The people of Timor-Leste have a strong relationship with the natural environment. For generations, ancestors depended on the environment for food, clothing, building materials and everything else essential for life. 

During the long period of colonialism and occupation, the exploitation and destruction of the  environment has been devastating. Forests have been over-logged or burnt leading to landslides, chronic erosion, threats to wildlife and decreases in food sources. This has caused additional hardship for the many people living in rural areas who still rely on forests for food, fuel, medicines and building materials.

Air pollution, particularly in Dili, is a growing challenge with emissions from cars and motor scooters contributing to already poor air conditions as a result of smoke from household and forest fires. Women and children, who breathe in polluted air while cooking, are particularly at risk of lung and respiratory diseases. Recent assessments have concluded that 90% of households use firewood for cooking. 

Climate change, and the risk of more extreme weather and rising sea levels, presents serious environmental challenges for Timor-Leste.

The livelihoods and well being of children, young people and women are dependent upon this agriculture, which is strongly influenced by unique climatic conditions. Understanding these agricultural and climatic conditions assists in formulating an understanding of the specificities affecting each sub-district. Timor Leste’s mountains influence rainfall patterns. More rain falls in the mountains than on the coast; and the south coast in effect, has a second period of seasonal rain. Whereas most of the north coast has its monsoon rain from December through February, the south coast enjoys additional rains in April, May and June. These rains can often be greater than the rains at the beginning of the year,20 although the recent seasons have produced erratic rains. As a result, the north coast is far drier than the south: and the mountains are rainier than the coasts. These patterns are critical to agriculture; the foundation of a child’s wellbeing growing up in a rural area.

(Source: Plan Baseline Study, 2008; Fox, 2oo3)
                                    Rainfall within agro-climatic zones
(Source: Plan Baseline Study, 2008; ARPAPAET, 1996)