21 December 1999



The intense level of violence that followed the 30 August referendum resulted in a massive population displacement, both within and across the borders of East Timor. Food distribution and marketing systems, together with commerce and essential services, were paralyzed and the agricultural cycle was disrupted. In addition, although infrastructure and property damage was extensive, agricultural damage was less severe as crops had already been harvested and only limited burning of the relatively minor second season crop in fields, occurred.

As the situation still remains fluid, however, various assessments in different sectors will be necessary to evaluate the nature and extent of the problem and quantify the level of intervention required. In keeping with this, therefore, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission was fielded to East Timor from 25 November to 6 December to assess the current state of agriculture and food supply prospects. The specific objectives were to: (i) assess immediate food supply prospects until the next main harvest in April 2000; (ii) provide a tentative forecast for crop (maize and rice) production next year and (iii) evaluate the degree of vulnerability emerging among different groups, all of which are considered essential for purposeful targeting of food aid. As information and essential data, especially regarding agriculture and social institutions, were largely destroyed during the unrest, the mission relied on published statistical data from Indonesia, discussion with key international and bilateral agencies, producers at the household level and on field visits to agricultural and vulnerable areas. These included, Bobonaro, Covalima, Oecussiand Aileu, which sustained high levels of damage and Viqueque, Baucau and Los Palos which were relatively less affected.

Notwithstanding the importance of food assistance in the next few months, the overall food supply prospects in the medium to long term (the 2000/2001 marketing year April/March) are less gloomy than envisaged at the height of the crisis. The Mission found that contrary to initial expectations the level of destruction in agriculture was markedly less than anticipated. By and large, standing secondary crops of maize and rice still remained in fields, and will provide essential supplies over the next few months, as will cassava and sweet potatoes. The main damage was to livestock, food and seed stocks, which were either looted or burnt, and to disruption in the agricultural cycle, which either delayed or will delay key operations such as land preparation and planting. The main constraint to planting the main crop of maize, in November/December, is population displacement, which will mean that in some areas a relatively large proportion of farmers will not have returned to complete sowing. In addition, although the availability of maize seeds was earlier envisaged as a serious impediment, international efforts to distribute seeds, through the UN and NGOs, have been highly effective, covering a large proportion of requirements. As the remainder will come from farmer exchanges and use of stored seeds that were not destroyed, the loss in production in 2000 will be lower than thought earlier. As rice planting/transplanting does not need to be completed till mid January, there is greater scope for recovery. Population displacement and seed shortages are not considered to be major problems for the current rice season, though there will be some reduction in area planted due to the marked reduction in animal and mechanized traction, which are essential for land preparation. Although the rainy season started somewhat late, rainfall during November/early December was generally favourable, benefiting crops.

Although the level of disruption in agriculture was less than anticipated at the height of the crisis, there will inevitably be a notable decline in cereal production, given the constraints outlined above. The mission forecasts production in 2000 at some 89 000 tonnes of maize, some 30 percent below trend and 36 000 tonnes of rice, around 20 percent below trend (for above mentioned reasons reference here should be to a 5 year trend; below expectation, without qualification, does not provide much information to the reader). Cereal production for the 2000-2001 marketing year is, therefore, put at 125 000 tonnes compared to 171 000 tonnes, which would have been expected without the disruption, under current farming systems. It is important to note, however, that at this early stage in the crop cycle these projections are highly tentative as a lot will depend on how the season, especially weather, progresses over the next four months. The mission, therefore, recommends that a follow up assessment of the crop and food supply situation be undertaken in April/May, at the time of the main harvest.

The Mission assesses that for the next four months (December to March) before the main cereal harvest commences, the expected population of East Timor, including an estimate of returnees, will require some 33 000 tonnes of maize and just over 12 000 tonnes of rice to meet food requirements. In addition, an allowance for emergency stocks, amounting to 30 days consumption of maize and rice, is also included given the general level of uncertainty and to cover contingencies. Against this requirement, availability from non food-aid domestic stocks, secondary maize and rice production and an estimate of cassava and sweet potato in cereal equivalent would amount to around 12 500 tonnes of maize and 6 500 tonnes of rice, leaving an overall deficit, before food aid, of around 29 000 tonnes of maize and 9 000 tonnes of rice. Rice requirements are adequately covered as a result of WFP's take-over of available BULOG stocks throughout the territory during the initial stages of the crisis. The overall deficit in cereals, until the next harvest in March, amounts to around 4 500 tonnes, which may be covered by commercial imports and unaccounted food aid deliveries by NGOs.

Food assistance will be essential for areas assessed to be particularly vulnerable to food shortages. Based on criteria such as the level of asset destruction, agricultural disruption and level of market activity, the mission assessed the relative extent of geographical vulnerability. This assessment should be refined and is recommended for use as the basis for targeting future food aid. As an early indication, however, based on the criteria used, areas like Bobanoro, Cova-lima and Oecussi Enclave are considered to be comparatively more vulnerable to food shortages than, for example, Baucau.

East Timor is known to have pockets of malnutrition but it is not well-documented. The El Niño-related drought, which seriously affected food production in 1998, and the financial crisis in Asia, which resulted in tremendous price hikes, greatly exacerbated problems of food availability over the last year. The Mission knows of no territory-wide recent malnutrition survey. As available nutritional data are scant and/or unreliable the Mission suggests that relevant UN agencies look closely into nutritional issues in partnership with international NGOs. The overall situation also needs to be closely monitored during the lean period.


East Timor is the eastern half (approximately) of the island of Timor. It is a small mountainous territory, around 14 500 km2, in the Indian Ocean some 500 km to the north of Australia. Even before recent events and population displacement, East Timor was among the poorer regions in Asia. Approximately 50 percent of the population are considered below the poverty line, life expectancy is around 56 years, whilst only two out five people are literate. The level of infrastructure and the provision of essential services are also poor, with only 30 percent of households having access to potable water and 22 percent having electricity. Less than half (49 percent) of the number of villages were accessible by paved road before the crisis.

