“We aren’t doing this because of money, but because we now understand the importance of mangroves for our community,” says Timorese mother and villager Sepora Domingas Cardoso.
Cardoso, lives in the quiet coastal town of Ulmera in Timor Leste’s Liquiça district, around 30 minutes drive west of the capital Dili.
With about 50 other Ulmera community members, mostly women, Cardoso is working to restore the mangrove forests of Liquiça. She has collected seeds, planted over 6000 seedlings by hand and monitored the health of plants.
The Ulmera residents receive small financial incentives for their participation in the public-private partnership “Coastal Resilience” project that aims to improve the environmental resilience of Timor-Leste's coastal communities.
“In the beginning the program didn’t pay us for the work, but they came and taught us a lot about mangroves and their role in our lives and our environment,” Cardoso said, describing the 2016 start of the four-year project.
Run by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Timorese government, the “Coastal Resilience” project is helping restore 1000 hectares of mangrove forests in 11 locations on Timor’s north and south coasts.
“Before the project started we [women] often sat at home with nothing to do. The older men have also benefitted from the fish farms built by the UNDP,” referring to dozens of rectangular mud-embankment ponds bordering the mangrove plantation.
The fish farms – which the Coastal Resilience Project expanded to be become profitable and sustainable – represent the integrated and environmentally sensitive nature of the project’s livelihood support dimensions. They are naturally refreshed by tidal water coming into the mangroves and require no artificial or imported building materials.