Interested in planting trees but don’t know benefit

Rosalina Soares, Funar village

Rosalina has 10 family members (5 male, 5 female) including 7 children. They have 3 hectares of land far away from the village (2 hours walk) where they grow coffee. They have a large house plot where they grow lemon, avocado, potato, corn, cassava, taro, banana, and mango. The only livestock they raise are chickens, but sometimes they borrow animals from family to sell for income. Her husband is injured so he cannot work so she must work hard to get income. “I need to work hard and support the family so children can go to school (primary, secondary and University)”.

Rosalina would like to open a shop but there are already many shops. She is not involved in any production or community groups but she is involved in the Alola Foundation savings scheme which started in 2017. Members pay 50c each month. If she borrows $50, $5 is taken for interest and “I can use for university expenses for my daughter”

Rosalina had heard about the Tree Planting Program and knows families that grow trees but they have received no information about it. No family or friends are involved in program. She is interested in planting trees but doesn’t know what the benefits are. They want to grow mahogany and Albizia in the 3ha of land with the coffee.

[A nursery is now established at Funar and new sites are being established with training]

This story demonstrates the importance of reaching households beyond existing networks and ensuring they have information, training and inputs.

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Case studies on women’s livelihoods

This story is the first in a series of case studies on the livelihoods of women in Laclubar and Soibada from indepth interviews carried out in 2018-19. We interviewed 1) women currently involved in the agroforestry program; 2) women not participating but interested, and 3) women unable to participate and why. We now have a broader understanding of how the project is impacting on people’s lives and who is missing out, so we can improve participation and outcomes.

Fernanda Soares du Terre, Soibada

“When we look after the trees, we can get money from the trees”

Fernanda is 54 years old with adult children (4 boys, 3 girls). Most are living in Dili, Bacau and Salau. Her husband decided to become part of the project but she is OK with the decision. They own their land, which they inherited through her husband’s father. They grow mahogany, coffee, teak. In 2018, they got $1600-$2000 in payments from the project for their trees. She thinks the project is good because when they look after the trees, they can get money from the trees. When they cut the trees they can make tables, chairs, and a house. They cut some trees this year that had been planted in 2013 and were 5 years old, to thin the plantation out as it was too dense. Sometimes cows come and destroy trees which limits their production. If this happens, they talk to the village head and cow owner to work out compensation. Fernanda thinks the value of her land will increase with the trees.


“The most important thing at the moment is to find money to pay for the children’s education”

Fernanda spends approximately 1 hour each day cleaning the house and preparing breakfast for the children. She spends approximately 2-3 hours washing clothes each day and another 1 hour if preparing rice and 1.5 hours if preparing corn for the meals. Every day, she helps her husband bring in the palm wine which they sell in Dili every month but this is dependent on transport which can be unreliable. They get $4/litre on average for the wine but it depends on how much people can pay. They also exchange wine for noodles and rice in the shop in Soibada. Fernanda helps on the farm with growing cassava, planting and harvesting vegetables such as corn and potato. She spends the  approximately 3 hours per day working on the farm. There is also work in a group rotation of ‘cleaning or weeding’ the farm, where they rotate around each others farms. Other duties include cleaning the church with others in a group.

Fernanda believes the most important thing at the moment is to find money to pay for the children’s education for university and to take care of the children. When the children have finished their education, she wants them to have a good job. She plans to build a good house. They need the roads to be fixed and access to water, particularly in the dry season. The transport in the area also needs to be improved.


Soibada primary school

Ecology expert visits Laclubar-Soibada

Dr Graeme Gillespie, a wildlife ecologist from Darwin, Australia, visited Laclubar and Soibada with Dr Joanne Millar from 18th to 23 September 2019 to assess the potential for a robust scientific biodiversity assessment in 2020. Graeme is Director of Terrestrial Ecosystems, Northern Territory Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Australia. He has many years experience conducting biodiversity research in Borneo, Sulawesi and Australia. We visited several of the agroforestry sites in Laclubar, Bora, and Soibada with COTI field staff (from left- Maria, Isa, Vincentes, Pedro and Guido)


Four main remnant native habitat types were also inspected including: dry woodland dominated by Eucalyptus alba; tall open forest dominated by E. urophylla; monsoon rainforest and montane rainforest. These remnant native habitat patches are potentially important refuges for biodiversity.  However they are threatened by frequent and intense fires, farming, timber and firewood collection, intensive livestock grazing, weed invasion and hunting.


Eucalyptus urophylla (Ai Ru) forest near Laclubar

A proposal has been drafted to assess the distribution and composition of biodiversity persisting in Laclubar and Soibada by conducting repeat sampling across all five forest types for birds, reptiles, frogs and small mammals. The information will allow us to;

  • Evaluate the role of plantation-agricultural environments and remnant native habitats for supporting biodiversity, and the co-benefits from carbon schemes.
  • Identify management options for maintaining or enhancing biodiversity values in the area.
  • Provide a baseline for future monitoring and evaluation of wildlife and habitat condition.
  • Increase awareness about biodiversity and its importance in local communities.
  • Provide training and capacity building for undertaking biodiversity research.

For more information, contact Joanne Millar at


Women make jams, candies and soaps for sale

Twenty five women from Laclubar and Soibada participated in 2 days training in making jams, ketchup, tamarind candies and scented soaps using locally available ingredients. The training was funded by GTNT and Intowork Australia, and delivered by a lady from the Philippines. The jams and candies proved popular and sold quickly to local people!



Women’s rural enterprise program

COTI has launched a new program to enable women from Laclubar and Soibada to start up new enterprises. They will be trained in how to make candies, marmalade, ketchup and scented soap made from locally available agro-crops. Eight women will be provided with a loan of $500 to be repaid with zero interest rate. The funds will be rotated to other women until it reaches as many women as possible in a revolving fund mechanism. This is an exciting program being financed by GTNT and Interwork, Australia.



