Conserving Cultural Heritage in Timor-Leste to Build Livelihoods
October 29, 2013
- Timor-Leste’s rich cultural heritage and beautiful landscapes have the potential for tourism which would improve the livelihoods of local communities.
- A poor road network and limited attention to the country’s cultural heritage is a major constraint.
- The World Bank is supporting the rehabilitation of roads and working with local communities to identify tourism potential of important heritage sites.
Dili, TIMOR-LESTE – The beautiful landscape of Timor-Leste is rich in many, unique cultures. For many local communities, there is a profound sense of cultural identity.
Tourism development is one way of helping preserve these treasures while also diversifying the economy, and bringing employment and rural development to some of the poorest parts of the country.
The road to promote cultural heritage for development
About 70 percent of the country’s population of one million people live in rural areas, often with limited access to transportation and a lack of communication infrastructure. Despite this, there remains a strong connection between communities, the environment, history and cultural traditions.
Timorese people share a common set of beliefs and values linked to a sense of belonging to a certain place, and Uma Lulik (sacred house).
“I am proud to be Timorese. We are rich in culture. Our natural landscapes are amazingly beautiful. We have a very strong belief in our natural power, and in the ancient souls that connect us from generation to generation. We know each other through a blood line, through our rituals and events. Ours is one of the most unique cultures”, said Amali Soares, a teacher in Laulauara, Aileu District, when describing his cultural heritage.
I am proud to be Timorese. We are rich in culture. Our natural landscapes are amazingly beautiful. We have a very strong belief in our natural power, and in the ancient souls that connect us from generation to generation. We know each other through a blood line, through our rituals and events. Ours is one of the most unique cultures
Identification of cultural heritage sites
When travelling along the road from the capital Dili to the district of Aileu towards Ainaro, there are many cultural heritage sites from clan houses to ritual sites, remains of colonial-era structures, and resistance-era sites.
The Government of Timor-Leste through its Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030 launched an ambitious plan for infrastructure development. However, plans to protect the cultural heritage are still limited. The work to map cultural sites will contribute to policies that can be applied not only to World Bank-supported projects, but also to help protect the country’s cultural heritage.
Under the Road for Cultural Heritage Project, the World Bank is working with the Ministry of Tourism and local communities to identify cultural heritage sites along the Dili, Aileu and Ainaro road. Ninety sites have been identified along with their local significance, potential management opportunities and constraints to develop sustainable tourism.
“There is a long way to go -new legislation, stronger public institutions, more private sector investment and local capacity-building are all still needed - but we have laid a solid foundation,” said David Butterworth, project anthropologist.
Road Climate Resilient Project
One significant obstacle to tourism development in rural areas is the lack of good roads to access these cultural heritage sites.
Building a good road network is a priority for the Government of Timor-Leste. Alongside other donors such as ADB and JICA, the World Bank is supporting the government to rehabilitate the national road network.
Under the Road Climate Resilient Project, the Bank aims at improving the 110km road between Dili and Ainaro, with work expected to start by early 2014. This road serves as a vital link between the north and the south of the country, in some of the poorest and most remote parts.