Rural Development Programme (RDP)

Project description

Title: Rural Development Programme IV
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 2015

Timor-Leste. Farmer with a corncob on a demonstration field in Bobonaro.© GIZ


The young nation of Timor-Leste suffers from food shortages. Over 70 per cent of the population lives in rural areas, the majority being subsistence farmers who cultivate crops such as rice, corn, beans and starchy tubers on less than two hectares of land. Traditional farming methods and a lack of diversification mean that yields are low. The fact that the agricultural sector accounts for around 30 per cent of the country’s gross national product is a reflection of this low productivity.

Regularly occurring periods of food shortage are exacerbated by a growing population and dramatic changes in the weather that can cause crops to fail. The increasing pressure on land resources intensifies the competition for scarce natural resources and is a recurrent cause of conflict.

There are few employment and income opportunities in sectors outside of agriculture. However, Timor-Leste has a high natural potential for increasing food production on a sustainable basis and for exploiting new export options. Along with protecting the country’s biodiversity and its forest and coastal zones, the government has declared the sustainable agricultural use of natural resources as one of the key building blocks for economic development.

Timor-Leste. An agricultural advisor from the district of Baucau shows farmers how to use the coffee pulper. © GIZ

The public extension services were established in 2008 to advance rural development. They are managed by the agricultural colleges under the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. However, the services have not yet had any appreciable, widespread impact since the advisors in the services have not received adequate training and the Ministry’s management system has not been sufficiently developed.


The people in the programme’s area of focus have sustainably increased their agricultural production and improved their nutritional basis.


As part of the 10th European Development Fund, the agricultural extension services of Timor-Leste are receiving assistance, through cooperation with the Portuguese development agency Camões, to improve their organisational capacity, to enhance their ability to apply methods and techniques, and to hone their conflict management skills. The European Union (EU) is co-financing the project.

Timor-Leste. Farmer Field Day in Oecusse: Farmers and agricultural advisors measuring the moisture content of the corn harvest. © GIZ

The project is active in all twelve districts of Timor-Leste. While the work carried out by GIZ is concentrated mainly on rice and corn production in the lowlands, Camões operates in the central highlands and focuses on coffee and forest management. The project is an integral part of the national development plan.

Results achieved so far

206 demonstration and model fields have been established and assessed throughout Timor-Leste for the maize campaign. Compared to traditionally farmed cornfields, the districts overseen by GIZ have succeeded in increasing yield by an average of 60 per cent, even reaching an increase of 300 per cent in some areas.

Farmer Field Days are hosted for the campaigns in each district and are attended by farmers, representatives of NGOs, Ministry employees and journalists. Working together, they compare the yield from traditionally farmed fields with that of the demonstration fields, which use improved farming techniques (Good Agricultural Practices - GAP), and then discuss the results and production processes.

Training modules have been developed and implemented with a practical focus for the coffee, maize and rice campaigns. Through the use of audiovisual media in a series of campaigns and specially adapted communication tools, farmers are being encouraged to approach the field advisors and try the yield-enhancing measures themselves in the next season. The next growing season will then show whether the improved farming methods exemplified on the demonstration fields have actually been adopted and implemented by the farmers.

Renovation and construction work is being carried out as planned at the agricultural colleges in Natabora and Maliana. They can now admit around 300 students each, which enables them to offer young people real career prospects on a sustainable basis.

Additional information