Conference papers presented in Peru and Timor Leste

Two conference papers have been presented in the last month about the project. Alex Sarmento presented a paper titled “Community forest carbon schemes in Timor Leste: 20 years on” at the Timor Leste Studies Association conference in Dili from 27-28 June 2019. The paper will be published in the conference proceedings later in 2019. A copy of the presentation can be obtained from Alex Sarmento at

On the other side of the Pacific, Jorge Ramos presented a paper on “Facilitating transition from degraded commons to reforested land and better livelihoods using voluntary carbon schemes: Lessons from Timor-Leste”  in Lima, Peru. The conference was the International Association for Study of the Commons. The paper will be published in the Digital Library of the Commons later in 2019. For a copy of the paper and/or presentation, please email Jorge at


Whilst in Peru, Jorge Ramos and Joanne Millar visited a 10 year REDD+ program involving 1,000 coffee growers who have signed conservation agreements with Conservation International to protect remaining rainforest in and around the Alto Mayo Protected Area. Growers receive technical advice and tools to grow better quality, organic and premium priced coffee, cocoa and fruit on existing land instead of cutting down forest. Communities are also developing tourism facilities and programs. Funding comes from carbon credits and donations from BHP and Disney Pty Ltd. Lots of lessons and ideas for Timor Leste!


Coffee farmer from Alto Mayo showing medicinal rainforest plant from protected forest




Project Design Document submitted!

After two years of hard work by Jorge Ramos, Alex Sarmento and the GTNT field staff in Laclubar, the Project Design Document (PDD) has just been submitted to Plan Vivo Foundation for carbon accreditation assessment. If you are wondering what goes into a PDD, here is a list of information required (in case your project is considering carbon credits!). Beware, it is not for the faint hearted! Sound carbon modelling is required based on thorough on-ground assessment. And this is just the beginning…..if the project is approved by PV, the next step will be third party auditing and verification. Only after passing the audit, can credits be issued and carbon buyers approached. Watch this space as we continue the journey towards carbon farming for Timor Leste!

Part A: Aims & Objectives
Part B: Site Information
Part C: Community & Livelihoods Information
Part D: Project Interventions & Activities
Part E: Community Participation
Part F: Ecosystem Services & Other Project Benefits
Part G: Technical Specifications
Part H: Risk Management
Part I: Project Coordination and Management
Part J: Benefit Sharing
Part K: Monitoring

Final data collection for Project Design Document

Project staff in Australia and Timor Leste have been busy collecting data for the Project Design Document over the last few months. Project manager, Alex Sarmento in Dili reports on the following activities;

Completion of baseline data collection for 43 degraded sites and 5 pastures sites 

Five field staff in Soibada and Laclubar undertook baseline data collection for 43 degraded sites in and around planting sites of Laclubar and Soibada. In addition, they also gathered biomass data from 5 sites classified as pasture or potential agriculture land. The sites were randomly selected from satellite data and were provided to the field team. The sites were identified through GPS coordinates pre-selected by Jorge Ramos, the project’s forest expert based in Australia.

Signing of land ownership declaration by each farmer

140 farmers (150 locations) in Soibada and Laclubar signed the land ownership declaration forms. The forms were endorsed and approved by local authorities and their neighbours testified to the declarations. This is to ensure that there is no potential land ownership conflict particularly in the sites where trees are planted for carbon sequestration. In cases where farmers plant trees but do not own the land, the farmers then signed a different form as an agreement between land owners and tree planting farmers.

Survival counting of trees by each farmer

Each farmer has completed a template table of how many trees have survived according to species and year planted. The data is submitted to the project team for desk review which include checks and verification against the old data base of the previous tree survival counting. If it exceeds the number of trees planted the area will be subject to verification by the project team.  In addition, the project team will randomly select 10% of all sites in each Suco for full counting of trees on selected sites to verify the veracity and accuracy of farmers’ survival counting. The allowable count discrepancy between farmers and field team for a given site will be +/- 5%. If the discrepancy is outside this range then the farmer will have to re-count trees together with the field team and a cash payment should be made to the common fund by the party causing the error (i.e. farmer and / or project administration).

Completion of GPS maps for the 19 old sites and 46 new sites 

There are 46 new site plantings in 2019. All of them have been mapped with GPS. In addition there are 19 previously planted sites that were mapped by the field team.


47,000 trees planted!

Farmers at Laclubar and Soibada have finished tree planting for this wet season. In total, 47,000 seedlings of mahogany, casuarina and white teak were planted. The 24 farmer run nurseries grew 49,000 seedlings but some died or were too small to plant this year.

Field staff continue to do final measurements of plantation areas, tree size and non-tree areas for inclusion in the Project Design Document to be submitted to Plan Vivo Foundation at the end of April.

Launch of COTI: Carbon offsets Timor Leste

On January 28 2019, our major partner organisation Group Training Northern Territory (GTNT) launched a new NGO and office in Dili. Known as COTI- Carbon Offsets Timor Leste, the aim is to consolidate carbon offset activities in Laclubar and Soibada with potential to expand within the area and beyond to other sites over time. The Facebook address is

The launch was addressed by Dr Jose Ramos Horta on Timor Leste in a Global context, and Mr Manual Mendes, Director General, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Dept of Forestry. CEO of COTI, Mr Alex Sarmento explained Community Forest Carbon and what has transpired in Timor Leste to date. Presentations were also given by the Director of the National Directorate of Climate Change, Mr Augusto Pinto; and Dr Adao Soares Barbosa, Director of UNTL Centre for Climate Change and Biodiversity and TL focal point to the UNFCCC.

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