in Timor-Leste include job creation and increased revenue. Poverty-reduction policies, health care and improved education are possible uses of much-needed revenue to the developing economy. The government’s goal is to attract 200,000 annual international tourists by 2030, which would generate $150 million and add 15,000 local jobs. For reference, total revenue for Timor-Leste was $300 million in 2017. Chemonics is currently working with the government and USAID’s Tourism for All Project to develop Timor-Leste’s tourism industry.

Since the tourism sector in Timor-Leste is new, one task stated by Peter Semone, chief of party for the USAID Tourism for All Project, is to explain the benefits of tourism to Timorese that might object to the rising tourism industry, especially in terms of its environmental impact. Marine tourism, particularly on Atauro Island, is expected to flourish once the tourism industry is further developed. One priority is convincing wary Timorese that the rising tourism industry means increased revenue to the government or directly through selling services and/or products.

Achievements by USAID’s Tourism for All Project

The USAID Tourism for All Project began in January 2018 and is slated to end in January 2021. Its goal is to expand and improve the Timorese tourism industry using a comprehensive and sustainable approach. The project costs $9 million and its focus is directed towards two main areas: ensuring laws, institutions and policies are in place to implement the national tourism policy that began in 2017, providing sustainable private sector tourism investments and participation by Timorese communities and replicating successful models for future use.

There are five major achievements of the USAID Tourism for All Project. One accomplishment of USAID’s coordination with the government of Timor-Leste is the registration for a Mt. Ramelau Tourism Partnership that is currently in progress. Mt. Ramelau is a sacred mountain and major tourist attraction. USAID also facilitated the process of Atauro Island residents creating a vision, mission and tourism action plan for the next three years and began registration for the Tourism Partnership of Atauro. Atauro Island is the most marine biodiverse location in the world. USAID and Timor-Leste anticipates a booming ecotourism industry on the island.

Grants programs were also launched under the project to encourage tourism entrepreneurs to invest in targeted areas. One final achievement is the establishment of a working group involving the Secretary of State for Arts and Culture, UNESCO and local non-governmental organizations for conservation and preservation of tais, a hand-woven textile used to make scarves and bags. Tais was proposed for UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage recognition.

Future Economy of Timor-Leste

Semone stated that “tourism is the base to improve the service industry and the culture of service in the country. It is also an excellent factor to foster the development of a private sector of SMEs but also a way to raise environmental consciousness for locals.” With the help of Chemonics, USAID and other organizations, Timor-Leste’s tourism sector shows promise in reaching the goal of attracting 150,000 international tourists and adding 15,000 by 2030.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste or East Timor, a small island between Indonesia and Australia, has struggled with gaining independence since its colonization in the 16th century. The long-standing political turmoil which placated the country throughout much of its history has impacted its economy. The overarching lack of access to raw materials, such as clean water, also depicts the nation’s struggling economy. Below is a list of 10 facts about living conditions in Timor-Leste.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Timor-Leste

  1. Housing: World Bank estimates from 2016 assumed that Timor-Leste’s economy and its building of national infrastructure would increase steadily over the subsequent three years. It predicted that the growth of the nation would decrease to four percent in 2017, bounce back up to five percent in 2018 and hit six percent in 2019. Unfortunately, the situation concerning Timor-Leste’s housing has remained stagnant. Most people’s houses consist of bamboo, wood and a thatched roof. People that live in urban areas are able to use concrete, which shows a divide in the living conditions in Timor-Leste.
  2. Education: Approximately 20 percent of preschool-aged children in Timor-Leste attend school and nearly 37 percent of young adults living in rural areas are illiterate compared to the six percent in urban areas. Sanitation and access to clean, drinkable water are sorely lacking in schools alone. In 2008, UNICEF began partnering with local agencies to end this issue. It advocated for the establishment of the Basic Law of Education in 2008, the Basic Education Law in 2010 and the National Policy Framework for Preschool Education in 2014 among others.

