Timor-Leste is located in Southeast Asia in the eastern part of the island of Timor. Initially a Portuguese colony, the country was occupied by Indonesia in the mid-1970s until its independence in 2002.
Of the 1 million people who live in Timor-Leste, it is estimated that 85% rely on subsistence-based agriculture for their livelihoods. Traditionally, the population was spread across rural areas but through urbanisation there is a rapid growth in size of cities like Dili and Baucau. This growth brings with it many socio-economic challenges.
After many decades of political unrest, public infrastructure has suffered, including many schools. Most schools do not have electricity, running water or other basic facilities. Teacher capacity is very low and there are linguistic challenges with the national languages of Tetum and Portuguese. Coupled with a new curriculum, education is a significant challenge for the country. Currently drop out rates after Grade 6 are very high and literacy across the population is about 50%.
Timor-Leste is located near the Wallacea line. Countries in this region have a mix of both Asian and Australasian species (eg. primates and marsupials) leading to a unique ecology and high levels of biodiversity for such a small island. Unfortunately this biodiversity is declining due to habitat loss and poaching. However, the marine habitats are still largely untouched and represent some of the most biologically significant coral reef ecosystems in the world (within the coral triangle). As a result of large scale deforestation, slash and burn agricultural methods, steep topography and climate change, land degradation poses another significant challenge to the country. Erosion and landslides resulting from degradation are also huge issues. Food security is proving to be another challenge for Timor-Leste, as is the case in many other Asia Pacific countries. The effects of climate change are being seen, not only through land degradation but also unpredictable weather patterns and rainfall.
Development needs of Timor-Leste are concentrated around health, education, food security and infrastructure provision (roads, schools, rebuilding and electrification of the national grid) as well as gas/oil development. Live & Learn aims to be involved in Timor-Leste’s development with our current focus on working to develop the education sector. We are aiming to increase teacher capacity and encourage sustainable schools.
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14,874 sq km
GDP per capita ($US)
0-14 years: 33.8%
15-64 years: 62.5%
65+ years: 3.6%
Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian), Papuan, small Chinese minority
Tetum (official), Portuguese (official), Indonesian, English
note:there are about 16 indigenous languages; Tetum, Galole, Mambae, and Kemak are spoken by a significant portion of the population
Roman Catholic 98%, Muslim 1%, Protestant 1% (2005)