Hand-made dolls displayed at Things and Stories Shop in Hotel Timor.


By Accelerator Lab Timor-Leste Team & Alex Ray

When four out of five young people in a country are unemployed, and over 70% of the population are under the age of 35, you have to get creative, fast.

This is the context that the three-month-old Timor-Leste (TL) Accelerator Lab finds itself in. Our mission is to help fill in the gaps between government, the private sector and individuals in the nation-wide effort to stimulate growth and jobs.

As one of the UNDP’s new strategies to creatively approach development challenges, the TL Accelerator Lab is beginning by learning from people already dealing with development challenges in their fields. So far we have found promising examples in building design and construction, engineering, food production and handicrafts.

In construction, a key employment industry and major resource consumer, we are impressed by the climate-friendly building designs of Community Housing Limited Timor, Unipessoal Lda (CHLT).

CHLT used an Interlocking Soil Stabilised Brick (ISSB) called ‘Tijolu Kesi’ to build 72 Houses in Lohorai Village, Suai District, Timor-Leste.


In addition to construction, food and agriculture has huge potential for sustainable and grassroots growth in TL.
The Agora Food Studio (AFS) is the first ‘food-hub’ in Timor-Leste working primarily to promote Timorese food culture internationally, while addressing employment and development issues such as malnutrition.

One current AFS project is to substitute imported and low-nutrition instant noodles – now a mainstay of the Timorese diet. They see potential in the properties of the highly nutritious Moringa plant, the leaves of which are traditionally cooked to make porridge for Timorese children. The powdered leaves also have the potential to be used in dry noodles to improve their nutrition content. AFS is learning how to make the Moringa-leaf noodle become more attractive and accessible to the local commercial market.

Incorporated into all of AFS’s activities is training and capacity building for their 20-plus local staff. As a tourist attraction and expat favourite, AFS staff learn best-practice customer service and get to practice their English, at the same time as receiving support to develop their own food ideas and products.

Similar to AFS is the handicrafts hub Things and Stories (T&S), which has been active in Timor for ten years now.

AFS staff holding Timorese Chili paste.


In sharing our plans, discoveries and resources, the Accelerator Lab has planned upcoming events at university campuses and regional municipalities to show youth the potential for developing their own opportunities using Timor’s underexplored natural and cultural resources.

Amongst the youth, we see particular potential to engage with the growing number of returned migrant workers who have gained international experience and insights from Australia, Korea and the UK.

Finally, a centrepiece of our work for will be the launch of our ‘Green Building Design Awards,’ in December 2019. The awards will catalyse opportunities for innovators to gain recognition and support for designs that will assist all of Timor’s construction sectors, from businesses to housing and tourism. 

T&S staff with a set of Tais (Timorese traditional Cloth) and Jewellery.


Stay tuned and join us for better Timor-Leste Tomorrow! To know more about UNDP Accelerator Lab Timor-Leste contact Grazela.albino@undp.org or francisco.dearaujo@undp.org  


UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Timor-Leste 
Go to UNDP Global