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A panel providing information about Timor-Leste. A$3.00 million Budgeted funding. 10 ACIAR-supported projects. 8 Bilateral and regional research projects. 2 Small projects and research activities. 7 Projects specific to Sri Lanka. 3 Regional projects.


While Timor-Leste has made strong progress in recent years, some development indicators remain stubbornly entrenched.

With 70% of the population living in rural areas, there is a heavy reliance on incomes from semi-subsistence and seasonal food cropping, mixed with small-scale animal husbandry and varying degrees of foraging for wild crops and game. Despite many recent improvements in a range of essential services, there is a high prevalence of poverty, with more than 50% of the population facing some level of food and food nutritional insecurity.

Improving productivity, diversity and returns from agriculture, livestock and fisheries, as well as the functioning of food systems, will remain crucial to overcoming these challenges.

The reasons for constrained on-farm crop and animal production and productivity are complex and varied. They include highly variable weather conditions affecting crop establishment and subsequent yields, infertile soils, limited availability of and access to agricultural inputs (especially given a weak private sector), low capital for investment, pests and insects causing crop losses pre-harvest and post-harvest, labour constraints at critical times and limited market demand for agricultural products beyond local consumption. Critically, lack of access to credible, locally relevant and implementable science-based advice is a key constraint cutting across all areas.

Country priorities

Since 2001, ACIAR has had a strong program of projects in Timor-Leste, some of which have been long-term (such as Seeds of Life). The time is now right to pivot our relationship to one based on an integrated research partnership between the 2 countries, not just a series of projects. Following the opening of the ACIAR country office in Dili in 2022, ACIAR is working with key partners in Timor-Leste to establish the basis of new and long-term partnerships, using as a starting point the analysis of food systems vulnerabilities published in November 2020. Opportunities for future research to contribute to the greater resilience of Timor-Leste food systems include:

  • improved social protection measures for vulnerable households
  • a renewed focus on the productivity of smallholder agriculture with gradual intensification and improved feed and biosecurity regimes
  • greater efforts to expand private sector market developments and increase employment
  • greater focus on education and relevant technical training to increase the availability of skilled graduates.

The opportunities for ACIAR to support these priorities will be investigated in more detail this year. Focus areas may include research in coastal fisheries, agroforestry, livestock (especially cattle and poultry) and cropping systems, as well as seeking opportunities for trilateral research collaboration with Indonesia.

2023–24 research program

The research program addresses our high-level objectives, as outlined in the ACIAR 10-Year Strategy 2018–2027, as well as specific issues and opportunities identified by ACIAR and our partner organisations.

The following table lists ACIAR-supported projects active in Timor-Leste during 2023–24.

Current and proposed projects in Timor-Leste, 2023–24

ProjectProject title & codeCountry
 Agricultural innovations for communities: intensified and diverse farming systems for Timor-Leste CROP/2021/131Timor-Leste
 A nutrition-sensitive approach to fisheries management and development in Timor-Leste and Nusa Tenggara Timur Province, Indonesia FIS/2017/032Indonesia, Timor-Leste
Innovating fish-based livelihoods in the community economies of Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands FIS/2019/124Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste
Extending integrated analysis for improved food system outcomes in Timor-Leste and the Pacific region FIS/2022/121Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu
 Scoping for the implementation of plant health support in Timor-Leste HORT/2022/127Timor-Leste
Livestock Systems
 Bacteria enteropathy and nutrition in infants and children in Timor-Leste through a One Health approach LS/2021/126Timor-Leste
Developing strategies to reduce brucellosis transmission in Timor-Leste based on One Health collaboration LS/2022/161Timor-Leste
Social Systems
 Indigenous food systems knowledge exchange SSS/2022/118Timor-Leste
Soil & Land Management
 Understanding tradition and fostering appropriate innovation in soil management to improve farmers productivity and livelihood in Timor-Leste SLAM/2020/141Timor-Leste
Evaluation of livelihood zones, rural household trajectories, research and development partners and initiatives in Timor-Leste SLAM/2021/108Timor-Leste


Country Manager, Timor-Leste

Mr Luis de Almeida

Research Program Managers

an illustration of a computer with the ACIAR logo in its centre


More information about our projects is available on the ACIAR website. Search for the project title or project code.


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