Although the environment and the natural resource base of the island are extremely important in development they are not as conducive as in many other small island states. The economy is primarily agricultural, contributing the largest share to GDP, employing almost three quarters of the workforce, providing over 70 percent of the population with their main sources of livelihood and offering the greatest potential for exports and trade. The sector, in turn, is largely dominated by subsistence production of primary staples, (maize, rice, cassava and sweet potatoes), employing family labour and little purchased inputs. Land use, however, is highly constrained by rugged topography, poor soils, erosion and unpredictable rainfall. In general, soils do not support heavy vegetation, which limits the scope for crop diversification. Because of these constraints, producers are largely risk averse, employing a strategy aimed at minimizing potential losses rather than maximizing yields. Periodically the island is affected by El Niño related weather anomalies, which further reduce food production. It is estimated that around 600 000 hectares are suitable for agriculture of which approximately half are currently being used.

In addition around 200 000 hectares are suitable for rearing livestock, which, hitherto, were the territory's second largest export after coffee. However, after the recent events and given security, ownership concerns and lack of capital investment, the sector remains well below potential.

Although fisheries offer considerable scope, a very small proportion of potential is currently exploited as the industry remains largely under-developed. Less than half the work force in fisheries is full time, and the equipment used inefficient. The main fishing region is off the coast around the capital Dili and Atauro.

The potential for developing forestry is limited due to severe deforestation mainly connected with slash and burn agricultural practices. In general there is little scope for further development, as only small tracts are suitable for expansion. Hitherto, sandalwood was an important and valuable export but over-exploitation led to the cessation of exports in 1930s.

The climate is dominated by intense north-east monsoon rainfall from November to March, followed by a pronounced dry season. In northern parts of the island, this constitutes the main wet season, whilst in the south, the rainy season is more prolonged spanning December to June, increasing the potential for secondary crop production of maize and possibly rice. The northern coast has the lowest average rainfall, ranging from 600mm to 1 000 mm per annum. In contrast, total precipitation is highest in central mountainous areas with a range from 1 800 to 3 000mm. Rainfall in southern coastal areas ranges from around 1 250 to 3 000mm. See figure 1, for an indication of rainfall distribution.

Based on rainfall patterns, slope and soils, three distinct land use patterns have emerged:

The northern lowlands/northern lower slopes: These areas have the least agricultural potential as most have poor soils and a short/unreliable wet season. There are, however, pockets of alluvial soils with reasonable agricultural potential (Manautuo, Dili and Liquica).

The southern lowlands/lower slopes: These areas generally have the highest agricultural potential and have historically been underutilized. Soils and topography (moderate slopes) are generally favourable for crop production. Limited areas are prone to flooding and/or have unsuitable soils (Viqueque, Cova Lima and Manufahi).

The highlands: Where soils are suitable, the highlands have demonstrated potential for cultivating tree crops such as coffee, candle-nut, sandal-wood, and temperate crops at higher elevations. At lower altitudes, cocoa can be cultivated. The potential for food crop and livestock production is generally limited, requiring management practices adapted to soil, slope and local rainfall regime (Ermera and Aileu).

In normal years, coinciding with the rainy season, the agricultural cycle in East Timor begins in November with land preparation and planting of maize, followed by nursery preparation and transplanting of rice in December/January. Maize is harvested in April and wet season rice around May/June. In southern areas, where there is a second rainy season and in areas with some supplementary irrigation it is possible to grow a second crop of maize or rice. The relative importance of this crop, however, is small. Cow peas and sweet potatoes are also cultivated at the onset of rains in November. Cassava is a perennial crop and can be relied on for food at times of need. Figure 2 illustrates the cropping sequence for main crops in East Timor.

Figure 2: East Timor Crop Calendar

Maize (main crop)                        
Maize (off season crop)                        
Rice (main crop)                        
Rice (off season crop)                        
Cassava (previous year)                        
Sweet potato                  
Green pea, cow pea          
Peanut and beans                        


In addition to these systems, some areas have extensive tree crop plantations, especially coffee in the highlands and coconuts in the lowland, which constitute an important source of family income.

Although there is scope to increase food production by increasing the amount of land under cultivation, the low level of technology and inputs used currently, strongly favour an intensive approach based on enhanced and balanced use of fertilizers, higher yielding seed varieties and irrigation. Important export crops include coffee, copra and, hitherto, sandal- wood.

2.1 The economic impact of the crisis

On 5 May 1999, agreement was reached between the Governments of Indonesia and Portugal for phased transition in the territory. The three phases agreed encompassed: (1) the period between 5 May 1999 and 30 August 1999 for preparation and execution of a referendum on independence (2) the post referendum phase, during which Indonesia would retain responsibility for security and Government services and (3) the transition to independence overseen by a UN-led transitional civil and peace keeping authority. Contrary to the agreement aimed at peaceful transition, however, widespread civil unrest and violence followed the August 30 referendum, in which the majority (78 percent) of Timorese rejected autonomy in favour of independence.

Although precise figures are still unknown, it is estimated that many people were killed in the violence, whilst hundreds of thousands were internally displaced or exiled as refugees to West Timor. In addition, enormous damage was inflicted on infrastructure, essential services and property. Available estimates, for example, indicate that Dili, the capital, and smaller urban centres were extensively damaged with up to 50 percent of social infrastructure and buildings destroyed. Moreover, individual household assets (primarily livestock and basic goods), were also destroyed or looted. Overall, therefore, in the intense wave of post referendum violence, essential fabrics of the economy and commerce were almost entirely demolished.

Although the situation has improved significantly following Security Council Resolution 1264 and the deployment of an international peace keeping force (INTERFET), the reconstruction of East Timor will require considerable time and resources, both capital and human. In the interim, humanitarian assistance will be vital to safeguard food security and the provision of basic needs.

Nonetheless, as most farm families store crops in their homes, vital food stocks and seed supplies were destroyed1/.Where available these supplies were further depleted as they were used as emergency food rations during the period of displacement. The loss of seed, in particular will negatively affect planting. Land preparation and planting will also be constrained further by the lack of manpower as large numbers of people still remain displaced and are unlikely to return in time to undertake key activities. Large numbers of livestock, which are an important household asset, were also killed. In addition to economic loss, the decline in livestock numbers will further exacerbate problems of land preparation and planting. This in turn will reduce production in 2000-2001.