  3. Agriculture: Agriculture accounts for 80 percent of Timor Leste’s income; its main products include maize, rice and cassava. Very few of the farmers have access to sustainable technologies or practices that are necessary for efficient agricultural production. USAID implemented a plan to address this developmental disparity from 2013 to 2018 through its partnership with Developing Agricultural Communities (DAC). This partnership works with local sectors to teach horticulture technologies and the 349 participating farmers saw great results. Original participants saw their production increase by 183 percent and total revenue by 186 percent, while farmers new to the DAC increased production by 466 to 517 percent.

  4. Access to Food: Due to the heavy reliance on agriculture for survival and income, droughts and shortages of food production can result in high levels of starvation. The 2017 Global Hunger Index classifies Timor-Leste as suffering from high levels of malnutrition. Since 2001, the number of undernourished people has remained stagnant at 300,000. The Sustainable Agriculture Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP) aims to improve incomes in addition to food and job security to the rural areas of Timor-Leste. It has a six-year-plan agreed upon by the World Bank and government in 2016 and predictions dictate that it should impact 16,500 households and approximately 100,000 people.

  5. Employment: While a majority of the population’s jobs consist of agriculture and farming, there is a huge job market in the science and technology fields. The employment rate is one of the highest that the country has seen in 10 years at 97 percent. This illustrates that while Timor-Leste may be a poor country, it has a lot of untapped potential.

  6. Medicine: Access to doctors and basic medicine has improved over recent years, but many rural communities still seek basic services. New organizations are currently emerging to improve supply chain management of pharmaceutical supplies. There are only 175 doctors that serve the entire population of Timor-Leste. Similar to the United States, citizens have a choice of whether to invest in private or public health care and the government monitors both.

  7. Mosquito-Borne Diseases: Although water surrounds Timor-Leste, the water conditions are poor which make it very easy to contract diseases. The lack of sanitation and regular garbage collection contribute to attracting mosquitoes. Dengue fever and malaria are two of the most common mosquito-borne diseases in Timor-Leste and both have a high mortality rate. Currently, there is no treatment for dengue fever in the area, but there are multiple courses of medical treatment available for malaria.

  8. Water Conditions: Timor-Leste is an island nation, but there is an overall lack of access to clean water that plagues much of the population. Access to clean water and toilets remain a constant issue in Timor-Leste as 353,000 people do not have access to clean water. Subsequently, over half of the population does not have a decent toilet which can lead to major health major issues. In fact, 65 children die each year from dirty water and unsanitary toilets. Women also suffer from managing menstruation, which can greatly inhibit their academic achievements and widen the blatant gender inequality within the country. WaterAid Australia is working tirelessly with the government to make clean water, toilets and good hygiene a part of daily life. The program, which started in 2015, has grown to support WASH delivery service projects in over 180 countries, providing services to approximately 25,000 people.

  9. Plan International: This organization works with various communities across Timor-Leste to provide access to clean water as well as to raise awareness of the importance of handwashing and waste management. Since 2011, it has built 32 village water supply systems which have benefited over 9,000 individuals.

  10. UNFPA Timor-Leste: Maternal health is an issue that has largely slipped through the cracks. In 2010, reports stated that for every 100,000 births in the country, 150 died from complications involving childbirth and pregnancy. Hemorrhaging, anemia, infections/sepsis, labor obstructions and unsafe abortions are the major causes of maternal death. Below are the four pillars that UNFPA works hard to ensure are available to all women:

    1. Modern Contraceptives: Birth control, condoms, etc.

    2. Antenatal care: Routine health screenings of pregnant women without symptoms in order to diagnose diseases or complicating obstetric conditions.

    3. Safe Delivery: A delivery in a medical setting or by a midwife, in which health professionals monitor both the mother and baby.

    4. Emergency Obstetric Care: Basic emergency obstetric and newborn care is critical to reducing maternal and neonatal death.

With the increase of birth rates and access to clean water and food, there is no question that progress is occurring in Timor-Leste. Improvements are slowly diminishing the fatal health issues in the country as these 10 facts about living conditions in Timor-Leste have illustrated.

