Government, environmental and NGO representatives met to launch the inception workshop. Photo: Alex Ray/UNDP

As Timor-Leste witnesses the impacts of harsher wet and dry seasons and unpredictable weather patterns, government representatives from the Secretary of State for Environment, ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries, Interior, Public Works, and State Administration opened a United Nations Development Program-supported project to build infrastructure in six municipalities identified as most vulnerable to climate hazards such as flooding, landslides, erosion and droughts.

Over 70% of Timorese live in remote rural areas with little infrastructure, and their lives and livelihoods are significantly impacted by climate events such as floods, landslides, erosion, sea level rise and droughts, which have been increasing in intensity in South East Asia in recent years.

In March 2020, an unexpected late wet season caused widespread flooding in Dili, while in other areas drought ruined crop production, increasing food insecurity among subsistence farmers who make up over 65% of the population.

“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 since to the impacts of floods, droughts and erosion. This is a serious situation and loss of our forests at a rate of 1.7% per year since 2003 should be a priority for protection," said Vice minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Abilio Xavier de Araujo.

The project – Safeguarding Rural Communities and their Physical Assets from Climate Induced Disasters in Timor-Leste – funded by a $22.4 million grant from the Green Climate Fund, will receive over $36 million of government co-funding. Over six years it will conduct works at 130 different sites across the country.

The project will also introduce transformative climate change adaptation approaches to planning and implementation of the country’s rural infrastructure development programmes.

Works to be conducted include design and construction of 38 water supply systems, 25 irrigation schemes, 216 kilometres of rural roads, and flood protection infrastructure that will benefit approximately 175,840 people - around 15% of the population.

The project will also strengthen ecosystems services through water catchment management and reforestation, as well as bolstering Timor-Leste’s policies, regulations and institutions related to climate change and disaster preparedness. This includes developing risk information services, vulnerability mapping and monitoring.

The inception workshop gathered inputs from technical specialists and community leaders, as well as presenting 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 Sr 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 Tuya Altangerel.

For more information please contact UNDP Project Manager Bernadete da Fonseca at bernadete.dafonseca@undp.org or Devindranauth Bissoon - Chief Technical Adviser, UNDP Timor-Leste - devindranauth.bissoon@undp.org.

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