The level of destruction, however, varied with some areas, for example Viqueque2/, being left largely untouched. In addition most of the damage to property was sustained in areas in close proximity to main roads, with more interior towns and villages being left largely undamaged.

In addition to agricultural and property damage, East Timor lost essential human resources as educated leaders and service staff were specifically targeted in the violence, while the majority of civil servants left the province as many were Indonesian. The gap in administration, service and skilled personnel will invariably have an adverse affect on economic functions in the short to medium term.



3.1 Principal Food Crops

Maize is by far the most important cereal cultivated in East Timor, constituting the main source of carbohydrate in the family diet. The crop is mainly cultivated under a slash and burn system and is inter-cropped with other crops like cow-pea, cassava or sweet potatoes. Productivity and overall maize production, in common with other food crops, remains heavily constrained by low input use especially fertilizers and improved seeds. In addition to low levels of input use, other yield enhancing technologies, such as mulching and the use of nitrogen fixing legumes, also remains low. Consequently, yields remain low, averaging around 700 kg per hectare on poor soils and 1 300-1 500 kg/ha on more fertile soils. Local varieties have short duration cycles, from 90 to 110 days. Under current systems, based on inter-cropping with several other crops, five to ten kg of seed are used per hectare. Approximately 125 000 tonnes of maize is produced per year, though 1998 was severely affected by drought. Official statistics, particularly related to yields, however, are very difficult to reconcile with field observations and the general level of investment in crop production. It is impossible, for example, for East Timor to have yields of 3 to 4 tonnes per hectare, as indicated in published data, given input use, the level of investment and the subsistence nature of farming.

Rice is an important food and cash crop, planted in nurseries at the end of December and transplanted by mid January. The main rice crop is grown in the wet season from November to March, though a second crop is cultivated in areas with irrigation (stream and canal), which is estimated to constitute around 10 percent of total rice area. Three main types of rice cultivation observed are:

Bounded terraces, dependent entirely on rainfall, where average yields are approximately 800 kg/ha.
Seasonally irrigated production, where water is diverted from seasonal river/streams
Fully irrigated systems generally located in lowland areas.

In areas with assured irrigation, yields of around 2 tonnes/ha can be attained, which could be increased fairly easily to 3 tonnes/ha by use of fertilizers. Mostly traditional varieties of rice are used and to some extent improved varieties such as IR 64.

Roots and tubers: Sweet cassava is an important food crop in the diet, as a complement to cereals and as a security crop in adverse years. The crop matures in approximately nine months and has the advantages of drought tolerance and adaptability to poor soils. Although the root consists only of starch, with no protein or minerals content, plant leaves are used, in the food cycle, to provide these and vitamins. Sweet potato, taro and yam are also cultivated, especially in the wettest areas.

Leguminous crops: Cow-pea is the main leguminous crop, usually inter-cropped with maize. Mung-bean is also widely grown, particularly along the southern coast. Groundnuts are cultivated on large plots around Baucau, but otherwise only constitute a small proportion of household planting. Pigeon pea, which would be highly suitable for cultivation in arid conditions, is not widely grown, probably because of high lime deficiency in soils. Other beans, (green, white and red) are mostly grown in mountainous areas.

Fruit trees: Coconuts and its derived products (green nuts and oil), banana (both sweet and plantain), mangoes, breadfruit, papayas, candle-nut, arecas, anonas (jack fruit) and tamarind are all an good source of income besides playing an important role in the diet. Large tree plantations are scarce. Polipot palms (Coripha sp - Sago) is a tree crop and used widely as a coping mechanism.

Vegetable: Squash is very common and planted with maize. Garlic, shallots, cucumbers, chilies, cabbage, and tomatoes are also grown for home consumption and sale. Leafy vegetables, such as green mustard and cassava leaves, play an important part in the diet.

Livestock: Buffaloes are especially concentrated in irrigated areas and cattle most prevalent along the southern coast, where forage is relatively abundant due higher rainfall. Ruminants are common, especially goats, in northern coastal areas. Households generally rear small numbers of chickens and pigs. As these animals are extensively reared, with little supplementary rations, they are normally in poor nutritional health and severely affected by disease. Large numbers of pigs and chickens were killed during the violence and for food, which has seriously depleted numbers.

Official trends (1992-1997) for main food crop production are indicated in Table 1, while Table 2 indicates production of paddy for different regions for 1997, a relatively favourable year.

Table 1. East Timor: Main Crop Production 1992 -1997 (tonnes1/ )

Crop 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997
Maize 94 000 104 400 115 700 103 000 122 400 126 300
Rice (paddy) 56 300 64 000 67 000 47 700 69 500 72 000
Cassava 2/ 51 500 70 000 74 300 75 600 78 100 82 300
Sweet Potato 2/ 10 400 19 100 18 000 18 200 17 100 17 600
Green Peas 4 000 4 200 1 200 2 500 3 700 4 000
Source: The Department of Agriculture Office East Timor.
1/ Production figures rounded
2/ Fresh weight

Table 2. East Timor: Wet and Dry Season Paddy and Maize Production by Region 1997 (tonnes1/ )

Region Maize Paddy
    % of Total   % of Total
Cova-lima 5 000 7 16 000 13
Ainaro 1 600 2 4 500 4
Manufahi 2 200 3 5 000 4
Viqueque 17 200 24 14 000 11
Lautem 3 200 4 7 700 6
Baucau 12 000 17 14 000 11
Manatuto 4 800 7 4 000 3
Dili 200 0 2 000 2
Aileu 1 700 2 10 500 8
Liquica 500 1 5 000 4
Ermera 3 300 5 6 200 5
Bobanaro 15 000 21 28 600 23
Ambeno 5 300 7 8 800 7
Total 72 000 100 126 300 100
Source: The Department of Agriculture Office East Timor.
1/ Production figures rounded

3.2 Immediate Food Supply Prospects (December 1999 - March 2000)

For the 1999-2000 crop/marketing year (April/March) the main source of domestic food supplies would normally have come from the main and secondary maize and rice harvest, together with production of tubers, beans/peas and vegetables. As events leading up to the 30 August referendum were fairly normal to a large extent, these crops would have already been harvested and consumed, with the remainder retained as food and seed stock. From the end of August to the maize harvest the following March, household and institutional stocks (Bulog) would have constituted the main source of cereal supply, with a small part coming from second season production.