Joanna Buoniconti
Photo: Flickr

Hunger and Malnutrition in Timor-Leste
Hunger and malnutrition in Timor-Leste are largely impacted by 41.8 percent of its population living on less than $1.54 a day, making it one of the poorest nations. Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, is an island nation in Southeast Asia, between Indonesia and Australia. Additionally, only gaining its independence in 2002, it is one of the youngest nations. Among factors impacting hunger and malnutrition in Timor-Leste also include climate variability.

Rate of Hunger and Malnutrition

In the past decade, Timor-Leste has made substantial progress reducing it’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) from 46.9 percent in 2008 to 34.3 percent in 2017; however, hunger remains classified as a “serious” concern. Timor-Leste’s high levels of food insecurity, poor agricultural yields and low levels of disposable income directly contribute to this serious-level GHI.

Malnutrition and stunting levels in Timor-Leste are one of the highest in the world and have been persistent problems. Malnutrition in Timor-Leste is the leading cause of premature death and disability. Quality nutrition is especially crucial for pregnant women and children, up to the age of 2, ensuring proper growth.

That being said, anemia affects over 40 percent of children and 23 percent of women ages 15 to 49, inclusive of childbearing years. The percent of Timorese children under 5 years old with stunted growth in 2013 was 50.2 percent. This is a slight decrease from 55.7 percent in 2002. This shows some progression, but malnourishment and stunting are still at an alarming rate in Timor-Leste.

Timor-Leste’s National Nutrition Strategy

Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Health established its first National Nutrition Strategy in 2004. It introduces basic nutrition interventions and nation-wide goals. To increase the government’s effectiveness in addressing nutrition, UNICEF is providing technical support to the Ministry of Health, which has created the Timor-Leste National Nutrition Strategy of 2014-2019.

It is Timor-Leste’s largest nutrition policy, and its overall objective is to reduce malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency among children and women. Additionally, Timor-Leste became the first Asian Pacific country to join the U.N.’s Zero Hunger Challenge in 2014 reaffirming their commitment to reach hunger and nutrition goals.

Intervention of USAID

USAID efforts are also working to combat hunger and malnutrition in Timor-Leste with 2 large programs. USAID’s Avansa Agrikultura Project works to increase agricultural productivity especially for vegetables, fruits and legumes. It also focuses on strengthening agricultural markets, food accessibility and sustainability in the midst of climate change.

Their other program, Reinforce Basic Health Services Activity, currently works to support Timor-Leste’s government in strengthening the skills of health workers to provide effective maternal and newborn healthcare.

Additional Interventions in Timor-Leste

Mother support groups are another common method to reduce malnutrition in Timor-Leste. A partnership between the European Union, UNICEF and Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Health established these support groups to empower mothers and families by supporting them to seek care for their children and themselves.

Similarly, the World Food Programme (WFP) has nutrition programs aiming to improve mothers’ health and, in turn, their children’s health. One of their programs, Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) provides malnourished pregnant and nursing women with fortified meals and treatment. The WFP also has informational sessions on nutrition and cooking demonstrations. This aids in families learning more about the importance of and access to nutrition.

With the combination and collaboration of Timor-Leste’s government, national government organization’s (NGO’s), intergovernmental organizations and international aid, hunger and malnutrition in Timor-Leste are being broken down and addressed. These continued and intensified efforts provide hope for zero hunger Timor-Leste in the future.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

how the media misrepresents Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste is repeatedly referred to as a “tiny half-island nation of 1.2 million.” It is framed as an “impoverished country” that has fallen prey to the resource curse that so often afflicts countries with an oil-dependent economy. In the context of its current political transition, skepticism abounds regarding the country’s ability to rise above the temptations of corruption and combat the country’s high poverty rates.

Despite High Poverty, Timor-Leste Has Made Great Progress

Such media coverage fails to take into account the notable progress being made by this newly autonomous country. In order to avoid detracting from this progress, it is essential to garner an understanding of how the media misrepresents Timor-Leste —a nation whose independence was only recently obtained, after the turn of the 21st century. After centuries of Portuguese colonial occupation, the Timorese fought valiantly for their independence, only to be occupied by Indonesian forces nine days later. This period of occupation lasted a little over a quarter of a century. In May 2002, Timor-Leste gained its independence.

