Rural communities in Timor-Leste have relied on subsistence farming for generations, with many subsistence families living on less than a dollar per day. These communities are acutely aware of the negative impact of environmental degradation and the importance of environmental regeneration for their survival.
Timor-Leste has experienced massive deforestation. Slash-and-burn cultivation and the harvesting of firewood are widely practised. The country is extremely vulnerable to land degradation, erosion, and landslides.
Now, the European Union is providing a solution to enable communities to address these issues, and villagers are now reaping on environmental, social and economic benefits of a community reforestation and carbon farming programme. With an investment of EUR 16.9 million the European Union is a key the Government of Timor-Leste’s reforestation drive with three flagship programmes: Ai ba Futuru-Trees for the Future, Rai Matak-Green Land and Carbon Farming.
In four Municipalities of Timor-Leste, Ai ba Futuru has already planted more than two million commercial trees, improved wood processing efficiency, and encouraged the Timorese private sector to invest. This has provided both a major boost for economic diversification and made a huge different to farmers’ livelihoods. It has created jobs too.
Climate action and sustainable economic development are top of European Union’s agenda around the world, and are the bedrock of its “Green Deal”. In Timor-Leste the European Union has tripled its efforts to ensure substantial results. Last year, Rai Matak, the carbon farming initiative, was launched in the presence of former Timor-Leste President and Nobel Peace Laureate Dr José Ramos Horta and European Union Ambassador Andrew Jacobs. The project started selling carbon credit on the voluntary market and paid cash to Timorese farmers who planted trees on land that was previously deforested.
The EUR 2.7 million Rai Matak-Green Land, is part of the Global Climate Change Alliance plus (GCCA+), the EU flagship programme which is helping to build resilience to climate change in the most vulnerable countries.
Rai Matak builds on the successful experience of carbon-farming in Baguia in the Municipality of Baucau, by the Foundation Ho Musan Ida, making available know-how and financing to interested rural communities that fulfil certain criteria around Timor-Leste.
Implemented by Oxfam, Rai Matak has established village-based plant nurseries to grow seedlings and pays small tree holders annual incentives to reforest their land by planting and maintaining the trees. This enables them to generate an income while taking real action on climate change.
Over the four years of the project it is intended to plant three million trees of which it is estimated that 400,000 will be viable (survive). Over their 30-year life these will sequester (store) more than 400,000 tonnes of CO2. Based on current international carbon market pricing of USD 18 per tonne CO2e will deliver USD 7.2m into these communities.
“Rai Matak is a green economy initiative aiming to reduce emissions of carbons that lead to climate change, bring income to Timorese farmers, re-forest environmentally degraded areas, and help rural communities to thrive. – says Ambassador Andrew Jacobs – It’s coherent with the European Green Deal – the EU’s own growth strategy that decouples economic growth from resource use and aims for no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.”
The third European Union action is high level technical assistance (EUR 2.2 million) to the Secretariat of State for the Environment under the GCCA+. This supports the establishment of a robust land-sector Green House Gas (GHG) reporting and accounting system to measure land-based carbon emissions through operational tools and establishes legal and governance systems. The funding supports a credible, transparent, sustainable and participative carbon sequestration reward system in Timor-Leste and at the same time motivates farmers in rural areas with additional incentives.
Partners with EU is the Foundation Ho Musan Ida, the Country Manager Leopoldina Guteress says tree farmers of Baguia have been earning an income from carbon farming for ten years and are excited to help other communities in Timor-Leste implement the Rai Matak programme and build strong, lasting and positive relationships to benefit future generations.
Andrew Mahar, Director of the WithOneSeed said: “the Paris Climate Agreement comes into effect in 2020 and carbon pricing is already being factored into the business and finance models of many countries and businesses. Community agroforestry in Timor-Leste can tap into this market opportunity.”
The project will also support the establishment of a National Carbon Foundation in Timor. This Foundation will work with Government, non-governmental organisations and the private sector in Timor-Leste to build a robust secure carbon farming market.