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Increasing Community Resilience in Oecusse

Language: English | Tetun

Speeches Shim

Project Purpose:

Poor agricultural practices and a lack of clean water and sanitation affect health, diet and quality of life in one of Timor-Leste’s poorest regions.


Oecusse-Ambeno Administrative Region

Key Counterpart:

Special Economic Zones for Social Market Economy (ZEESM)


May 2015 — March 2021

Cooperative Agreement:


Partner Contact:

World Neighbors, Inc.

Edd Wright

Regional Director for Southeast Asia

Bali, Indonesia

Email: ewright@wn.org

USAID Contact:

Candido Conceição

Project Management Specialist

Email: usaid-timor-leste-info@usaid.gov



The enclave of Oecusse-Ambeno, on the western side of Timor Island, is characterized by low food production levels, an absence of adequate clean water supplies, and isolation from the rest of the country.  The landscape is fragile and bears the negative impact of slash-and-burn agriculture, which also diminishes already inadequate water resources.  Communities are mostly located in remote, uphill locations, where road infrastructure is very poor and access during the wet season is extremely limited.  The lack of clean water sources, sanitation, and hygienic practices in the area leads to health problems.  Many water sources are contaminated, resulting in a host of water-borne diseases, including E. coli, which particularly affects the elderly and children under five.

Through the Increasing Community Resilience to Oecusse (ICRO) activity, USAID and partner World Neighbors are working with the Government of Oecusse-Ambeno to:

  • Protect and conserve community water sources through micro-watershed technology (fortifying natural spring and seep areas; planting appropriate trees; promoting climate smart agriculture practices; improving water delivery systems)
  • Train local communities in community natural resource management enabling them to plan, implement and maintain sustainable watershed management plans.
  • Establish savings and credit groups capable of funding the maintenance of water conservation and delivery systems;
  • Improve sanitation and hygiene practices in villages and schools; and
  • Increase the effectiveness of local governmental, nongovernmental and community-based organizations to sustain the gains made with appropriate budgeting and linking communities to private sector maintenance service providers.
ICRO Timor-Leste

Major Achievements:

  • Water Sources Protected: Since 2015, ICRO has helped communities to plant over 54,000 trees to shade and protect 43 community water sources. Increased forest cover surrounding water sources supports rain infiltration, which improved water availability during the harsh Oecusse-Ambeno dry season. The severe drought of 2020 caused many community water sources to dried up (67 percent), but where USAID intervened, only 25 percent dried. Testing in 2019 also revealed cleaner water sources in project areas, with a 93 percent reduction in E. coli contamination as compared to previous years.
  • Hygiene and Sanitation Improved: In 16 communities where ICRO worked, 82 percent of the population now have access to a toilet, beginning from zero. Two communities were declared open-defecation free. Handwashing campaign efforts were timely and helped communities combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Communities Empowered to Manage Community Water: Helping to empower communities to manage their own water sources, ICRO set up 80 Water Management Committees that have set up rules and regulations for community-managed water sources, 43 of which received additional assistance in managing water delivery systems, including improvements to existing infrastructure. USAID is also partnering with the local government to continue water source protection and community management when the ICRO project ends, helping to build in sustainability for a successful intervention.

Last updated: June 17, 2021

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