Nearly two decades later, the media repeatedly employs statics in order to evaluate how the newly independent country is functioning. These statistics include a 40 percent poverty rate accompanied by a 60 percent unemployment rate. Highlighting standalone statistics is an example of how the media misrepresents Timor-Leste. This practice becomes problematic because these statistics are not representative of the progress being made.

While a poverty rate of 40 percent may appear grim, this statistic fails to account for the vast decline in poverty since 2001, which was an astonishing 71 percent. In a little over a decade, the number of people living in poverty dropped by roughly 44 percent. The poverty rate statistic also fails to represent the declining numbers of undernourished people. Between 2005 and 2007, the rate was 34 percent; by 2014, the rate was at 28.8 percent.

Despite its progress, the Timorese government does acknowledge that its poverty rates remain high. To combat this, Timor-Leste has partnered with the Asian Development Bank in order to invest in infrastructure. These large investments are being put towards road development, supplying clean water to urban centers and vocational education.

The Media Misrepresents Timor-Leste by Ignoring Its Peaceful Transitions of Power

Rather than reporting on the progress made by these development initiatives, the news about Timor-Leste focuses on the uncertainty—and in some cases violence—surrounding the recently held elections. This uncertainty is the result of the country’s history of frequent political instability. Particularly in 2006, political instability had disastrous consequences. That year, the prime minister was forced to resign from his post. His resignation was the outcome of expansive rioting that resulted in 150,000 deaths and displacements. It is natural that the Timorese would be concerned about a repeat of these events.

However, Giteroano Neves, a Timor-Leste policy analyst, points out that the political climate at that time was very different from the one today. Timor-Leste had just emerged from internal conflict and was experiencing an unexpected influx of oil revenues. Since then, Neves states that the country has been relatively stable.

From 2017 to 2018, the Freedom House Organization updated Timor-Leste’s freedom status from “partly free” to “free.” One of the factors influencing this change in status was the successful 2017 presidential and primary elections, in which the country amicably transferred power between political parties for the second time since independence. According to a European Union observer mission, the elections were “peaceful and generally well administered.” Furthermore, the winning parties are united on the next steps for the country.

The 2018 winning coalition, called the Parliamentary Majority Alliance, is comprised of both the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction and the newly formed People’s Liberation Party (PLP). The PLP promotes investment in the basic needs of the people such as roads, water access, education and healthcare. The party as a whole is also in support of the investment in larger infrastructure projects, such as the South Coast Petroleum Corridor.

Economic Development a Bright Spot in Timor-Leste’s Future

Timor-Leste’s economy is highly dependent on its oil economy, which currently funds the vast majority of the state’s expenditures. However, oil revenues have been declining. Fortunately, the country was recently able to negotiate maritime borders with Australia, which provided Timor-Leste access to 70 to 80 percent of the Greater Sunrise gas field. Even with this acquisition, the country is expanding its efforts to grow other sectors of the economy, such as coffee and tourism.

By insistently reporting on Timor-Leste’s shortcomings, the media is overlooking the progress that is being made in the country. In order to avoid this oversight, poverty reduction supporters need to be aware of how the media misrepresents Timor-Leste. This misrepresentation detracts from the discussion on how current development endeavors could be made more effective. It fails to reveal an avenue in which external organizations can provide support for these development agendas. Worst of all, it demoralizes those working hardest to make improvements. Timor-Leste is still maturing; the focus should be on fostering this growth.

– Joanna Dooley
Photo: Flickr

Timor-Leste’s Future Is Business
Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, occupies the eastern side of Timor Island; the other half is Indonesian territory. Timor-Leste has had a difficult history. Poverty rates and unemployment remain high, but the rate of improvement is astounding. The country’s extreme poverty rate fell from 47.2 percent to 30.3 percent over a seven-year period, showing more progress than most developing countries. With some sources of income such as oil coming to an end, it is becoming increasingly clear that Timor-Leste’s future is business.

Timor-Leste’s Tumultuous History

Portugal invaded and colonized the island of Timor in the 1600s. In 1749, the island was split into East and West Timor, with Portugal remaining in control of East Timor until 1975. In November 1975, after Portugal’s revolution and the administrative withdrawal, the Fretilin (Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor) declared East Timor independent. Less than a month later, Indonesia invaded and claimed East Timor as its new territory.