To assess the level of maize and rice stocks (non-aid) available at the beginning of December, therefore, the mission used an estimate of aggregate 1999 production, adjusted for post harvest losses, seed, consumption, sales and losses during the violence. Based on these factors, the main source of post-violence stock were assumed in Viqueque, an important producer (see Table 2), but where the level of destruction was relatively small. In contrast low stocks are assumed in Bobanaro (the territory's main producer), but where the level of violence was high. The estimate of available (non aid) stocks is provided in Table 3.

Table 3. East Timor: Estimated Cereal Stocks as of 1 December 1999 (Excludes Food Aid Stocks)

Production (tonnes)
Covalima 17 000 3 250 20 250 60 839 5 355 1 971 11 645 1 279
Ainaro 4 200 1 040 5 240 51 082 4 496 1 655 -296 -615
Manufahi 5 000 1 398 6 398 43 419 3 822 1 407 1 178 -9
Viqueque 13 300 10 205 23 505 64 627 5 688 2 094 7 612 8 111 5 700 4 200
Lautem 8 000 2 015 10 015 52 487 4 620 1 700 3 380 315
Baucau 13 700 7 735 21 435 93 551 8 234 3 031 5 466 4 704 300
Manatutu 4 000 3 055 7 055 39 674 3 492 1 285 508 1 770
Dili 1 900 130 2 030 156 488 13 774 5 069 -11 874 -4 939
Aileu 10 200 1 105 11 305 34 922 3 074 1 131 7 126 -26 400
Liquica 4 800 325 5 125 55 580 4 892 1 800 -92 -1 475
Ermera 6 000 2 113 8 113 90 795 7 992 2 941 -1 992 -829
Bobonaro 28 700 9 750 38 450 86 933 7 652 2 816 21 048 6 934 900
Ambeno 8 700 3 283 11 983 57 289 5 042 1 856 3 658 1 427
Total 125 500 45 403 170 903 887 686 78 132 28 756 47 368 16 647 7 300 4 200
1/ Consumption based on 367 grams/caput/day of maize and 135 grams/caput/day of rice for 240 days.(April - Nov 1999)
2/ Expected stocks would have the estimated amount available including sales but without the damage due to violence. Current stocks (December) are the amount of expected stocks adjusted for losses due to violence. Negative stocks indicate a deficit area in the crop, which would normally be satisfied by market transfers

In addition, East Timor has received a large volume of international food assistance, principally through WFP, ICRC and CARE. The estimated volume of availability at the beginning of December was 3 700 tonnes of maize and 4 600 tonnes of rice. During the period December to March, there are a further 15 000 tonnes of maize and 9 900 tonnes of rice in the pipeline.

Cassava and sweet potatoes will also constitute an invaluable source of food in the next four months. To take this source of food into account, an estimate of production (pro rated for the year) converted to cereal equivalent is also included in the food balance for December - March.

To assess food needs over the next four-months, the mission used historic consumption norms based on documented (average) production and availability of maize and milled rice. Accordingly, average consumption (1992 -1997) of maize is estimated at around 367 grams/caput/day and rice 135 grams/caput/ day, giving a total of 502 grams/caput/day. This level of cereal consumption is approximately 10 percent higher than the minimum recommended level of 450 gram/caput/day in a daily diet of 2100 Kcal. However, additional energy would come from cassava and other tubers.

3.3 Food Supply/Demand Balance December 1999 - March 2000

Based on factors outlined in section 3.2 and estimates of consumption and other utilization needs, the food balance for the period December 1999 to March 2000 is based on the following:

The cereal balance is outlined in Table 4

Table 4. East Timor: Cereal Balance Sheet
(December 1999 - March 2000) Tonnes.

  Maize Rice Total
Total Availability 12 500 6 500 19 000
Opening stocks 7 300 4 200 11 500
Second season production 1 500 1 000 2 500
Cassava and tubers 1/ 3 700 1 300 5 000
Total Utilization 41 400 15 300 56 700
Food needs 2/ 33 000 12 200 45 200
Closing Stocks 3/ 8 400 3 100 11 500
Deficit 28 900 8 800 37 700
- In-country Food Aid stocks(delivered) 3 700 4 600 8 300
- Food aid (pipeline) 15 000 9 900 24 900
Uncovered Deficit/Surplus 4/ (10 200) 5 700 (4 500)
1/ In cereal equivalent allocated in proportion to the relative importance of maize and rice in the diet.
2/ Maize @ 367 grams/caput/day and rice 135 grams/caput/day for 120 days. Figures rounded.
3/ Includes contingent, emergency stocks of maize and rice for 30 days in accordance with daily per caput needs. Figures rounded
4/ Figures in brackets indicate a deficit. Figures rounded.

3.4 Food Production Prospects 2000

At this (early) stage in the crop cycle, which is dominated by land preparation and planting, any forecast of production next year, would necessarily have to be tentative. Weather disturbances and other unforeseen events, could easily distort the outcome. However, in addition to normal uncertainties, this year the agricultural cycle was further disrupted by events, which will have a number of knock-on effects. These, by main crops, are:


Loss of household seed stocks, which were destroyed during post referendum events. However the problems are less acute as (a) seeds have been distributed through relief operations very successfully; (b) many farmers stored seed in trees or under-ground, which were not damaged and (c) there is a well established and efficient exchange mechanism in place, which caters for areas that have a deficit.

Population displacement, which means that farmers are not or will not be in a position to plant as they remain exiled or have returned but are totally engaged in reconstruction of homes, etc.


Unlike maize the problem of rice seed is not acute, principally as main producing/surplus areas (i.e. around Viqueque) were left largely unscathed.

Population displacement, will have a lesser effect on rice planting as the season is still some weeks away and it is assumed that sufficient numbers of farmers will have returned and that planting will progress satisfactorily.

The biggest constraint to rice production will come from the lack of animal and machine traction, due to losses during the violence.

No significant constraints are envisaged in the production of other crops and indeed, the mission noted that commercial marketing of tubers and vegetables has increased significantly in the last few weeks. This suggests that these crops were largely unaffected and will constitute an important source of food in the next few months.

