Livelihood security in a changing climate: Insights from a program evaluation in Timor Leste

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Executive Summary

Climate change is emerging as a serious threat to progress in developing countries. In response, there is increasing focus on the importance of integrating climate change adaptation into development planning and programs to ensure that activities are effective and sustainable. This will reduce the risks posed by climate hazards to the success of programs and will help to ensure that development initiatives contribute to reducing the climate change vulnerability of project stakeholders.

CARE Australia works in many countries that are recognized as being particularly vulnerable to climate change and many of our programs are in some way related to or dependent on the climate and weather patterns. Climate change is already affecting lives and livelihoods in many of the communities where we work, and will increasingly do so in the future. Recognizing the magnitude of this challenge, CARE Australia has committed to working with vulnerable people to respond to climate change and to ensure our development work is appropriate and effective in a changing climate.

This report draws on the findings of a recent evaluation which focused on the effectiveness, impact and sustainability of CARE programming in Timor Leste in relation to climate hazards. The evaluation looked at four projects in Liquicia District, an area of steep, coastal frontal hills with villages located at varying altitudes. It sought to evaluate the effectiveness and sustainability of selected projects in relation to household adaptive capacity and reduced vulnerability to climate hazards. Drawing on the work of the evaluation, this report looks to distil key conclusions and recommendations which will be of particular relevance for livelihoods programming, in Timor Leste and beyond.

Rain-fed maize is the primary staple food crop in Liquica District. Maize is cultivated mostly for household consumption, however some households also sell maize at times when they need cash.
Complementing maize, most households cultivate a range of other crops including cassava, beans, sweet potato, and taro. Rice is cultivated in some lowland villages. Items such as rice, oil and beans are often purchased from local markets. As well, wild foods are consumed throughout the year by most households and are considered an important and normal part of household diets.
Many households raise livestock that are regularly sold or bartered for cash and food as part of their normal annual activities. Coffee is grown as a cash crop by most households, but it does not represent a significant strategy for poorer households, who lack the necessary land to scale it up.
Despite the range of food sources, many households experience food shortages at some point in the year. Poorer household are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity as they are heavily reliant on maize production and have fewer alternatives available in times of significant reductions in yields.
In this context, a range of projects engaged in food security and disaster risk management activities in different parts of Liquica District were evaluated. The goals of these projects included community-based disaster preparedness, drought mitigation, reduced vulnerability, increased resilience and improved food security.

The report presents the key conclusions drawn from the evaluation, as well as a set of recommendations that may be more broadly applicable for integrating climate change adaptation in livelihoods programming, in Timor Leste and beyond. These recommendations are primarily intended to inform CARE’s work, but may be of interest for civil society organizations, local government institutions, and other actors engaged in food security and livelihoods programming with climate-vulnerable populations, both in Timor Leste and in other parts of the world.