After many years of occupation, Indonesia let East Timor vote on independence in 1999 and 78 percent voted for freedom. This led to many Indonesian nationals and supporters rebelling, but April 2002 saw Xanana Gusmao (a leader of the Fretilin against Indonesia) win the presidency of Timor-Leste. In May 2002, independence was celebrated and in September Timor-Leste became the 191st member of the United Nations.

The Obstacles to Growth

Timor-Leste’s weak infrastructure has made improving quality of life and building business difficult. Roads are inadequate and electricity can be haphazard. The lack of infrastructure can be attributed to Portugal’s neglect during its control of East Timor. Indonesia’s occupation did contribute towards better infrastructure, particularly buildings and roads, but ironically many of the roads and power lines were destroyed by the rebellion of Indonesian supporters and nationalists after the 1999 vote for independence.

With a population of 1.1 million, only about 200,000 people have a conventional job or the ability to employ others. Most citizens live in an off-grid manner, sustaining themselves on agriculture, forestry and fishing. On top of this, Timor-Leste imports half its food, creating difficulties in acquiring fresh, nutritious food. Up to now, Timor-Leste’s main source of income has largely been from the oil and gas fields discovered in 2005. Now those fields are beginning to dry up; profits decreased from $1 billion in 2015 to $400 million in 2016. With stagnation in other areas such as coffee, many believe Timor-Leste’s future is business.

The Efforts to Ensure Timor-Leste’s Future Is Business

Despite difficulties, Timor-Leste is revealing an astonishing ability to overcome. In 2007, the basic needs poverty rate was 50 percent, which fell to 41.8 percent in 2014. Over this same seven-year period the domestic economy grew by 77 percent. Electricity access rose from 36 to 72 percent, and access to improved sanitation increased from 42 to 60 percent. School attendance rates increased from 58 percent to 83 percent. Coffee exports were stagnating with a lack of investment, but in 2016 coffee exports totaled $30 million, double the amount of the previous three years.

The Path to a Better Future

Timor-Leste has gone through much to claim independence and counter the difficulties it inherited. Many entrepreneurs in Timor-Leste have identified the end of the U.N.’s peacekeeping mission in 2012 as a wake-up call that it was time for the country’s citizens to take control. With half the population being under 30 years old and having jobs to turn to, many are finding the boldness to trust that Timor-Leste’s future is business.

Business operations in Timor-Leste are still not perfect. Its Ease of Doing Business rating–a reflection of potential foreign investment or local growth–fell to 178th place after being at 167th place out of 191 countries. However, there are improvements underway. The office that registers new businesses has made efforts towards creating a more efficient process. The office used to process about 5,000 applications every five years, but was recently able to increase this to 11,000 applications over three years.

With few external options and a government focus on development, Timor-Leste’s future is business. The continued focus on business will lead to continued decreases in poverty and improvements in the country’s infrastructure.

– Natasha Komen
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare Sector of Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste is a young country, and has been facing many difficulties since its independence. One of these difficulties is trying to improve the currently underdeveloped healthcare sector of Timor-Leste.

Timor-Leste’s History of Instability

Timor-Leste only officially became a sovereign nation on May 20, 2002. This came after years of violence and turmoil that led to much of the infrastructure in the nation being destroyed. With the destruction of this infrastructure, along with the casualties caused by the violence, many citizens of Timor-Leste were left unemployed and living in poverty. Another result of this violence was the sudden decline in healthcare professionals. Many of the nation’s doctors and specialists left the country during this time, leaving the healthcare sector of Timor-Leste unable to adequately care for all of its citizens.

This combination of poverty and lack of healthcare professionals has been problematic in Timor-Leste in recent decades. In 2017, 41.8 percent of the population of Timor-Leste was living below the poverty line, and as a result of this poverty, many individuals do not have the means to travel long distances when seeking medical attention. Due to the lack of healthcare professionals, clinics and hospitals are not easily accessible to all parts of the nation. Because of this, many individuals cannot get treatment for illnesses that would otherwise be preventable, and this leads to an increased spread of disease.