Based on the factors above, e.g. the rate of population return, seed distribution, animal traction available, etc., and depending on inherent area potential, the mission made a tentative projection of maize and rice production next year. Approximately 90 000 tonnes of maize, around 70 percent of potential, and 36 000 tonnes of milled rice, around 80 percent of potential, are projected. Total cereal production next year, therefore is expected to be around 125 000 tonnes. It has to be reiterated, however, that these are tentative projections and that it will be necessary to re-evaluate the situation next April/May at the time of maize harvesting and rice maturation. The forecast of cereal production is outlined in Table 5.

Table 5. East Timor: Projected Maize and Rice Production (2000-2001) (tonnes)

Rice (milled)
Potential Expected Potential Expected Potential Expected
Covalima 17 000 4 298 3 250 2 600 20 250 6 898
Ainaro 4 200 3 136 1 040 832 5 240 3 968
Manufahi 5 000 4 689 1 398 1 118 6 398 5 807
Viqueque 13 300 13 358 10 205 8 164 23 505 21 522
Lautem 8 000 10 096 2 015 1 612 10 015 11 708
Baucau 13 700 9 299 7 735 6 188 21 435 15 487
Manatutu 4 000 3 666 3 055 2 444 7 055 6 110
Dili 1 900 1 685 130 104 2 030 1 789
Aileu 10 200 9 412 1 105 884 11 305 10 296
Liquica 4 800 1 894 325 260 5 125 2 154
Ermera 6 000 4 850 2 113 1 690 8 113 6 540
Bobonaro 28 700 17 054 9 750 7 800 38 450 24 854
Ambeno 8 700 5 011 3 283 2 626 11 983 7 637
Total 125 500 88 449 45 403 36 322 170 903 124 771

3. 5Regional crop and food situation

As the situation and level of damage in East Timor varied considerably, this section provides a brief of the crop and food situation by location.

Lautem is the eastern most district, with a normal population of approximately 52 000. Due to low yielding agricultural practices, the district has traditionally been one of the poorest in East Timor, despite the presence of very fertile plains. The general level of mechanization and input use is extremely low, except in isolated cases where development programs have been initiated. The main crop is maize with some rice cultivated around the town of Lautem. The area between Lautem - Com - Los Palos, suffered heavily from destruction and losses of food and seed stocks, whilst many water buffalo and cattle were killed. Most displaced people have returned and maize planting took place on time due to seed reserves and effective seed distribution. Rice seed, however, will have to be provided for planting around Lautem.

Baucau, has a normal population of around 93 000 people, mainly engaged in rice cultivation and maize to a lesser extent. The district is a major food producer. The level of destruction and deportation was relatively lower than in other areas. Although seeds were scarce, upland maize planting was undertaken on time. Rice production, however, will be affected by a chronic shortage of animal and mechanized traction.

Viqueque, has a normal population of 64 000 persons, and is an important rice and maize surplus area. Although some villages were damaged, the main production areas around Uatulary, Uatucarabo and Viqueque were left largely unaffected. Rice was mostly harvested in November and the mission noted no major problems in the availability of rice and maize. The main problem will be the rehabilitation of rice mills and transport systems for marketing surplus maize and rice. In addition to food crops, the areas also have extensive coconut plantations in coastal area. An operation of local rice seed procurement to be for re-distribution to affected districts is currently under way in Uatulary.

Manatutu, has a normal population of 39 000 and geographically encompasses three main ecological areas, namely the northern dry coastal zone, highlands and the southern wet coastal region. Damage and destruction occurred mostly in northern areas, particularly around the town of Manatutu, whilst most of the population was deported. The remaining areas were less affected, and important producing areas around Natarbura in the South suffered little damage. Most of the displaced population are back and prospects for a return to normal cropping are favourable except in the north, where rice seeds, still need to be procured and where rice cultivation could be hampered by shortage of traction for land preparation.

Dili district is not an important agricultural area and in normal years would rely on imports from other, surplus, districts. The rural population of Dare, Marabia and Balibar planted maize on time. However, the Eastern parts of Metirano and Hera were badly affected and have, therefore, received support in agricultural tools and maize seeds. On Atauro Island, farming and fishing was generally not affected by the violence.

Aileu, has a normal population of 35 000 and produces maize, rice and some coffee. Most of the damage to infrastructure and housing was centred around the capital and was less severe in rural off-road areas. Although population displacement varied, the majority of both urban and rural people are now back. Coffee was not affected, whilst maize planting is currently at an acceptable level. Similar to other districts, land preparation for rice will be constrained by shortage of traction.

Manufahi, had a population of 43 000 mainly produces maize and some rice and coffee. The areas around Same was heavily affected by widespread destruction of houses, agriculture infrastructure and implements. As a result most farmers refuge in the highlands, whilst a sizeable number of people from Betano were deported to West Timor. In the higher areas around Manufahi and Turiscay there was relatively little disruption of agriculture. The majority of the population has now returned and although seeds were previously scarce, maize planting is well advanced and the coffee crop looks promising.

Ermera, had a population of over 90 000 of whom 80 percent have returned. Although the area produces rice and maize its main livelihood is coffee. Severe damage occurred in the infrastructure in Gleno and Ermera. Maize planting is completed mostly on time. There are relatively large coffee stocks in villages, from the previous crop, which could be marketed as soon as marketing improves. Generally the prospects for the next harvest are good.

Ainaro, had a population of 51 000, the area produces mainly maize, and some rice and coffee. In the highlands several high value horticultural crops (Irish potatoes, carrots, beans and cabbages) are grown. The district capital of Ainaro and sub-districts of Dare and Aitutu experienced severe damage and displacement, especially along the road to Ainaro, while the rest of the district endured little destruction or population displacement. In affected areas, the population return was delayed until a time when the soil was too wet for planting, which could encourage of fungal disease. Consequently maize planting is sub-normal.

Liquisa, had a population of 55 000. The district is not an important food producing area but like Ermera a major coffee producer. The towns of Liquica, maubara and bazartete were severely affected. The impact on food crop production, however, will be small as most production occurs on fertile soils at altitudes above 500 m. Conditions ranged widely at the higher altitudes from very little damage, to high rates of displacement and complete disruption in the areas around leotela and Vatovou. Currently only 40 percent of the population is reported to have returned. This, in turn, will affect food production for the current cropping season.

