Project Statement

View from Codo, Timor Leste (2012)

The climate in Timor Leste is tropical and can be divided into three seasons, a dry season, a wet season and a transition period in between known as the ‘build up’. The wet season starts in December / January and lasts for two to three months. Weather phenomena such as flooding and changes in the durations of the wet and dry seasons have seen climate change become a much discussed topic within the region. Predominantly, the discussion revolves around food security and how mitigation, analysis and post disaster preparation can be improved into the future. As the population grows and floods and large rains during the wet season and longer dry seasons increase in prevalence, this design area is an important step towards increased technology and fresh ideas to negate the impact of such events.

Design Projects

The following climate change design projects were identified by Plan-TL and other local community based organisations: 

  • Flood mitigation projects, e.g. Prevent floods from washing away rice paddies.
  • Better designs for greenhouses.
  • Plan for climate change preparedness including looking at new technologies.
  • Plan to measure and analyse the environmental impact or damage from climate change.
  • Plan for food security.


Design Considerations

When designing a solution, the following issues have been identified and should be considered a priority. The proposal should consider:

  • The sensitivity to cultural beliefs.
  • The longevity of the solution.
  • The ability of the solution to cater for future needs.
  • Economic viability to increase early participation. 




Additional Information

Agriculture around Codo and throughout Timor Leste is dependent on climate change and as such the community must be able to adapt to ensure food security and reduce poverty. Primarily, large rains (floods) and limited sunlight are the biggest causes of food growth difficulties with either stunted growth or crops and rice paddies being washed away. One method to improve food security are greenhouses and locals have used them in the past with varying success but there is still a level of ineffectiveness due to limited natural sunlight getting through and water is also getting into the greenhouses.

Lautem is the only district to have a surplus of food stocks, yet shows food shortage for the highest number of months. This implies a lack of inter and intra-district mobility of food, lack of transport facilities and lack of markets. Unlike many other districts in Timor, Lautem is not a coffee producing area, although it is an important livestock and fishing area. The major crops in the area are (in order) maize, rice, cassava and sweet potato. Secondary cash producing crops include copra and candlenut. Lautem is considered a major maize producing area with over 3,500 ha of functional irrigation schemes. Rice is mainly cultivated in the southern flatland of Iliomar and Luro. Maize is the primary crop in Lautem, Lospalos and Tutuala and is planted during the precious rains of the monsoon and cultivated under the slash and burn system. The dependency upon maize is a problem for the farmers of Lautem due to its irregular and uncertain cultivation. There is no guarantee of rain continuation and hence, all farmers must retain enough seed to replant if their initial crops fail. In dry years, it is not unusual for farmers to be forced to plant their crop three times. Cassava, beans and vegetables are extensively cultivated. Timor is located in an area that has been strongly affected by El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the past. This has meant that Timor alternates between seemingly erratic phases of drought and rain. Despite the flooding that occurs during La Niña phases, these are periods of increased productivity where the land (and its people) replenish and revive. Unfortunately, for the  last century Timor has experienced more periods of El Niño droughts than La Niña wet. Even with the onset of rain, the district as a whole will continue to suffer from past poor rainy seasons. However, the onset of La Niña and the subsequent increased rainfall always brings about an opportunity for development in the agricultural sector.

In Timor Leste, an average household (six persons) requires at least one hectare of agricultural land to produce the staple foods (maize/rice) they need to survive through the year. According to the available statistics, 5.37% households own less than that, meaning they produce a quantity that is far below their annual requirement thereby adding another factor in food insecurity periods in addition to post-harvest losses and unpredictable productivity. Households’ access to improved production inputs is a major constraint in the area and there is almost no government support to farming households. The development of government support structures to the agriculture sector is still in its embryonic stage. The agriculture budget remains the smallest in the national budget and the capacity to implement this budget remains low. In a normal year, the hunger period lasts for 2-3 months preceding cereal harvest in February-March. However, for example in 2007, late rains, drought, and locust outbreaks on maize and rice crops reduced district cereal harvests by up to 30%, which had the effect of stretching a hunger period for 5-6 months with October to February months being critical.

(Plan Baseline Study, 2oo8)

There are a few organisations working to combat food insecurity in the districts in Timor. They run a number of community-based projects to help households adapt to food insecurity.

These are: home gardens, fish ponds, food processing training, and a few others. These are usually used in conjunction with each other – for example, the home garden will be fertilized and watered by the fish pond, or a fish pond will be built under an existing chicken coop and waste from the chickens will be used to feed the fish. 

There is also a number of disaster mitigation programs at work in Timor. These begin with a consultation at the district level in the form of a workshop with various community leaders. Then at the village (aldeia) level, facilitators take the community and community leaders through an assessment process. This involves:

  • Creating a number of maps: social, ‘season’, and vulnerability maps. 
  • A discussion of the recent or deep history of the region – have there been any large floods or storms which people can remember?
  • Creating a ‘problem tree’ – identifying potential problems (e.g. landslide) and consequences of those problems.
  • Creating a seasonal calendar – identifying when the community does certain activities (e.g. harvesting, cultural aspects, etc.)

The subsequent management systems are co-ordinated at the national, district, sub-district, ‘suco’ (regional), and village (‘aldeia’) level. 

Currently, there is only an early warning system in place for floods – it is a large sign, placed in the centre of the village, and indicates when the situation is at the ‘Normal’ level, ‘Monitoring’ level (requires monitoring of water levels and communication to various management systems), ‘Preparation’ level (the community should start making preparations to leave), or ‘Evacuation’ level. The only prevention programs for floods involve planting trees along the riverbank to control water levels.