Improving the Healthcare Sector of Timor-Leste

The government of Timor-Leste has recognized this problem and is taking steps to improve the healthcare sector of Timor-Leste. The government created a Strategic Development Plan that it aims to complete by 2030, which details how it intends to improve the health system for the citizens of Timor-Leste. The three areas that it identifies as needing improvement are health services delivery, human resources for health and health infrastructure.

Part of the government’s plan to improve health services is to increase the number of health facilities in Timor-Leste. By 2030, Timor-Leste intends to have enough health centers to service the entire nation and to have each center equipped with the professionals needed to properly run it.

In addition to the government of Timor-Leste recognizing the importance of improving the healthcare sector of Timor-Leste, independent organizations in the nation are also working towards achieving a healthier Timor-Leste. The Jesuit mission in Timor-Leste opened the Centro de Saúde Daniel Ornelas health center in September of 2017. This health center will provide medical services to the students and staff of Colégio de Santo Inácio de Loiola and Instituto São João de Brito, as well as the local community of Ulmera and the greater Liquiçá district. The citizens in these areas did not have sufficient access to healthcare facilities in the past, and the opening of this health center will help to meet this need.

The healthcare sector of Timor-Leste is still recovering from the turmoil that the nation experienced while gaining its sovereignty, but it can be seen that Timor-Leste is not a nation doomed to survive without sufficient access to health services for its citizens forever. Between the commitment that the government of Timor-Leste has made to improving the health of its citizens, and groups such as the Jesuits in Timor-Leste working to improve the health of their own community, a healthier Timor-Leste is well on its way.

– Nicole Stout

Photo: U.S. Air Force

Women's Rights in Timor-LesteThe Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, a country located in Southeast Asia, gained its independence from Indonesia on May 20, 2002. This came after a popular vote in favor of becoming independent on August 30, 1999. As one of the world’s youngest and poorest nations, it is facing numerous social, political and economic issues. The country is not ignoring its issues but is instead working to improve them daily. One subject that is currently being brought to public attention is women’s rights in Timor-Leste, or the lack thereof.

Women in Timor-Leste face daily challenges that their male counterparts do not face to the same degree. One of these challenges is of an economic nature. Many women in Timor-Leste do not have the same training opportunities as men, which limits their job options. This limited access to jobs became a large issue after the conflict that Timor-Leste faced following the vote for independence in 1999 and before it was declared a sovereign state in 2002. During this time, nearly half of Timorese women were widowed due to widespread violence. These women became the sole provider in many households, and with economic options greatly limited for women in the country, many were left in poverty.

The government of Timor-Leste has recognized the economic challenges faced by women in the country. It is for this reason that Timor-Leste’s 2014 Country Gender Assessment includes an area dedicated to laying out a framework for advancing the economic opportunities of women. This framework includes increasing women’s participation in the labor market by improving training opportunities and implementing the Secretariat of State for Professional Training and Employment Policy’s gender mainstreaming strategy. These efforts will help to increase the number of financially independent women in Timor-Leste. In this area, women’s rights in Timor-Leste are advancing tremendously.

Another area of women’s rights in Timor-Leste that the country has struggled with is domestic and gender-based violence. Domestic violence is the most reported crime to the Vulnerable Persons Unit of the National Police by Timorese women, showing that this is a serious issue that is being faced by numerous women in the country. The government of Timor-Leste is determined to end this cycle of domestic violence. In addition to including women’s rights in the new constitution, the nation has also passed violence-specific legislation. This includes the Law Against Domestic Violence, which was passed in 2010 and defines domestic violence as a public crime. Timor-Leste also adopted the National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence, which provides a strategy of prevention for domestic violence, as well as a number of services for survivors of gender-based violence and domestic violence.

In addition to the legislative actions being taken to reduce domestic violence in Timor-Leste and promote the economic advancement of women, government officials are also speaking out on the subject of women’s rights in Timor-Leste. The Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Rui Maria de Araújo, made a statement at the Global Leader’s Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in 2015. He stated that Timor-Leste is fully committing to “achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.” There is hope in this statement, and the lives of the citizens of Timor-Leste can only continue to improve as the rights of women continue to increase.

