26 August 2020, Dili -- As Timor-Leste continues to experience unpredictable weather patterns and the impacts of more intense wet seasons and longer dry seasons, government representatives from the Secretary of State for Environment, Ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries, Interior (Secretary of State for Civil Protection), Public Works, and State Administration opened a United Nations Development Program inception workshop for a new adaptation project, backed by the global Green Climate Fund, to help protect rural communities.
More than 70 percent of Timorese live in remote rural areas with little infrastructure. Their lives and livelihoods are significantly impacted by climate-related events such as floods, landslides, erosion, sea level rise and droughts, which have been increasing in intensity in Southeast Asia in recent years. In the most recent disasters to hit the country, an unexpected late wet season caused widespread flooding in Dili in March, while drought ruined crop production in other areas, dramatically increasing food insecurity among subsistence farmers who make up over 65 percent of the population.
In response to the challenges, the six-year project ‘*Safeguarding Rural Communities and their Physical Assets from Climate Induced Disasters in Timor-Leste’* will support the implementation of 130 climate-resilient small-scale infrastructure across six municipalities that have been identified as most vulnerable to climate-related hazards. Approximately 175,840 people – around 15% of the population – will benefit from 38 new water supply systems, 25 irrigation schemes, 216 kilometres of rural roads, and 20 flood-protection infrastructure.
The project will also introduce transformative adaptation approaches to planning and implementation of the country’s rural infrastructure development programmes under village and municipality levels development planning frameworks.
Further, it will strengthen ecosystems services through catchment management approaches and reforestation, as well as bolster Timor-Leste’s policies, regulations and institutions related to climate change and disaster preparedness. This includes developing risk information services, vulnerability mapping and monitoring.
“For many years we have observed that irrigation schemes are collapsing, and this includes paddy fields which are affected by floods. We hope that this project will solve this problem to increase agricultural production in the future,” said the Secretary of State for Environment, Mr. Demétrio de Amaral de Carvalho.
“We have lost a significant proportion of our productive areas to the impacts of floods, droughts and erosion. This is a serious situation and loss of our forests at a rate of 1.7 percent per year since 2003 should be a priority for protection, said Vice Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr. Abilio Xavier de Araujo.
The inception workshop, taking place over two days in the capital Dili, gathered inputs from technical specialists and community leaders, as well as presented the findings of a baseline assessment into climate change-induced disasters and their impact on infrastructure across the target municipalities.
“Our leaders have all come here from distant and rural municipalities with one objective, to ensure the wellbeing of our communities,” said Vice Minister of State Administration Mr. Lino Torezao.
“We are thankful for such strong government leadership on this project. The challenge of climate change will affect so many Timorese, particularly the most vulnerable communities, and we must act now to ensure their lives and livelihoods are not further impacted by these changes,” said UNDP Resident Representative Munkthuya Altangerel.
The project is funded by a $22.4 million grant from the Green Climate Fund with over $36 million in government co-funding.
More information on the project, please click here.
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