Strengthening Climate-Resilience of Small Scale Rural Infrastructure and Local Government in Timor-Leste


Increasing climatic variability and unpredictability, particularly in relation to rainfall and extreme weather events, presents a very significant additional risk to the lives and livelihoods of rural people, particularly those living in the more remote interior of the country as well as in some highly exposed coastal areas. One of the key ways in which this risk is expressed is through resulting impacts flooding and landslides on critical rural infrastructure which further degrade these assets, particularly water supply infrastructure, drainage, embankment and river protection structures, and community level feeder roads and bridges that connect with the network of national, district and rural roads.

The UNDP-supported project, "Strengthening the Resilience of Small Scale Rural Infrastructure and Local Government Systems to Climatic Variability and Risk" (2013 - 2018) used the existing UNDP Local Government Support Programme as an entry point to deliver concrete measures to significantly increase the resilience of critical rural infrastructure to climate-related impacts in high-risk districts and sub-districts. Critical small scale rural infrastructure is designed and implemented through participatory approaches and strengthened local governance systems, reflecting the needs of communities vulnerable to increasing climate risks.

Project Details

Timor-Leste is a small island developing state and one of the world’s newest nations. Since independence from Indonesia the country has made significant progress in establishing a functioning government and public service, as well as a political system with the ability to reflect the wider needs of society within a democratic framework. This has included a move towards administrative and fiscal decentralization within its 13 districts and 65 sub-districts.  The international community continues to provide substantial support recognizing that early and sustained engagement in nation building provides the best opportunity for ensuring long term and sustainable peace, security and prosperity.

And so it is with the issue of climate change. Early action to recognize the incumbent risks to national development is essential, so that national planning can factor in these risks through specific actions to reduce vulnerability in all key economic sectors. Timor Leste is vulnerable to many of the habitual climatic phenomena resulting in impacts that are hampering the growth and development of most nations in this region.  These include sea level rise, increasing climatic variability, and increasing intensity of extreme events, partially linked to the ENSO weather phenomenon.  Related risks encompass increased incidence of floods, droughts, erosion and landslides. This affects vulnerable rural populations in multiple ways, such as through the degradation of vital local infrastructure, such as water harvesting, storage and distribution systems.

This project uses an existing UNDP Local Governance Support Programme (LGSP) as the entry point for delivering concrete measures to significantly increase the resilience of critical rural infrastructure to climate related impacts in high risk districts and sub-districts.  Since its inception in 2005, the Irish Aid and Norway funded LGSP has been helping to establish more accountable local government by giving local government bodies greater responsibility for planning, budgeting and implementation in certain domains – specifically in rural infrastructure.  The Programme guides the delivery of quite substantial amounts of Local Development Funds which are increasingly being channeled through local level decision making structures. These funds genuinely provide greater flexibility for local administrations to reflect the needs of local communities. And yet they remain relatively weak in terms of addressing environmental and climate related concerns. The proposed project takes a three pronged approach comprising the following specific outcomes:

  1. Systematic use of climate risk information, with a focus on rural water,  and integration into development frameworks 

National level expertise and ability to provide advice and information on climate risks will be significantly improved, building on recent and ongoing enabling activities such as the NAPA and INC process.  A more systematic data gathering, storage and management system will be put in place which will be easy to access by all stakeholders nationally.  Specific partnerships within government will be established and maintained in order to support this work. The capacity of the national climate team (responsible for the NAPA process) will be strengthened in applying this information for basic vulnerability assessment.  A national platform for increasing national dialogue on climate risks will be established and operationalized, supported by function based training targeting all levels including academics, NGO representatives, parliamentarians and government officials.

  1. Inclusive planning and budgeting for reducing climate related risks

This outcome area will focus exclusively on district and sub-district levels, to ensure that a discussion of climate related risks is reflected in the sub-district and suco level dialogues that support the local planning process. This will require community representatives and local officials to be sensitized to climate risk issues as they relate to local infrastructure, together with PRA based consultations with communities to help to identify specific localized effects and response measures. Training and practical guidance will be provided to newly established local assembly members on integrating climate risks into local planning. Local assemblies are made up of a combination of officials and other local representatives and the LGSP programme has been supporting their analytical and review functions for several years, to which additional skill sets can now be added.  Assemblies will need to be able to assess where additional climate risks are most likely to occur and ensure that any investments in these areas build in the necessary measures (siting, design or complementary land management) to reduce these risks. The project will also work with local contractors active in the infrastructure sector to raise their awareness and technical know-how in supporting climate resilient construction design and build techniques. This will be linked to the development and field testing of new Standard Operating Procedures norms, guidelines and standards for rural infrastructure.

