Managing Agro-Biodiversity for Sustainable Livelihoods in Timor-Leste

Project description

Title: Managing Agro-Biodiversity for Sustainable Livelihoods in Timor-Leste
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Timor-Leste
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF)
Overall term: 2012 to 2016

Timor-Leste. Farmers and project staff evaluate a harvest. © GIZ


German development cooperation is supporting Timor-Leste in overcoming the causes of conflict, fragility and violence, improving the peaceful management of conflict and creating conditions for peaceful and inclusive development. The conceptual basis for this support includes the Interministerial Guidelines ‘For a coherent German Government policy towards fragile states’. The aim is to enhance the adaptability and resilience of the population to external shocks and crises such as highly volatile food prices and the consequences of climate change.

Agricultural species diversity (agro-biodiversity, ABD) in Timor-Leste is very high. However, it is increasingly threatened by changing agricultural practices and over-intensive use. The issue of agro-biodiversity has attracted limited attention at political and institutional level to date, and few staff resources have been allocated to address it. There is little awareness of the important role agro-biodiversity plays in securing food supply and adapting to climate change.


Agro-biodiversity in Timor-Leste is protected and sustainably managed.


The objectives of the project are to be achieved through two areas of activity:

  1. Protecting the rich agro-biodiversity by promoting its sustainable management
  2. Developing and applying agricultural practices that preserve and promote agro-biodiversity, particularly in cocoa farming

Staff of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Environment and the National University of Timor-Leste (UNTL) implement the components jointly with GIZ experts. The project is co-financed by the European Union (EU).

Important steps include the participatory mapping of existing agro-biodiversity and the establishment of an ABD database and a monitoring system in order to be able to document changes over time. Farmers and their advisors jointly identify and apply improved farming methods and protect and breed native species and varieties. Measures aimed at protecting and promoting agro-biodiversity are integrated into village development plans, and value-added chains for native species with potential for generating greater income are developed and implemented.

The main focus is on raising awareness among the population and representatives of government. All measures are implemented in a gender-sensitive manner.

The project also supports the National Directorate for Industrial Crops in developing and implementing locally adapted strategies that promote agro-biodiversity protection and the rehabilitation and cultivation of cocoa. Selling cocoa will give smallholder families the opportunity to earn additional income. Strategies will be disseminated through the official extension service. The focus of this component is on nutrition security through the integration of traditional food crops (subsistence security).

The Government of Timor-Leste is receiving support in implementing the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP). This also includes integrating biodiversity in all sectors including agriculture.

The consulting firm AMBERO supports the implementation of the project.

Results achieved so far

The Ministry of Agriculture has established the theme of agro-biodiversity in the National Directorate for Community Development and Agricultural Extension. It is gaining importance at all levels. The national rice campaign of the Ministry has promoted the use of local rice varieties and biodiversity-friendly farming practices. The Ministry has adopted an approach under which farmers are to learn from one another in groups.

A database with species and varieties under cultivation has been handed over to the agricultural faculty of the National University of Timor-Leste, where it is being maintained. The University is to regularly provide the State Secretariat for Environment with current data that are to be included in the national biodiversity report 2014. The participating groups of farmers have a plant register of their own and have started applying biodiversity-friendly farming practices which include composting, for example.

With support from extension specialists, farmers plant demonstration fields in order to breed their local varieties and test good farming practices. Cocoa is cultivated in suitable districts within existing production systems such as maize, vegetables, coconuts and bananas, providing motivation for the training of extension specialists and farmers' groups. The agricultural school in Natarbora is establishing itself as a centre of competence, producing some 40,000 cocoa seedlings for the surrounding districts each year.

A directorate for the protection and management of biodiversity has been established within the State Secretariat of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Environment. In addition, a comprehensive system for monitoring the progress made in implementing the National Biodiversity Action Plan has been installed. The State Secretariat can now meet further monitoring and reporting obligations with the help of an expert made available under the project.


Further information