July 23, 2014 - The Ainaro district has great economic potential as one of the most diverse agricultural regions in Timor-Leste. The mountain landscapes present stunning panoramic scenery, and the district boasts fertile farming lands for local fruit and vegetables and world class coffee plantations. With a number of cultural heritage sites and Ramelau Mountain - the highest point in the country - there is also potential for tourism.
However, an enormous challenge lies ahead. The road between the capital city Dili to the district of Ainaro, which serves as a critical corridor from the north to the south of the country, is in poor condition resulting in frequent travel delays. In the rainy season, sections of the road are hit by landslides and flooding which causes long delays to travel between districts and impacts on the movement of freight and public transport.
Building a better quality road will increase people’s access to markets, schools and to medical services. More people will be able to travel easily to see the beautiful mountain scenery and to visit other heritage sites in the area.
Manuel Soares is the head of a local NGO based in Maubisse, a mountain town 80 kilometers from Dili. He thinks people in the agriculturally rich districts of Aileu, Ainaro and Manufahi should be able to supply local fruit and vegetables to the market in the capital, minimizing imports of fresh food, and helping Timorese farmers make a living.
“We need to have a wider, good quality road, that can resist flooding and landslides, to allow more farmers to get their produce to the market while it is fresh, at an affordable cost. This will help encourage the farmers to produce more,” said Manuel. “Improving the road will also allow people to more easily experience the exciting panoramic views of Ramelau Mountain and will boost tourism to the area.”
Poor road conditions also have a big impact on seriously ill patients due to the long travel time it takes to reach the hospital in Dili.
“It can take 2 to 3 hours to travel to the hospital in Dili,” says Dr. Gabriela Pereira, from the referral clinic in Maubisse. “Sometimes, if women have problems during birth and they have to wait a long time, they might die.”