Timor-Leste is one of the world’s poorest nations, with 41% of Timorese living below the poverty line. Life expectancy is 62 years and 45% of children in Timor-Leste are underweight for their age. Agriculture provides livelihoods for an estimated 90% of the Timor-Leste population. A large proportion of these are food insecure, experiencing a ‘hungry season’ of up to 4 months. Australia is the largest development partner for Timor-Leste.
An important early challenge for the food crops sector in Timor-Leste is to sustainably increase production of the main staples. Increasing the production and acceptability of legume crops would also contribute to improving the poor nutrition of many Timorese (especially children and women). Crop yields are very low by regional standards. While a range of factors contributes to this low productivity (e.g. limited use of fertiliser, poor crop-production practices), the restricted availability of improved varieties with higher yields is critical.
Livestock production is almost totally managed by individual households, very few of which are specialist livestock raisers. Traditional management systems and poor market access mean that farmers tend to maximise the numbers of unproductive animals.
Timor-Leste is well endowed with marine fisheries resources in its 200-nautical-mile exclusive fishing zone but lacks a coherent policy framework and investment strategy to optimise opportunities and minimise threats. Weaknesses in policy, as well as limited capacity to manage, monitor and protect its fisheries resources, expose the country to illegal fishing by foreign fleets that threaten to deplete fish stocks. There is also considerable scope to better integrate freshwater aquaculture with agriculture to reduce food security risks through more-diversified livelihoods.