Agriculture is the main activity in Timor-Leste,
providing subsistence to an estimated 80% of the population. It also
generates an average of 90% of the exports, mainly due to coffee. Most
farmers practice subsistence farming, planting and harvesting what they
need for a simple life-style, collecting wild foods and traditional
medicines, and the animals are very much left free to grow and
reproduce. There are almost no large scale farms except for missions.
Timor has given unique contributions to world´s
agriculture. It is recognized as the home of "Timor Hybrid", a coffee
variety which combines resistance to the rust disease Hemileia
vastatrix, and produces a coffee with quality almost as good as the
Arabica. Some authors (For example Rui Cinnati) also recognize Timor as
the origin of Sandal wood.
The topography consists of a narrow plain around
the coast and a central mountain range dominating the country. The
north coast is the driest area with some 500 mm of rain while the
highlands can have over 2000mm.
The steep slopes that dominate most of the country
with heavy rainfall translate into heavy erosion once the tree cover is
removed. Deforestation (due to sandal wood cutting, fires, land
clearing, or goats eating the young plants) initiates a process of land
destruction that is very difficult to reverse or even stop.
In the first ¾ of the last century, the Portuguese
Agronomic (or Agriculture) Mission tried to stimulate food production
(rice) in the coastal plains, leaving the mountains with Coffee. The
coffee production system, provides a sustainable ecosystem which
through a three layer system (shade tree which is usually a legume,
coffee plants, and grasses), that protects the soil, providing income
Today there is need for food security to be
attained in the whole country. The Agriculture Rehabilitation Programme
is trying to restore the irrigation schemes for rice and rural roads,
and Cooperativa Café Timor and others have been sponsoring the rebirth
of the coffee sector.
The authors feel that with the growing economic
needs of the people, it is necessary to, sooner or later, move beyond
commodity crops. It is felt that the production of crops with higher
margins (cashew nuts, mangos, spices, vanilla, restoration of
sandalwood, pineapples, passion fruit, guavas, cut flowers) associated
with some form of processing (roasting of nuts, mango pulp, guava jam,
passion fruit concentrate) are the next stage in the development of the
We hope that the 300 documents in this CD,
covering various topics such as climate, soils, pests, fertility and
crop varieties might be a humble contribute to your endeavors towards
the progress of Timor-Leste.