  1. Physical investment for reducing climate risks

This outcome area provides the all-important investment element of the project, driven by improved planning and budgeting for climate risks under Outcome 2.  Two broad forms of investment are envisaged: (i) building in ‘redundancies’ to ensure that existing types of rural water infrastructure are more climate resilient; and (ii) introducing new approaches to infrastructure provision that will both increase resilience and diversify the range of options available to communities.  For example remote rural villages in Timor Leste tend to rely on natural springs and surface water for their water and have limited storage or back up available that can sustain supply during extended dry seasons.  In such cases larger tanks or storage vessels may be appropriate, either at village level or individual household level, and in some localities it may be cost effective to invest in boreholes with community managed pumping systems.

Level of Intervention: 
Primary Beneficiaries: 
Rural communities and local government in Timor-Leste.
Implementing Agencies & Partnering Organizations: 
Ministry of Economy and Development, Timor-Leste
Ministry of state Administration and Territorial Management, Timor-Leste
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Global Environment Facility (GEF)
Project Status: 
Source of Funds Pipeline
Financing Amount: 
$4,600,000 (as of November 2011)
Co-Financing Total: 
$24,527,673 (indicative as of November 2011)

Key Results and Outputs

The project expects to ensure that future small scale rural infrastructure, that is essential to local needs, is designed and constructed in a way that takes into account climate related risks including existing variability and longer term fundamental change. This will be built on an existing and ongoing process of strengthening local governance systems and public participation.

Programme Meetings and Workshops


SSRI Lauala Water Supply Project, Timor-Leste

Lauala new water supply system is one of the 11 water supply interventions provided by the UNDP project, 'Strengthening the Resilience of Small Scale Rural Infrastructure (SSRI)' in the most vulnerable villages in Baucau, Ermera, and Liquiça municipalities of Timor-Leste. Conducted between 2015 and 2017, the project contributed to the achievement of SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation. Now, the newly installed water system in Lauala village is providing clean and more efficient water supply for more than 1,400 beneficiaries.

SSRI Buruma Road Rehabilitation Project, Timor-Leste

The Buruma road project represents one of the six rural roads project interventions that are implemented by the UNDP project, 'Strengthening the Resilience of Small Scale Rural Infrastructure (SSRI)' in the most vulnerable villages in Baucau, Ermera, and Liquiça municipalities of Timor-Leste. Conducted between 2015 and 2017, the activities supported more than 25,000 rural population in more than 10 villages.

SSRI Uailili Irrigation Scheme, Timor-Leste

The Uailili Irrigation Scheme is one of the three water and irrigation interventions provided by UNDP as part of the project 'Strengthening the Resilience of Small Scale Rural Infrastructure (SSRI)' in the most vulnerable villages in Baucau, Ermera, and Liquiça municipalities of Timor-Leste between 2015 and 2017. The Aguia water source protection and irrigation scheme in Uailili village will benefit more than 3,500 beneficiaries with clean water, improved washing facilities and agriculture.

Strengthening the Climate Resilience of Rural Infrastructure in Timor Leste

The UNDP-supported Strengthening the Resilience of Small-Scale Rural Infrastructure in Timor Leste (SSRI) project is working to increase the climate resilience of rural infrastructure for communities that are most vulnerable to extreme climate events and climate risks in the three pilot districts of: Ermera; Baucau and Liquica. These projects focus mainly on four categories of infrastructure including:
• Water supply systems
• Rural access roads and bridges
• Reservoirs and irrigation systems
• Stabilizing river banks/flood protection

Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation in Timor Leste

To introduce the subject, here are a few slides to show you the types of challenges that the infrastructure in Timor Leste is facing. Despite the high specification of design and construction that goes into modern roads, if the risks of landslides occurring outside of the road’s design are not taken into consideration, they can severely impact the road and its usability as well as put people lives and livelihoods at risk. View the video for more information.

Monitoring and Evaluation

For evaluation reports, visit UNDP's Evaluation Resource Centre.


Keti Chachibaia
UNDP Regional Technical Advisor