– Nicole Stout

Photo: Flickr

Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste is a small, agrarian country that largely depends on its struggling agriculture sector for financial and economic security. Nearly 80 percent of Timor-Leste’s population is smallholder, local farmers who depend on the annual crop yields for their subsistence. Unfortunately, crop yields are often low or lost post-harvest, leaving many areas of the country below the poverty line.

In some districts, like Manufahi, approximately 85 percent of the population survives on $0.88 a day. Developing sustainable agriculture in Timor-Leste has been a focal point for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries since 2003, but still requires significant financial backing and guidance from other government agencies and global aid societies.

Multiple projects have been proposed and implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the government of Timor-Leste in conjunction with the Global Agriculture and Food Security Trust Fund and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The sole purpose of these projects is to give Timor-Leste’s agriculture sector the chance to successfully become a competitor in burgeoning world markets via modernizing farming techniques and educating the smallholder farmers.

Here are a few of the projects implemented for the development of sustainable agriculture in Timor-Leste:

 

The Timor-Leste Agricultural Rehabilitation, Economic Growth and Sustainable Natural Resource Management Project

The sole purpose of this project, instituted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in 2003, was to increase farm and crop productivity. To accomplish this, farmers were taught new and advanced techniques for increasing crop yields and reducing the number of crops lost after harvest. This, in turn, would raise the annual income of the farmers and create more jobs. This project saw moderate success, but Timor-Leste still faces the same challenges.

Crops are constantly lost due to inefficient farming practices, which in turn creates harsh and unsustainable environments for future crops. Educating farmers on appropriate farming techniques crop survival in the country’s environment remains one of the main objectives of most projects geared for sustainable agriculture in Timor-Leste.

 

The Developing Agricultural Communities (DAC) Project

This project aims to connect smallholder farmers with large-scale retailers and train them in the technologies and horticultural practices necessary for expanding into vast markets. In conjunction with ConocoPhillips, an American energy company, and K’manek and Dilimart, two of the largest local supermarkets in Timor-Leste, USAID hope to connect local farmers with the farm-to-market chain to improve their economic and social positions.

 

The Sustainable Agriculture Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP)

This six-year project, agreed upon by the World Bank and the government of Timor-Leste in 2016, received $21 million from the Global Agriculture and Food Security Trust Fund. It aims to revitalize and improve the productivity of crops in selected areas so as to boost their status in the world market. Timor-Leste has dealt with malnutrition as a result of the loss of staple foods and the insecurity of food production caused by poor soil and water management.

This project aims to create secure food production through smallholder farmers by improving multiple watersheds in different geographical locations. These watersheds will prevent contaminants from entering the crop soil while simultaneously increasing the amount of water that reaches the crops. The sheds will be monitored and evaluated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the continued support of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Trust Fund.

 

Future Steps for Timor-Leste

Sustainable agriculture in Timor-Leste is well on its way, but still requires additional funding for the vast number of projects planned for continued success in their agriculture sector. Timor-Leste still needs to establish a reliable and stable economy through their marketability, and through continued support from its government and global aid campaigns, the nation can achieve that goal.

– Kayla Rafkin

Photo: Flickr

infrastructure in Timor-LesteTimor-Leste is a young nation facing many difficulties, but it is also a nation striving to advance itself daily. One of the areas in which the nation is making strides is in the development of its infrastructure.

On August 30, 1999, the people of current day Timor-Leste voted on whether they wanted to remain part of Indonesia or become an independent nation. Ultimately, 78.5 percent of voters voted for independence. During this time, violence broke out and approximately 70 percent of the infrastructure in Timor-Leste was destroyed.

The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste officially became a sovereign nation on May 20, 2002. Since then, the nation has been working to resolve the problems it faces. The damaged and underdeveloped infrastructure in Timor-Leste is one of the major challenges that the country has been working on in recent years.

The government of Timor-Leste created and released a strategic plan that it aims to complete by 2030, which it hopes will improve quality of life, health and education standards. Included in this plan is an entire section on developing the nation’s infrastructure. In this section, plans to improve roadways, bridges, waterways, sanitation techniques, electricity, seaports, airports and telecommunications are laid out.

