Livelihoods and resilience in Timor-Leste

Through sustainable agriculture and climate change adaptation, we’re helping communities to protect the environment and earn long-term income.


This project was funded by the Australian Government through



Climate change, land and livelihood challenges in Timor-Leste

In developing countries, rural communities rely heavily on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods. At the same time, they have limited capacity to adapt to climate change and other environmental challenges.

In Timor-Leste, forest and soil degradation is a major problem. Unsustainable land management practices, including slash and burn agriculture, have led to rapid deforestation.

Deforested hillsides are more prone to erosion and less able to hold water. Climate change is predicted to increase the frequency of extreme rainfall events. This may further increase erosion, landslides and flooding.

Timor-Leste’s tumultuous history means it continues to grapple with poverty, under-development and low levels of education. Many regions experience a “hungry season” for up to four months a year.

It’s vital that we support communities with sustainable land management, so their environment and livelihoods become more resilient. 

Building Resilience to a Changing Climate and Environment (BRACCE)

Our pilot BRACCE project, funded by the Australian Government, ran in Timor-Leste’s Aileu District from 2011 to mid-2016.

Its goal was to build community and environmental resilience to climate change effects by:

  • improving natural resource management;
  • increasing household income through environmentally sustainable methods; and
  • advocating and raising awareness on climate change and sustainable land management.

BRACCE taught farmers Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration and other adaptation methods such as agroforestry.

FMNR is the systematic regeneration and sustainable management of trees and shrubs from living tree stumps, roots and seeds. BRACCE was the first large-scale introduction of FMNR to Timor-Leste. 

We implemented BRACCE together with another project. Running in the same communities, the Livelihood Improvement through Farmer Enterprise (LIFE) project focused on vegetable production and marketing.

A snapshot of project highlights


FMNR demonstration plots

established, covering 54 hectares



higher income (on average) in households involved in BRACCE and/or LIFE



of project participants aware of climate change, compared to 34 percent of non-participants

FMNR: pruning for natural regeneration

Three steps to regenerating barren land through Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration.
Read the transcript

Rui transforms his livelihood with sustainable techniques

Rui, 35, became involved in BRACCE in 2013. He received seedlings, farming tools and training in FMNR, terracing and tree nursery management. As a lead community farmer, he also went to Indonesia to learn about coffee pruning.

Rui originally learned about coffee farming from his father and his grandfather before him. They would let the trees grow tall, then sell off their beans to producers in Dili.

Income varied depending on the season, but if Rui grew one tonne of coffee he would make about US$350 for the year.

After Rui saw the success of pruning older coffee trees in Indonesia, he pruned his trees right back. Everyone was shocked.

But gradually, it became clear how much more coffee Rui was growing. People started asking how to follow his techniques, and Rui happily shared his knowledge.

In 2015, Rui also became part of a local coffee cooperative. The 25 members (15 men and 10 women) produce their own coffee using machines provided by World Vision.

Before, Rui's only income was at harvest time. Now, Rui and his wife Teresa earn a regular income by selling coffee at the local market. 

“Before, I had a coffee plantation. I only grew it. But now we can collect, produce and sell it ourselves,” Rui says.

Each member of the cooperative earns an income proportionate to what they grow. Because Rui is such an active member, he and Teresa earn around US$200 per month. In a very good month, they can earn US$400. 

Rui and Teresa at their market stall, showing off their coffee and Rui's first prize certificate from a government-organised coffee competition in Dili.

Looking forward to a more sustainable future

Improvements are continuing beyond the life of the BRACCE project, as participants continue to apply new knowledge and skills.

Rui has experienced firsthand the benefits of sustainable natural resource management. As an FMNR group leader and the chief of his sub-village, he’s passionate about continuing these practices.

“Our ancestors would cut and destroy all the trees. So we didn’t know what will happen to us in the future. Now erosion has started to threaten us. So we are starting to improve the condition of the existing trees,” he says.

“I'm really, really happy because this program is already very helpful for this community. Most of the community live in a rural area and in this place we have a lack of information, but now the project has brought lots of information and many skills to the community.”

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