Bobonaro, had a population of 87 000, and is East Timor's major rice and maize producing district. Bobonaro was a militia stronghold, and suffered severe damage, disruption and displacement of the population, particularly in the subdistrict of Maliana, where infrastructures was almost completely destroyed. The majority of the population took refuge in the hills or was displaced to West Timor. Currently, 60 percent of the population is estimated to have returned. Farmers who returned before December were able to plant maize due to remaining seed stocks or seed distributed through relief operations. Nonetheless, aggregate maize production next year will be much lower than normal due to a decrease in the area planted. Rice production is also expected to be much lower than normal, due to shortage of traction for land preparation and hence a reduction in area planted. However, farmers who returned too late to plant maize, are expected to focus on rice cultivation to increase household food security. This could compensate to some extent the expected decrease in rice area.

The enclave of Ambeno, had a population of 57 000. With violence starting from end of August and continuing almost unabated until the arrival of INTERFET forces, only 3 000 people were left. Currently about 60 percent of the population has returned and repatriation is continuing. The main crop is rice, although maize is produced in significant quantities. According to location, rice or maize is dominant. Although no stocks of seed were expected large numbers of returnees from West Timor brought back significant quantities of maize and paddy, which could be used for planting. In addition, some grain stocks were found in abandoned but not destroyed villages or within some communities, who took refuge within the enclave. Nonetheless seed availability is a major problem, which is currently being addressed by seed relief and distribution operations. Aggregate maize production will be affected by the late return of farmers, who will miss the optimum planting date. Partially this could be compensated by the late arrival of the rainy season, which will permit delayed sowing and by the fact that seed distribution is mostly of higher yielding varieties. Rice production is expected to be affected as in other rice producing areas by the lack of traction for land preparation. However, as in other rice regions, late returnees, who missed maize planting are expected to focus on rice, partially offsetting the decline and increasing household food security.

Covalima, had a population of 60 000. By early November, only 15 000 were left in the district. Currently it is estimated that only one-third of the original population has returned, though large numbers of returnees are expected in the near future. The district is a main maize producer, but also has some rice. Again, the late arrival of displaced farmers could seriously affect maize production. However a number of factors could offset the potential decline in planting, these include (a) the provision of seeds, through relief operations, which have been treated with fungicide which can protect plants at an early stage (b) seeds are of improved varieties which are expected to give higher yields and (c) Cova-lima has the advantage of two crop seasons (November-March) and April-May.

3.6 Nutritional situation

East Timor is known to have pockets of malnutrition but it is not well documented. The El Niño related drought, which seriously affected food production in 1998, and the financial crisis in Asia, which resulted in tremendous price hikes, greatly exacerbated problems of food availability over the last year. The mission knows of no territory-wide recent malnutrition survey. In January 1999, ICRC conducted a nutritional survey in 15 villages and 6 districts. ICRC used the QUAC's stick5 (this method normally results in a higher percentage than the standard weight for age method). Results indicated that 51 percent of children were moderate to severe protein energy malnourished. This high percentage must be taken in the context considering: (1) the survey took place during the lean period (2) the area surveyed is historically known to have pockets of malnutrition most likely explained by socio-economic factors and not food insecurity. Still, this figure shows that there is a seasonal incidence of malnutrition during the lean period.

The health structure was known to be weak and recent incidents (looting and burning of medical structures) have destroyed many medical facilities.. There is a general lack of personnel and salaries are not being paid. Hospital services provided by ICRC and NGOs have resumed in Liquica, Maliana, Dili, Baucau, Los Palos and Suai. Deterioration of the sanitary and housing conditions of the population (in particular in urban areas) may contribute to a negative evolution of malnutrition.

3.7 Vulnerability analysis

Vulnerability in East Timor can be defined both geographically and by vulnerable groups. Geographic vulnerability is determined directly by the extent of destruction of public and private infrastructure as well as by the presence of community markets and baseline poverty indicators.

Vulnerable groups can be further defined by their traditional methods of obtaining basic food items.

3.7.1Geographical Vulnerability Matrix

In assessing the level and location of vulnerability, the mission derived a geographical vulnerability matrix, in which the following main parameters were used:

i) Baseline Poverty at the Household Level: In 1998, the Indonesian government announced a national program for food security aimed at assisting needy households in Indonesia. In East Timor it was estimated that 95 720 or 56 percent of total population would be targeted. The program involved BULOG in "special market operations" wherein rice was supplied at 10kg/mo to households at a subsidized price of 1000rph/kg. Needy households were defined by household level socio-economic indicators including access to employment, household assets, health, education6(BKKBN, 1998). While poverty as defined by the Indonesia Government does not necessarily correlate with food insecurity, e.g. poor agricultural households who are self-sufficient in food production, these figures do provide a relative reference at an aggregated geographic level.

ii) Presence of Markets and Civil Strife Impact on Local Economy: The presence of a market implies not only availability of food stuffs, either produced locally or imported, but also a minimum of purchasing power. This indicator will be become even more critical as populations return, markets develop and people resume their livelihoods. Market surveys monitoring availability of a variety of food (and non-food) items in addition to fluctuations in price will be instrumental in determining the relative return to normalcy in local economies. At present, country wide cereal trade remains minimal. Main items found in the market are: vegetables, fruits, salt, sugar, benzene and basic household supplies.

iii) Level of Destruction: The highest level of destruction is found primarily along road networks and at key installations such as port towns. In western East Timor, retreating militia effectively destroyed both public and private infrastructure. Remote villages were relatively unaffected but the same remoteness makes them more food insecure due to lack of access to markets. In areas directly affected by burning and looting, food stocks, seeds, and productive assets such as livestock and vehicles were also mostly destroyed. Their destruction directly contributes to higher incidence of food insecurity.

iv) Degree of Geographic Vulnerability: This composite index of geographic vulnerability is the weighted average of above indicators.

Based on the parameters above an indication of relative vulnerability by location is outlined in Table 6.