Recently, the government of Timor-Leste opened the nation’s second airport, the Suai Airport, on June 20, 2017. The opening of this airport was included in the strategic development plan and is an example of one of the many ways the infrastructure of Timor-Leste is being improved upon.

In addition to the opening of the Suai Airport, there are future plans to upgrade Timor-Leste’s other airport, the Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport. This airport currently handles around 80,000 to 100,000 passengers each year, but after renovations are completed, the airport should be capable of handling up to one million passengers per year.

Another example of the infrastructural developments being made in Timor-Leste is the road expansion project that the country is undergoing. The World Bank is currently helping to fund Timor-Leste’s road expansion project. In April 2017, a $35.2 million credit was given to Timor-Leste from the World Bank to expand the nation’s transportation project.

This project will make roadways safer for travelers and increase travel opportunities between the northern and southern parts of the country. Having dependable roadways will aid Timor-Leste in developing other aspects of its infrastructure and lead to increased economic opportunity within the nation. These roadways will promote rural development and support the growth of healthcare and education in Timor-Leste.

The development of infrastructure in Timor-Leste is still ongoing, but advances can be seen. The opening of a second airport and the major transportation project are just two examples of the work being done on the infrastructure in the country. The government of Timor-Leste plans to continue to build on these advancements in hopes that a developed infrastructure will improve the standard of living for every one of its citizens.

– Nicole Stout

Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor and officially known as The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is a sovereign state made up of a small cluster of islands in maritime Southeast Asia. After gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, Timor-Leste struggled through a quarter of a century under occupation, mass conflict and United Nations transition before finally being granted full independence in 2002.

As a result of the struggle Timor-Leste faced while gaining independence, the country was left with little infrastructure, an unstable economy and widespread poverty. Due to the country’s high instability, Timor-Leste is one of the most malnourished countries in the world. This results in a lack of food security, lack of hygiene and sanitation and an increase in poverty.

Despite receiving an abundance of humanitarian and transition relief since gaining its independence in 2002, Timor-Leste is still considered one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. However, in the past five years, there has been a resurgence in the success of humanitarian aid to Timor-Leste. The main donor to Timor-Leste is the nation of Australia.

In 2014, the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) began sending regular humanitarian aid to Timor-Leste. HART is a small aid organization originally founded by the United Kingdom but has since branched out into Australia and the United States. The aid organization focuses on working with communities in conflict zones, post-war zones or areas were people are exploited for cultural or political reasons.

On World Food Day 2014, HART released a detailed briefing on malnutrition and its consequences in Timor-Leste, such as high infant and child mortality rates. Shortly after releasing this briefing, HART worked with its partner, HAIM Health, to create programs and teaching centers to better educate the Timorese on proper nutrition. Programs focus on understanding nutrition, a balanced diet, preparing and cooking food and healthy sanitation practices. HAIM Health also follows up with the families enrolled in its education programs and has an 80 percent success rate of children gaining or sustaining weight.

Humanitarian aid to Timor-Leste does not stop with HART and HAIM Health. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of the Australian government signed the East Timor Strategic Planning Agreement for Development in 2011, which establishes a shared vision of economic stability and growth between Australia and Timor-Leste. Since the signing of this agreement, Timor-Leste has seen many improvements in its development and further success toward a stable economy. In 2017-18 alone, Australia is expected to give approximately $96 million in humanitarian aid to Timor-Leste.

Thanks to Australia’s humanitarian aid to Timor-Leste, the Timorese have already seen positive results, including more than 40,000 people being provided the education and skill set needed to join the growing workforce. Also, over 21 thousand people now have access to clean water and hygiene programs and over 90 percent of primary schools now have a new and innovative curriculum, geared toward giving the students the skills they need to succeed.

Despite these improvements from humanitarian aid to Timor-Leste, the country still has a lot of room for improvement. The poverty rate in 2014 was 41.8 percent, which is still very high. With this groundwork laid, the Timorese will be able to build a brighter and more stable future.

– Courtney Wallace

Photo: Flickr