Improving water, sanitation and agriculture in Timor-Leste 

Timor-Leste (East Timor) is still rebuilding after the social and economic disruption following the country’s separation from Indonesia in 1999 and subsequent episodes of domestic unrest. Though it is one of the poorest countries in the world, Timor-Leste’s future looks promising, with income from offshore oil and gas set to boost the country’s economy and reduce poverty rates.

A farmer in Timor Leste

About the program

In Oecussi, most people rely on subsistence farming. But depleted land and animal resources, poor rainfall and a harsh, isolated terrain, often result in poor harvests, with food shortages and malnutrition a seasonal threat.

The Integrated Rural Community Development program takes an holistic approach to development. The program supports a range of activities, including training in agricultural techniques, improving water and sanitation, increasing seed variety, improving seed and food storage, environmental protection, community organisation, microfinance, and food processing or ‘value adding’.

The program works to build the capacity of local groups to manage their own projects and initiatives. We believe transferring skills and knowledge into local hands empowers the local people, helping them to help themselves.

The program has brought tangible benefits. For example, communities participating in the program have seen their previous four-month-long ‘hungry season’ reduced to two months in 2010, and one month in 2011.

Program details

Flabiana preparing tofu. Photo credit Marden Dean.

Flabiana’s story

In 1999, Flabiana and her family fled to the mountains to escape the violence that followed Timor-Leste’s independence from Indonesia. Three months later they returned to their village to begin rebuilding their lives.

With the help of Caritas Australia, Flabiana and her community have increased crop productivity and have started processing soybeans and other foods for sale. Flabiana’s family has saved enough to expand their kiosk and repair their house. The family’s four children can now afford to go to school.

Read more about Flabiana’s story »

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