Table 6: East Timor Geographical Vulnerability Matrix

Baseline 7/:
poverty level
Impact on
the local
Degree of
Aileu low yes low medium low
Ainaro low no medium medium medium
Baucau medium yes low low low
Bobonaro medium yes high high high
Covalima low no high high high
Dili low yes medium medium medium
Ermera medium yes medium medium medium
Lautem high yes medium medium medium
Liquica medium yes medium high medium
Manatuto high yes low low medium
Manufahi low no medium medium low
Oecussi (Enclave) medium no high high high
Viqueque high yes low low medium

3.7.2 Vulnerable Groups

There are two main categories of vulnerable people in East Timor. The first have attributes traditionally associated with vulnerability such as: single parent families, orphans, handicapped, the elderly and sick, pregnant and lactating women and minorities. Given the immediate effects of the withdrawal of the Indonesia government (source of employment) and the collapse of the market sector, "new" vulnerable groups of low rank public and private sector employees are emerging. These groups have no employment, no access to land and no tradition of farming.

3.8 Coping mechanisms

Withdrawal of the Indonesian forces and governmental support, including support of civil servants and public services, import and sale of subsidized rice (3 000-4 000 tonnes/month), and other social safety nets that the East Timorese relied upon, no longer exist and will require considerable time to reconstruct. However, coping mechanisms employed by the East Timorese are well developed due to historical and repeated stresses to food security including both complex and environmental disasters. events such as droughts have motivated the population to diversify agricultural production and, even in urban areas, to maintain family gardens. These traditions have been aimed at minimizing risks, of food shortages, rather than in optimizing productivity and aggregate production. Consequently, investment in yield enhancing technologies etc, which could enhance food security in the long term, has remained extremely low.

East Timorese, have developed a strong tradition of resilience. For example, at times of past political and civil unrest, they have taken refuge in the hills and mountains for appreciable lengths of time, coping, for food, with forest and hill products. Again, in the aftermath of this year's unrest, the population relied on foraging wild foods, tubers (cassava, yam, tarot, leaves and fruits). Moreover, those families that had anticipated the course of events not only stored food and seed in strategic locations, but also carried these to the mountains/hills.

At the time of the mission's visit in late November, producers had resumed selling fruits and vegetables, whilst meat sales had also begun to resume slowly. In view of generalized shortages, most food products are invariably being sold at much higher price than normal, though overall prices had begun to decline somewhat as marketing functions slowly returned to normal. A large proportion of producer households, however, was not selling but consuming food produce directly and also relying on food assistance provided by international agencies. Furthermore, some families are storing distributed food assistance as a safety reserve.

There was no clear evidence of people selling productive assets (whatever remained) as an important coping mechanism. The latter should be monitored, as purchase power increases among certain groups (e.g. wealthier returnees). Nonetheless, as internal trade resumes, the poorest households may have to resort to selling remaining assets to meet family food and basic needs. Some families had anticipated the events prior to the referendum, selling maize, cattle, coffee and other assets to maximize liquidity and cash, which would be easier to transport.

Another important coping mechanism has been exchange mechanisms in society based on sharing whatever food was available. This form of exchange and sharing is especially prevalent in rural societies.

At regional level coping mechanisms, mainly found in the agricultural sector, vary from region to region: For example, in northern coastal areas (Oecussi, Liquica, Dili, Baucau, Manatuto): coconuts are an important source of income and food and people cope with food shortage through foraging in hill areas and forests. In mountainous areas (Ermera, Aileu, Ainaro, Maliana) on the other hand, coffee is an important cash crop. Currently, the mission notes that a reasonably large quantity of stock remains unsold. Here again, people also forage for food in surrounding hills and forests. In southern coastal areas (Covalima, Suai, Same, Viqueque, Manuhafi): talipot palm (sago - the edible part traditionally provides a major source of food during lean periods). Its nutritional value, however, is low.


4.1 WFP Emergency Operations

Within two days of the international peacekeeping force arriving in East Timor on September 23, WFP (under emergency operation EMOP 6175), began air dropping high-protein biscuits and humanitarian daily rations to displaced persons hiding for safety in the central highlands. Given increasing security and access to returning populations in October, land convoys and helicopter operations were able to deliver over 2 700 tonnes of food aid to returning population groups. EMOP 6175 ended in November and was followed by EMOP 6177 for six months. In addition, since November increased trucking capacity and barge operations to southern coastal areas has extended the number of delivery points and distributions. In November, WFP delivered 4 900 tonnes of cereals. Distribution modalities have included returnee rations, general distributions, food for work, seed protection and institutional feeding (hospitals and orphanages). Details of distributions under the EMOPs are outlined in Table 7.

Table 7: East Timor: Food aid deliveries under EMOP 6175 and 6177

Months Cereals
Ready to Eat
September (23-30) 150 200 123 000
October 2 750 40 275 000
November 4 900 20 486 000
Total Cereals 7 800 260  
Total food aid 8 880 1/    
1/ Includes pulses and oil.

EMOP 6177 originally estimated a beneficiary population of up to 413 000 with half this caseload receiving full rations and half receiving half rations in addition to an estimated 58 000 persons belonging to vulnerable groups receiving supplementary rations of blended food. Objectives for beneficiaries served in November were achieved however this number is based on a 25-day ration of 10kg cereals, thus representing a larger number of beneficiaries receiving full rations.

Now that populations are stabilizing and people are able to resume their normal activities, it is assumed that with increased geographical and community based targeting the number of beneficiaries receiving full rations will decrease.

In view of the high level of destruction and disruption in the economy and agriculture, food aid over the next four months will be essential to: (i) maintain nutritional status, (ii) provide a safety net and (iii) avoid further depletion of assets. Following this period it will be necessary to move from general food distribution to targeted food aid programmes to vulnerable groups. Further to strategies outlined in EMOP 6177, the following strategies for food aid distribution are advocated:

· General food distribution should cover a large part of the population up to the end of 1999. Depending on area and vulnerability, part of the population should receive full rations and others half ration. The transition toward targeted programmes will be done via Food For Work and through school feeding programmes, hospitals and orphanages.

· Seed/salt exchange for food project are currently being implemented in Viqueque and Com in Lautem district. The exchange programme involves (i) rice for paddy seed in Viqueque (the only rice surplus area) and (ii) rice for salt in Com. Both are expected to run to the end of December 1999.

