Timor-Leste (East Timor)

Photo: Kate Bensen/Oxfam AUS

With your support, we are helping farmers in rural Timor Leste gain financial and farming skills so they can earn a decent income.

The challenge

Timor-Leste (East Timor) is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. Almost half the population lives below the poverty line.
It is largely an agricultural nation, with over 70% of people relying on their small-hold farms for survival.

Malnutrition and poor health are widespread and most rural households suffer from food shortages for at least one month of the year. This is known as “the hungry season”.

Although it is well-placed to serve the Asian market, there are many hurdles to establishing a thriving business in Timor-Leste, including poor roading and access to banking services. With your help, Oxfam is working to find workarounds to give the poorest people a hand up.

The problem you can help to solve

Oxfam New Zealand currently supports one project in Timor-Leste.
We're working to improve farmers’ access to domestic and export markets by working with farmers in two remote regions that lie a day’s drive or ferry ride from the capital Dili.
Research into high-value, high demand crops identified market opportunities for candlenut, mung beans, red beans, shallots and onions. Your support will help to establish and increase production of these crops.

We will work with farmer groups to provide wrap-around support in production, processing and marketing, so they can get the best return.

Your support will:

  • Provide farmers with expert advice on what to grow, where to sell and how to maximise yields.
  • Help farmers establish “relay cropping” of mung and red beans to fully utilise their land.
  • Ensure the right processing and storage of products so sellers can get the most for their money.
  • Increase the life-span and nutritional value of their products.
  • Connect farmers with farming and marketing co-operatives to share ideas & knowledge.
  • Place women on business management courses and in management positions, so they have a say in the direction of farming co-operatives.
  • Improve farmers’ understanding of finance.
  • Create neighbourhood savings and loan groups, so that people - especially women - have a place to put their money and withdraw it when they need it.

Programme factsheet: livelihoods in Timor-Leste

Find out more (pdf)

Country profile

East Timor became an independent nation in May 2002 following several years of conflict and turmoil which brought about widespread destruction of the social and economic infrastructure.

Agriculture dominates the economy accounting for 21% of non-oil GDP and approximately 75 percent of employment. Insufficient food production and an under-developed local market, however, have led to a dependency on imports of rice and other commodities. Poverty is particularly widespread in rural areas and health and education levels are poor. One of the key areas facing the people of Timor Leste is a lack of skills in key areas from government planning to business management. Capacity to deliver essential services remains very weak and the re-building of infrastructure and strengthening of civil administration remains a huge challenge. 

Key challenges facing Timor-Leste include the rebuilding of infrastructure destroyed during the conflicts of 1999 and 2006; strengthening the capacity of the new civil administration; and addressing the skills deficit in areas of government and community planning.

Stats and facts 

  • Population: 1,231,116 (2015)
  • Human Development Index: 0.595 (2015)
  • Language: Official languages are Portugese and Tetum. 
  • Religion: Roman Catholic
  • Adult Literacy: 67.5%
  • Life Expectancy: 68.26 years (2014)
  • Government: Republic 
  • Access to safe water: 71.9%
  • Access to toilets 40.6%
  • Infant mortality rate (per 1000 live births): 37.54 (2015)