Community-based research on traditional ecological knowledge, development of environmental education materials, and implementation of training on traditional ecological knowledge in Community Learning Centres (CLCs) in Timor Leste (May - December 2011)

Traditional weaving activity in Suai, Timor Leste (©UNESCO/Katy Anis)

Timor Leste, a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), is classified as a least developed country (LDC) by the UN. Estimated 80% to 90% of the population depends directly on natural resources for their livelihood. Overexploitation of hardwoods, along with the expansion of agriculture, as well as climate change impacts, have lead to a decline in the capacity of the country’s resource base to sustain the rapidly increasing population, resulting in persistent problems of food security and access to water.

The population in Timor Leste consists of several distinct indigenous groups of Malayo-Polynesian (Austronesian) and Melanesian-Papuan descent, with sixteen ethnic languages being spoken in addition to Portugese and Indonesian. Efforts made to increase the resilience of the environment and of the people must therefore take fully into account the cultural and linguistic diversity of the country. Against this background, developing a community-based environmental education programme based on local and indigenous knowledge is thus particularly relevant and has the potential to play an important role in building resilience of communities, enabling them to recover from threats and damage caused by extreme events and climate change impacts, and halt environmentally destructive activities.

Within the framework Capacity development for Education For All (EFA) 2010-2011 on Building National Capacity of Timor-Leste for Evidence-based Literacy Policy Initiatives and Effective Monitoring of Literacy Programmes (CapEFA TL), SCS Unit implemented activities aimed to strengthen the existing traditional knowledge on textile traditions of Timor-Leste and to develop extracurricular booklets and materials on environmental issues in local languages based on traditional knowledge. In 2011, the Unit conducted a review on plants and textile traditions (with strong traditional ecological knowledge component) in Timor Leste, analyzed existing materials used in national literacy programmes, and developed booklets/materials based on research conducted.  Using this material, Training of Trainers (TOTs) were implemented in three Community Learning Centres:  Bazertote, Liquica district (9 December 2011), in Kraras, Viqueque district (12-13 December 2011) and in Ililapa, Lospalos (15-16 December 2011).

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