In the half-island nation of Timor-Leste, around 75 percent of the country’s 1.2 million people live in rural areas where livelihoods depend on the farming of crops and livestock, largely of a subsistence or semi-subsistence nature.

With 41 percent of the population living below the national poverty line and over half of all children under five stunted, combatting poverty and malnutrition has been the top priority of the Government of Timor-Leste since the country gained independence in 2002. Development of a sustainable fisheries and aquaculture sector has been identified by the government as a means of improving food and nutrition security and diversifying livelihoods. 

Currently, only a small proportion of the population in Timor-Leste is engaged in fisheries and aquaculture. The 2015 census reports that 10,000 households (5 percent of total households) are involved in small-scale fisheries to some degree. The number of households involved in aquaculture was estimated at around 3500 (1.75 percent of total households) in 2016.

Between 2009 and 2015, annual fish production from capture fisheries was estimated to be 3200 metric tons, which is almost exclusively consumed domestically. Freshwater aquaculture produced only 45.6 metric tons in 2008, which has increased to >350 metric tons in 2016 due to aquaculture development initiatives by WorldFish and partners in recent years. In 2014, around 15 metric tons of seaweed were produced for export, with a much greater volume produced for the local market.

Today, fish accounts for 31 percent of animal-source protein intake in the Timorese diet. Average fish consumption is estimated to be 6.1 kg/person/year (17 kg in coastal areas and 4 kg in inland communities), which is much less than current global average of 19.7 kg. By 2030, it is hoped that efforts to boost fish supply and production by the government and partners will raise consumption to 15 kg per capita, with aquaculture production supplying 40 percent of locally-consumed fish.

WorldFish in Timor-Leste

WorldFish works to boost aquaculture and small-scale fisheries production and promote community-based resource management of coastal fisheries to strengthen livelihoods and combat poverty and malnutrition in Timor-Leste. Consisting of a local and international team of researchers and scientists, WorldFish Timor-Leste is known for its science quality and seven-year track record of working closely with the government, I/NGOs and communities. The Timor-Leste National Aquaculture Development Strategy (2012–2030), developed with assistance from WorldFish, has been effective in guiding systematic development of the country’s aquaculture sector and was well received by the government and other stakeholders.  

Current priorities / initiatives

  • Developing resilient fisheries and sustainable aquaculture technologies and capacity to enhance the role of fish in food security, nutrition and income
  • Promoting social-ecological resilience for SSF-dependent communities using co-management approaches
  • Combining nutritional education with an increase in demand and reorientation of fisheries management and aquaculture production
  • Incorporating and strengthening the role of women in community and national fisheries governance processes

Anticipated impacts (by 2022)

  • 0.02M producer households adopt improved breeds, aquafeeds, fish health and aquaculture and fisheries management practices
  • 0.05M people, of which at least 50% are women, are assisted to exit poverty through livelihood improvements related to fisheries and aquaculture value chains
  • 0.08M people, of which 50% are women, are without deficiencies of one or more of the following essential micronutrients: iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin A, folate and B12
  • 0.02M more women of reproductive age are consuming an adequate number of food groups
  • 0.25M hectares of ecosystems restored through more productive and equitable management of SSF resources and restoration of degraded aquaculture ponds 

Featured Partners