Man and woman outside in Timor-Leste mountains

Helping farmers in rural Timor-Leste earn a decent income.

Country profile:

Timor-Leste is home to about 1.3 million people and is one of the poorest countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Almost half the population lives below the poverty line. The country became an independent nation in May 2002 following several years of conflict and turmoil. This brought about widespread destruction of the social and economic infrastructure. According to the UNDP Human Development Report, Timor-Leste has the lowest Human Development Index and the highest Human Poverty Index in Asia.
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.
Agriculture dominates the economy, accounting for 25 percent of GDP and approximately 75 percent of employment. Insufficient food production and an under-developed local market have led to a dependency on imports of rice and other commodities. 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”. One of the key issues facing the people of Timor-Leste is a lack of skills in key areas from government planning to community self-determination. Capacity to deliver essential services remains weak and the rebuilding of infrastructure and civil administration remains a huge challenge. Quick facts from the UNDP Human Development Report and The World Factbook:
  • Capital of Timor-Leste: Dili
  • Population: 1,321,929 (2018)
  • GDP per capita (USD): $6,000 (2017)
  • Human Development Index: 0.625 (2017)
  • Language: Official languages are Portuguese and Tetum
  • Religion: Major religion Roman Catholic
  • Adult Literacy: 58.3% (2017)
  • Life expectancy: 69.2 years (2017)
  • Government: Republic
  • Access to safe water: 71.9% (2015)
  • Access to toilets: 40.6% (2015)
  • Infant mortality rate (per 1000 live births): 42.4 (2017)

Key projects:

PDF icon IMPACT Programme in Timor-Leste.pdf 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. Oxfam supports research into high-value crops, identifying market opportunities for candlenut, mung beans, red beans, shallots and onions. Your support will help to establish and increase production of these crops in Timor-Leste. Farmer groups will be provided with wrap-around support in production, processing and marketing, so they can get the best return.

By supporting Oxfam you will:

  • Provide Timor-Leste’s 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.
Find out more (pdf)

The latest news:

East Timor

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Profile: Anna Mosley, International Portfolio Manager

As a twenty-something backpacker with a love of languages, Anna Mosley explored remote pockets of China, Cambodia and Laos, piquing an interest in development work.  Now, fifteen years on, she has worked across Latin America and Asia supporting poor communities in remote regions. She tells us about her new role, her abiding love of Timor Leste and her desire to learn Vanuatu’s national language Bislama. You’re new to Oxfam. What’s your new role? I work on programmes that Oxfam New Zealand funds in Vanuatu and Timor-Leste with Oxfam’s offices in those countries. Oxfam is shifting the way it works so … Read More
Farmers in East Timor are using innovative growing techniques to improve their crop and their family income. Photo: Kate Bensen/oxfam

Rice revolution

Alvaro and his wife Pascoela live in the village of Beco in Suai town, Covalima district. Since joining a farming co-operative supported by Oxfam, they are using innovative growing techniques to improve their crop and their family income … Read More
Timor-Leste Oxfam Kate Bensen photo

Trouble in paradise?

It feels like a rogue forecast of a cyclone headed for New Zealand. The global financial storm was headed our way, but now it seems there’s optimism, or perhaps complacency, in the air. As usual the damage has been more severe for those on low incomes and the vulnerable, particularly children. But what about our region – the Pacific? A new report by Oxfam reveals that the storm hit our Pacific neighbours harder and for longer. But there is little hard data on how the crisis is affecting people who are vulnerable. The stories we are hearing give real cause … Read More
Timor-Leste Oxfam kate bensen

World Food Day report highlights regional crisis

Food insecurity in the East Asia and Pacific Region is fast becoming a chronic problem, with a report released today showing that people in parts of East Timor are now facing up to five months a year without enough food to eat, according to international aid agency Oxfam … Read More
Timor-Leste Kate Bensen photo

East Timor: Recovery a slow, ongoing process

Former Indonesian President Suharto, who died today aged 86, will be remembered for ordering the killing of hundreds of thousands of communists and the brutal invasion of East Timor in 1975 … Read More
Timor-Leste Oxfam Kate Bensen photo

Emergency response

Around 150,000 people were displaced during violent conflict in East Timor in 2006. Outbreaks of violence in East Timor continued sporadically for two years after 2006, creating an ongoing humanitarian emergency. Around 150,000 people – a large number of them women, children and the elderly – were forced to flee their homes at the onset of the violence and move to makeshift camps in the capital city, Dili, or return to their home districts to take refuge. At the beginning of 2008 some 100,000 people were still displaced, with about 30,000 people living in camps in Dili. The violence erupted … Read More