01.05.2013 - UNESCO Office in Jakarta

Focus Group Discussions on community’s livelihood priorities and values based on traditional ecological knowledge held in Ataúro Island, Timor-Leste, 3 – 10 April 2013

@Fajar Djati/UNESCO

On 3rd – 10th April 2013, approximately 30 community representatives and heads of villages of Biqueli and Maquili in Ataúro Island, Timor-Leste, gathered to attend Focus Group Discussions (FDG) to determine community’s livelihoods priorities and values based on Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). This activity was implemented as part of a project titled “Fostering Coastal Community Livelihoods and Resilience through Revitalization of Timor-Leste’s Traditional Ecological Knowledge”. In implementing this project, UNESCO Office Jakarta is working in collaboration with a community-owned NGO, Roman Luan.

Located 25km north of Dili, Ataúro is the largest of the two islands in Timor-Leste currently administered by the District of Dili. The island stretches about 25km from north to south and 9km from east to west and is inhabited by approximately 8000 people who are spread across five sucos (villages), i.e Biqueli, Beloi, Macadade, Maquili and Vila-Maumeta. Ataúro is an island characterized by a rugged landscape, a wealth in marine biodiversity and vibrant traditional customs and beliefs, which nowadays face constant threats due to development activities and the community’s heavy reliance on marine resources. Government officials, NGOs and UN agencies need to work together to ensure that Ataúro community can safeguard their cultural and natural assets to improve their livelihoods. 

Sciences for Society Unit of UNESCO Office Jakarta has identified that sustainable investment in community assets and income-generating options play a significant role to deal with the current challenges faced by the Ataúro community. The objective of this project is to support and empower coastal communities in Biqueli and Maquili to make sound decisions relating to their environment, and acquire sources of alternative income generation through capitalizing and mobilizing local cultural and natural assets and traditional knowledge in a sustainable and self-sufficient manner. Biqueli and Maquili were selected as two villages for the project, since they represent strong community interest in natural resources conservation based on TEK among coastal communities in Ataúro island. 

The first activity conducted was community-based research which took place in Biqueli and Maquili in early April 2013. Participatory focus group discussion techniques were adopted to elicit in-depth information on TEK pertaining to each village. A suco meeting was held on the following day to validate the FDG results. Through this meeting, livelihood priorities for each village were identified and agreed, i.e. livelihoods, traditional medicine and health, conflict resolution, arts and hand crafts. As the next step, Roman Luan team is currently conducting a field survey and interviews with local communities to obtain more detailed information on their traditional ecological knowledge and practices about the natural environment and resource conservation. 

The results from community-based research on TEK in Ataúro Island will be used as a basis for developing teaching materials for community workshops on alternative income generation, which is planned to be held in June 2013. In order to advocate the revitalization of TEK as the foundation for fostering sustainable livelihoods and resilience on Atauro, a community seminar involving representatives from all the five sucos, plus representatives from the local government, churches and other local institutions will also be held in July 2013. 

For more information on the ISP project, please contact Ms. Lisa Hiwasaki at l.hiwasaki@unesco.org

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