Timor-Leste is on the Way to Build Better Roads
March 7, 2013
- Timor-Leste’s road network is the bloodline of the country’s economic activities. Smallholder farmers depend on it to transport their produce.
- Poor road conditions often make travel impossible while also raising the cost of transport.
- Improving road infrastructure is among the main focuses of the World Bank in Timor-Leste, with emergency repairs completed in critical locations.
DILI, March 7, 2013 – Heavy rain had been cascading down on the districts of Ainaro since December but, for once, traffic was moving. Emergency repairs on the country’s main 110km highway are helping improve the condition of the road. This road connects three districts- Dili, Aileu and Ainaro – together and is used by a third of the Timorese population and more than 11,000 smallholder farmers. The road network is the bloodline of Timor-Leste’s economic activities. It is the main route through which agricultural produce, including coffee, are transported to the market in Dili and beyond, for exports.
Coffee is a critical industry in Timor-Leste. Its production accounts for about 90 percent of non-oil exports. However, poor road conditions have become one of the key constraints that smallholder farmers face in getting a good deal for their coffee.
The road network to the coffee plantation areas is often in devastatingly poor condition. When it is not completely blocked off, it can take over four hours to travel the 110km from Dili to Ainaro. Emergency work has been undertaken to help prevent landslides which, in previous years, made many sections of this road completely impassable.
Accessing the market in the capital Dili during the rainy season was really difficult. Due to bad roads caused by landslides and flooding, people lack access to basic services. This year, the road condition improved in some very important parts, such as Aitutu village, which is washed out by rain almost every year
It is hoped that a better road network will improve access to markets for local farmers in prime coffee producing districts such as Ermera, Aileu, Ainaro and Manufahi, where most of the coffee plantations in the country are located. It will also help connect remote rural communities to important services, such as those found in health centers and schools.
“If we can manage to bring our coffee directly to companies in Dili, we can get a better price compared to waiting for companies that come to buy from us. However the transport cost is still a major challenge due to the road condition”, said Mario Araujo, a coffee farmer in Ainaro district. “One day if the road is fixed, there will be more cars operating and the price of travel will be lower.”
Road infrastructure is one of the World Bank’s main focuses in Timor-Leste
The Road Climate Resilience Project supported by the World Bank is working to improve conditions along the road with the Government of Timor-Leste. The first step involved essential emergency work, including improvements to drainage. Activities will then commence in mid-2013on the upgrading of the entire road.
Managing risks of erosion and improving drainage remains a challenge. To ensure that the roads can withstand rain and flooding, the technicians have conducted several studies along the road to ensure that the best possible road will be built to benefit the Timorese.
Apart from its support for the coffee industry and other valuable resources found along the Dili-Ainaro road, the World Bank is working closely with the Ministry of Tourism through the Road for Cultural Heritage Project to identify cultural heritage sites. These sites have potential touristic value and can offer local communities increased livelihood opportunities.
“Building a better road network will give more access to people in rural areas, particularly the farmers, to sell their products to the markets,” said Luis Constantino, the World Bank Country Manager for Timor-Leste. “This will positively impact the economic development of the Timorese nation, especially rural communities who are often cut off from opportunities by the most basic lack of infrastructure”.
The forthcoming World Bank Country Partnership Strategy (CPS), which will provide the framework for the Bank’s future engagement in the country, is being developed for the period 2013-2016. The CPS has been developed through consultation with more than 2,000 people, ranging from community leaders, women’s groups, students, and other organizations, to reflect the needs and desires of Timorese.
One of the proposed focus areas is building core infrastructure to connect communities to markets and services, like health centers and schools, and to support rural development. The CPS is aligned with the Government’s National Strategic Plan, which highlights the importance of road infrastructure for the country’s development.
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