Timor-Leste: Food production rises, livestock increases as more trained staff implement agriculture rehabilitation program

DILI, July 14, 2005 - Since the restoration of independence, the country has made significant progress in the agriculture sector with food production rising to the same levels as the mid '90s. This encouraging assessment by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (MAFF) marks the closure of the Second Agriculture Rehabilitation Program (ARP II) on June 15, 2005.

"In fact, we have progressed from rehabilitation towards development," said Mr. César José da Cruz, Permanent Secretary of MAFF and ARP Project Manager as he discussed the major achievements of the US$ 8 million ARP II, supported by the Trust Fund for East Timor (TFET) that is administered by the World Bank.

ARP I and II have provided over US$16 million to the agricultural sector over five years. A major achievement of ARP II has been working together with development partners and communities to raise farm productivity. "The World Bank and its partners are pleased to be associated with the efforts of the MAFF and we share its development goals of providing food security and promoting employment through the development of agri-businesses," said Ms. Elisabeth Huybens, Country Manager, World Bank Timor-Leste. "The Programs main achievements include the growing network of irrigation schemes, the food security activities in villages and livestock health improvements."

Today, Timor-Leste is producing 44,000 tons of rice and over 80,000 tonnes of maize annually plus many other important root and vegetable crops. "However, before Indonesian times, rice was not the traditional staple of the people," says Mr. da Cruz, "it was maize. In our next phase (ARP III), the focus will be to increase production of upland crops like maize, beans, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and vegetables to helping improve cropping diversity and food security by reducing risk and improving the nutrition of food consumed. Furthermore, as almost 80 % of the population is engaged in subsistence farming, forestry and fisheries, it underlines the importance of promoting agri-businesses in the next phase to create beneficial employment in the districts."

Among the other important achievements of ARP I & II:

  • Development of a basic agricultural policy framework for the nation and improved capacity within the ministry itself. Today there are more than 250 staff in MAFF.

  • A growing population of healthy livestock, more than 80 % vaccinated by 190 trained village livestock workers. "At MAFF, our quarantine staff have also benefited from our close cooperation on development of quarantine laws under ARP II, and with their subsequent implementation with assistance from the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) to ensure that they are properly enforced," says Mr. da Cruz

  • More than 4,000 hectares of irrigated land made useable bringing the total to 37,000 hectares. While some of this has been rehabilitation of old parameters, new systems are being developed to provide access to water sources as well as improving market access by rehabilitating more than 100 km of access roads.

  • To ensure that the new water systems are used wisely by all, ARP II helped to create 15 Water User Associations to manage this important resource.

Introduction of new higher yielding seed varieties and improved farming methods have raised rice yields in both rehabilitated community and medium-sized schemes.

ARP II has also supported the development and publication of National Fisheries Law and Regulations and assisted on the production of a draft forestry policy. The Ministry is now in the process of developing a food security policy with GTZ and ARP III in consultation with the Ministries of Health, Education and other government and non-government institutions. The policy intends to sets clear targets to improving food security (both the quantity and quality) of a rapidly expanding young population.


In Dili: Luis Sequeira, (670) 723 0554, lsequeira@worldbank.org

In Sydney: Elisabeth Mealey, 61-2-9235 633, emealey@worldbank.org