Coastal area of Timor-Leste
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Timor-Leste: Sustainable coasts through participatory conservation

What is at issue:

The project focuses on Ma’abat, a coastal village in Manatuto District, about two hours east of Timor-Leste’s capital city, Dili. On Ma’abat’s coast, the village depends on mangroves for protection from flooding and storms, and reefs and seagrass as habitats for fish. Fishers in Ma’abat have noticed a decline in their catches and are concerned about their food security. Previous attempts to manage fisheries to promote stock recovery in Ma’abat have been unsuccessful due to low engagement in the community in designing management measures. However, the community of Ma’abat is eager to work towards a sustainable future.

What do you want to achieve in the long term?

Tara Bandu, Timor-Leste’s customary law, is increasingly used by local communities to regulate small-scale fisheries and create locally-managed marine areas (LMMAs). In Ma’abat, we will work with the community to establish Tara Bandu in Lamsana Bay, which was identified as a key fish nursery and is considered sacred land by the community. The project supports the community’s use of Tara Bandu for sustainable marine resource management, through a variety of participatory initiatives.


Discussing LMMA

We visited our new site in Manatuto to discuss fishing and mangrove management and monitoring, TaraBandu, and how to integrate a sacred place into a new LMMA.

What's happening now:

Public consultations began in Ma’abat in September 2018 to discuss the community’s thoughts and ideas on the direction of the work and, more specifically, on community needs for local marine resource management. The community responded very positively, openly discussed options and priorities, and identified a clear way forward, starting with the traditional Tara Bandu ceremony. Following the ceremony, the next steps will be to begin drafting marine measures and training fisheries monitoring operators.

What we have achieved:

our biggest success this year has been the establishment of an all-female community fisheries monitoring group. Six women completed a training programme and are monitoring catches several times a week, collecting data on key fisheries that were identified by community members as important for their livelihood.

Our mangrove activities have also progressed very well. We have established a formal partnership and signed an MOU with KFF, the only local conservation organisation in Timor-Leste. KFF has discussed with community leadership and identified suitable sites and methods, and fieldwork should start soon.

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Who has done it

More information


Man­groves – mas­ters of sur­vival on salty ground