A new train-the-trainers course supported by USAID is integrating entrepreneurial skills into the curriculum of Timor-Leste's technical high schools. The course is run by USAID's Private Sector Development Project as part of the International Labour Organization's "Know About Business" program. During the course, 26 lead teachers from all 13 of the country's technical high schools will learn to teach the course effectively. It will become part of the schools' full curriculum in the next year.
Farmers in the Loes Valley, 50 kilometers southwest of Dili, are preparing to harvest a bumper crop of corn, rice, and other vegetables with help from USAID. Three farmers' groups with 87 members have learned improved agriculture techniques from a USAID-supported national NGO, which also offers the farmers access to tractors for mowing and plowing. The groups have planted more than 170 acres this season and expect their yields to double and their incomes to increase dramatically with their improved growing and marketing skills.
With support from USAID, Lospalos Community Radio now has its own production studio. The new facility allows the station to produce its own programs, which it broadcasts to the eastern end of the country. The new studio will bolster the station's sustainability - UNICEF is now sponsoring a series on children and nutrition. Outside Timor-Leste's capital, Dili, most residents receive their information and news from one of the country's 16 community radio stations or the Public Broadcast Service (PBS). USAID has supported community radio and PBS in Timor-Leste since 2000.
Over the next three months, local NGO Haburas Moris will teach members of youth groups in Maliana district how to make organic fertilizer and grow and market vegetables. Improved gardening skills and access to inexpensive, quality fertilizer will help young people and their communities increase their incomes and expand the market for fresh vegetables. USAID works with NGOs and local youth groups around the country to implement agricultural projects that increase income and improve food security.
The Timor-Leste government's Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration has launched its own website www.stae.tl, providing a range of information about elections laws and policies, as well as results and statistics from the country's first local elections. Last week, the second and final round of voting in 22 jurisdictions completed the year-long local elections process, with an average turnout of more than 80% of registered voters.
A recent USAID-funded assessment has shown that about 95% of the trees that shade Timor-Leste's vital coffee crop are diseased, with about 20% showing obvious signs of decline. A USDA Forest Service specialist has reported these findings to the Timor-Leste office of the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), which supports the country's largest cooperative of coffee farmers, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.
The establishment of a USAID-supported business partnership in Timor-Leste has earned a national prize for the University of Hawaii's Pacific Business Center Program. The award, Excellence in Partnership Development, was presented by the University Economic Development Association for the Center’s work with the Hawaii-based manufacturer, Oils of Aloha, to develop a candlenut oil production enterprise in Timor-Leste. Vital support from USAID resulted in leveraging additional resources from another donor, a commercial bank, and the government of Timor-Leste.
In the preparatory period before his office begins receiving complaints from the public, Timor-Leste's newly appointed provedor (independent ombudsman for human rights, anticorruption, and good governance) hosted a conference on December 21 to seek input for a national anticorruption strategy. Participants included representatives from national and international NGOs, the diplomatic community, including the US ambassador, Timor-Leste's Parliament, and civil society.
Three staff members from national NGOs Timor-Aid and Rotaract Club attended a private-sector organized financial education summit in Malaysia recently to learn how other countries tackle major problems of low numeracy rates and poor money-management skills. Timor-Leste's literacy rate is only about 50%, with numeracy levels well below that. The three participants said that they will use the practical ideas they learned--particularly from successes in countries such as Fiji, Guam, and Sri Lanka--to work with communities and the government to advance financial education.
After its first-ever local elections, held in 442 villages and 2,228 subvillages over the past year, Timor-Leste is currently holding re-elections in 18 jurisdictions where the first round resulted in a tie or where the Court of Appeal upheld complaints of irregularities. The elections drew a high percentage of voters and offered the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration and the independent National Elections Commission opportunities to improve registration and voting processes in advance of elections for president, prime minister, and Parliament in 2007.