Conservation International's program in Timor-Leste was established in 2010.
Initially, our work in Timor-Leste focused exclusively on the country's plentiful ocean resources. Now, through partnerships with the Timorese government and local communities, CI is expanding its work as one of the few international environmental NGOs in Timor-Leste with a permanent presence.
Improving the Management of Protected Areas
The Nino Konis Santana National Park is Timor-Leste's first national park. Its 123,000 hectares (305,000 acres), spanning both land and sea, are home to some of the best preserved natural ecosystems in the country.
The park provides benefits to people throughout the area:
- Coastal communities rely on the park's fringing coral reefs and mangroves to provide valuable spawning and breeding grounds for a variety of fish and invertebrates. These environments also provide protection from storm surges and other severe weather.
- Inland communities draw upon the Ira Lalaru Lake System within the park for smallscale animal grazing and freshwater fishing.
- Businesses and government may be able to take advantage of the park's unrealized economic potential by promoting nature-based tourism and improved access to markets.
CI's focus in the park has, to date, been on marine conservation, with the support of the Coral Triangle Support Partnership. We've worked alongside local communities and the Timorese government to improve their management of the park's marine and coastal resources. This, in turn, can help to improve local food security, fight climate change (by increasing the environment's resilience to climate impacts) and secure local jobs.
In 2012, the first "no-take zones" were established in Nino Konis Santana National Park, informed, in part, by a CI expedition showing that the park's coral reefs supported a wide diversity of life. By restricting fishing within their borders, such areas — co-managed by locals and the Timorese government — are protecting the reefs that local people depend on for seafood and, potentially, tourism income.
Building on Our Accomplishments
There are many opportunities to expand on early conservation successes in Timor-Leste. Potential activities include:
- Continuing to support community-based management of natural resources throughout the Nino Konis Santana National Park, including inland communities that rely on the Ira Lalaru Lake System.
- Extending community-based marine conservation to the area around Dili, the Timorese capital, and neighboring Atauro Island. Previous CI surveys have revealed rich marine biodiversity in areas near Dili — an opportunity for nature-based tourism. However, better protection and management of these marine and coastal resources is needed, as development and unsustainable fishing are on the rise.
- Working with partners to improve agriculture, livelihood development, watershed protection and disaster mitigation through initiatives such as reforestation and agroforestry in the western districts of Timor-Leste. These areas, located near the border with Indonesia, were severely degraded during Timor-Leste's decades-long independence struggle and now have some of the country's highest rates of poverty.