· Food For Work (FFW): A few FFW projects (mostly geared at city cleaning) have been implemented. FFW is self-targeting and several international NGOs have expressed interest in developing future FFW programmes with WFP, in which they will provide tools and WFP food. WFP is encouraging women (at least 50 percent) to become members of FFW committees.

· School Feeding: WFP in collaboration with UNICEF, plans to resume territory-wide school feeding programmes emphasizing local community participation and international and local NGO partnership. This will be a long term project and it is expected that by April 2000, teachers will receive food supplements8/.

· Hospital and orphanage programmes are currently being implemented and are expected to continue for feeding in-patients. WFP is distributing a food supplement to health workers 7/.

· Maternal child health (MCH): This programme would depend on a minimum functioning public health system in urban/rural areas prior to being implemented. It remains a weak point at the moment.

· Market interventions: WFP is considering market interventions by mid-February 2000. A pilot project of rice selling on the market could be initiated in Baucau, Dili and Ermera cities. The funds of the sale would be channeled through the FFW committees and School Feeding committees and co-managed by international NGOs. WFP would assist in the purchase and logistics of the community non food items (i.e. tools).

4.2 Food Aid Targeting

The exercise of geographically targeting food assistance as well as targeting vulnerable groups must be done in coordination with local partners, e.g. CNRT, Churches and Mosques, etc. Care must be taken to remain as transparent as possible given the potential for misguided allocation to households that are not in need of external assistance. In this regard, Programming including adjustments in the food basket and ration assumes an integral role. Furthermore, the targeting of certain political and religious minorities who are at present excluded from the decision making process and as a consequence are becoming increasingly food insecure will need to be addressed as they are starting to return from West Timor. This complex issue will need to be addressed in close cooperation with UNTAET's reconciliation programme.

However, in general food distributions (see Table 8), full ration will specifically be targeted at the most vulnerable districts in (Bobonaro, Covalima and Oecussi). In addition, Food For Work (FFW) will be self targeting. The returnee package is also self targeted by its nature. The other projects will be targeting institutions (schools, hospitals and orphanages).

Table 8. Number of beneficiaries from 1 December 1999 to 31 March 2000

General food Distribution
Low Nil/half ration 5 000 direct + 20 000 indirect 70 000 50 000 3 000 50 000
Medium Half –full ration          
High Full ration          
1/ Low =19 percent =145 000 persons/Medium=58 percent=431 000 persons /High=23 percent=173 000 persons.
N.B. WFP is considering a cross cut population figure of 750 000 for the 4 months period.

The general food distribution allocation of Table 8 is based upon the geographical vulnerability matrix (see previous Table 6) which determines the vulnerable districts in the country. The districts of Bobonaro, Covalima and Oecussi will be entitled to receive a full ration due to their high level of vulnerability. As for the districts ranked as either medium or low in the geographical vulnerability matrix, those will receive only half or no ration at all (example: in a districts such as Aileu where the vulnerability is low and markets have resumed, the district should not be getting any general food distribution).

4.3 Logistics

Given the lack of logistical capacity in East Timor due to the withdrawal of the Indonesian government and exacerbated by extensive damage done to an already limited infrastructure, WFP has taken a lead role in the provision and coordination of logistical assets (Special Operation 6178). In addition, WFP has assumed responsibility for BULOG warehouses throughout the territory, the warehouse infrastructure utilized by the Indonesians for import, storage and distribution of rice.

WFP has mobilized helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, landing craft and cargo vessels, including more than 60 trucks to form the backbone of overland transport in East Timor. In addition, WFP has solicited the use of transport assets from the U.S., French, and Australian military contingents. To coordinate the efficient use of these assets, WFP has dedicated staff coordinating air, land and sea transport of food and non-food items.

Given the onset of the rainy season, WFP has had to strategically examine the provision of food aid to areas that will be difficult to access by road. In this regard, WFP has already assessed ports/beaches and warehousing to service key population centers along the northern coast; Liquica, Manatuto, Baucau, and southern coasts; Los Palos, Viqueque, Same and Suai, from where further overland distributions can be done.

Between September 23 and December 1, WFP transported over 8880 tonnes of food aid by land air and sea, gradually increasing quantities transported culminating in 5000 tonnes in the month of November. Given estimated requirements, the tonnage transported will most likely peak at 4500 tonnes in December, January and February, and then decrease substantially after the March maize harvest.



Various interventions will be required in the agriculture sector in East Timor to enhance productivity and food production. Such strategies will need to be formulated over the long term and will involve aspects such as research and development and increasing market opportunities. In the interim a number of strategies are advocated to increase short/medium term food security. These include:

· Seed multiplication programmes for maize and rice to enhance use of improved varieties
· Introduction of nitrogen fixing bacteria to increase productivity and soil fertility
· Rehabilitation of small and medium scale irrigation facilities.
· Feasibility studies for commercial production and marketing of coffee and other cash crops.
· Investment in reducing post harvest and storage losses.
· Investment in improving rice milling facilities.
· Investment in small scale machines ( hand tractors) for land preparation.
· Breeding, vaccination and extension campaigns to increase livestock numbers
· Provision of basic equipment and facilities to increase fish production.
· Investment in forestry rehabilitation and environmental protection.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further information if required.
Abdur Rashid
Telex 610181 FAO I
Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495
Ms. J. Cheng-Hopkins
Regional Director, OAC, WFP
Telex: 626675 WFP 1
Fax: 0039-06-6513-2863
E-Mail: Judy.Cheng-Hopkins@WFP.ORG
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1 / Seed stored in trees or buried under ground constituted an invaluable supply in the post crises period.

2 / Agriculture in this area was also left largely untouched.

3 / Figures have been rounded.

4 / Ratio of cassava and sweet potato to cereal equivalent taken at 4:1

5 / QUAC stick is a simple measuring tool for adjusting arm circumference measurements for height.

6 / Source: BKKBN: the Indonesian family planning agency which establish poverty rates.

7 / Source : BKKBN, the Indonesian family planning agency establish poverty rates.

8 / Civil servants would only be supplemented with rice during this transitionally period.