Read the full profile
Geography, climate and population
Timor-Leste is a country in maritime Southeast Asia, covering a total area of 14 870 km2 (Table 1). It is located northwest of Australia in the Lesser Sunda Islands at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago. It includes the eastern half of the island of Timor, the Oecussi (Ambeno) region on the northwest portion of the island of Timor, and the islands of Pulau Atauro and Pulau Jaco. The topography consists of a narrow plain around the coast and a central mountain range dominating the country.
The country is divided into 13 districts: Aileu, Ainaro, Baucau, Bobonaro (Maliana), Cova-Lima (Suai), Dili, Ermera (Gleno), Lautem (Los Palos), Liquica, Manatuto, Manufahi (Same), Oecussi (Ambeno), Viqueque. The name of the district capital is the same as the name in seven of the districts, for the other six the name of the district capital is in brackets.
The total cultivated area in 2009 was an estimated 225 000 ha of which 165 000 ha for annual crops and 60 000 ha for permanent crops.
The climate of Timor-Leste is characterized by extreme conditions. In the north of the island there is little or no rain for almost eight months of the year. The island has a monsoon climate, typical for the Asian tropics. From December to March northwest to southwest winds prevail, bringing the principal wet season for the year to most parts of the island. From May until October southeast to northeast winds prevail, bringing mostly dry conditions, except on the south coast and the southern slopes where the wet season persists until July. Average annual rainfall is around 1 500 mm, varying from 565 mm at Manatuto along the north coast to 2 837 mm at Lolotai in the central-western mountains. As is common in most tropical locations, extremely heavy rainfall occasionally occurs in Timor-Leste during relatively short time intervals.
There is little temperature variation on either a diurnal or a seasonal basis. Temperature variations mainly occur with altitude. Average annual temperatures decrease from 27 ēC at sea level to 24 ēC at 500 m; 21 ēC at 1 000 m; 18ēC at 1 500 m and 14ēC at 2 000 m. Relative humidity varies between 70 and 80 percent, which makes the climate humid in general, but pleasant (MAFF, 2004).
In 2009, the total population was almost 1.1 million, of which around 72 percent lived in rural areas (Table 1). The average population density is about74 inhabitants/km2. Annual average growth rate during the period 1999-2009 was 2.9 percent.
In 2008, access to improved drinking water sources reached 69 percent (86 and 63 percent for the urban and rural population respectively), while access to improved sanitation accounted for 50 percent (76 and 40 percent for the urban and rural population respectively).