Executive Forum on Food Security: Leaders in ASEAN Agriculture and Development for Timor Leste

Executive Forum on Food Security: Leaders in ASEAN Agriculture and Development for Timor Leste

Background and Rationale

Click to downloadThe global agriculture landscape is undergoing changes and challenges, driven by a multitude of factors both anthropogenic and natural – climate change, food security, the financialization of commodities, biofuels – to name a few. In the face of these challenges, leaders in the agriculture and development communities in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) need to level up in skills and knowledge, and be familiar with the nuances associated with managing a changing landscape. Moreover, leaders also face the multidisciplinary nature of the issues, even their connectedness – all of which require the capacity of leaders to take more holistic views and make multilateral decisions on complex matters.

In the long run, global competitiveness is inextricably linked to sustainability and global effectiveness. In the ASEAN region and in Timor Leste, agricultural development plays strategic roles in economic development. To maximize its potential for growth, sustainable agricultural development needs bold and deliberate actions in trade and investment, which could gain the best advantage in international market.

In Timor Leste, agriculture is the main subsistence provider for an estimated 80 percent of the country's population. As of 2015, 67.2 percent of Timor Leste's more than 1.2 million people live in the rural areas. Agriculture in the country generates an average of 90 percent of the exports, mainly due to coffee. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (2015), the agricultural Gross Domestic Product Product (GDP) of Timor Leste (about one-third of the country's non-oil GDP) grew by three percent between 2000 and 2007. The productivity of all crops grown in the country is considered low and the major food crops (maize and rice) and cash crop (coffee) continue to exhibit erratic production levels. Owing to its mountainous topography, extreme and changing weather conditions and deforestation and other unsustainable practices that are negatively affecting the country's arable land, Timor Leste is suffering rapid land degradation.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) has developed five programs to achieve its mission and goal, namely: production and productivity, markets and value addition, enabling environment (policy, institutions, infrastructure), organizational strengthening, and natural resources conservation and management.

The National University of Timor Leste (NUTL) is the only public university and major institution of higher education in Timor Leste. It was founded on 17 November 2000 as a result of the reorganization and merger of Universitas Timor Timur and Politeknik Dili.

Both MAF and NUTL are key institutions assisting the government in accelerating and diversifying Timor Leste's economy so that it becomes less dependent on oil and gas. Strategies to achieve this are embedded in the country's Strategic Development Plan for 2011-2030, which is built around four pillars:

  • Social capital: health, education, and social protection;
  • Infrastructure: transport, telecommunication, power, and water supply and sanitation;
  • Economic foundations: targeting three sectors for development – agriculture, tourism and petrochemicals – to bring about growth, jobs, and new sources of public revenues beyond oil; and
  • Institutional framework: focusing on macroeconomic management and improving the capacity and effectiveness of government institutions.

SAAT is an association of former graduate scholars of SEARCA who established themselves as a group in Timor Leste. SEARCA sustains its connection with SAAT by continually fostering their participation in the work for sustainable agricultural and rural development.

Timor Leste filed its application for membership to the ASEAN in 2011. It is expected to be accepted to the ASEAN fold by 2017.

A leadership capacity development program for Timor Leste's agricultural community, which promotes sustained economic growth under prevailing social, economic, biophysical, and global realities is thus imperative.

Given this analysis, SEARCA proposes to collaborate with MAF, NUTL, and SAAT to organize the in-country executive forum on LAAD in Timor Leste.

LAAD for Timor Leste aims to build a community of leaders in agriculture in the country who are empowered with knowledge on key contemporary issues in agriculture and food security, with focus on new knowledge, high impact yet appropriate technologies, and innovative approaches, so that the challenges arising from a dynamic agri-food landscape may be met.

Learning Objectives

Specifically, the Forum aims to equip participants to:

  1. Articulate on the complex mix of drivers in the environment, which pose both challenges and opportunities to food security as a component of agriculture and development;
  2. Analyze the challenges facing Timor Leste's agriculture and development toward identifying and prioritizing changes that respond to these challenges;
  3. Describe a "leadership of change in complex systems" approach to food security;
  4. Assess the application of futuring and syndicates as tools to develop projects for changing agriculture in Timor Leste.
  5. Cite and commit to apply essential skills to cope with a leadership role, focusing on project development, team building, and communication.


Intended forum participants are 30-35 middle managers to senior leaders in national agriculture, fisheries, and rural development agencies such as Heads of Departments, with responsibility on matters related to agriculture, food security, and sustainable development; officials in related government agencies, with responsibility for aspects on food security; and senior and middle-level officials of higher education institutions (HEIs) in agriculture and related fields.


The forum focuses on the role of agriculture (crops and animals), together with aquaculture, in relation to four commonly expressed government goals:

  • Sustainable rural development
  • Conserving natural resources in the environment
  • Achieving competitive agricultural exports
  • Ensuring food security for rural and urban populations

This Forum will include lectures on leadership and learning syndicates and will cover the following modules:

  • Module 1: New Elements and Over-arching issues in the Agriculture-Development Landscape
  • Module 2: The ASEAN Landscape for Food Security, Agriculture, and Development
  • Module 3: Leadership Modes and Skills

Expected Output

Participants will choose one topic out of the complex milieu of topics in the global environment. They will develop in groups a two-to-three page "thought piece" on how Timor Leste is currently addressing this topic and what needs to be changed to achieve desired outcomes. This "thought piece" or "futures project" constitutes a case study for change management in Timor Leste's agricultural landscape.

It is further anticipated that the futures projects, captured in the form of "thought pieces," will provide the basis for further development into "Project Concept Notes" for potential funding by interested donors.

Learning Syndicate

Each participant will be assigned to a Learning Syndicate. A Learning Syndicate is a group of participants bound by common interest and able to self-organize to discuss and generate new knowledge. Each syndicate will work as a team to nurture collaborative learning by deepening knowledge acquired in topical sessions led by resource experts. Each syndicate will have an academic mentor. Each syndicate group will select a topic to work on, to demonstrate leadership in designing a futuristic response plan to that topic (e.g., climate change or biotechnology). Each member contributes to the syndicate's "thought piece." Each syndicate will share its Futures Project at the end of the Forum.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Maria Celeste H. Cadiz
Program Head
Knowledge Management Department
Tel.: +63 49 554 9330 to 36, local 3500
Fax: +63 49 536 2283

Ms. Nova A. Ramos
Program Specialist
Training Unit-KMD
Tel.: +63 49 554 9330 to 36, local 3501
Fax: +63 49 536 2283
Email: ;

Mr. Agustinho da Costa Ximenes
Agriculture Program Manager
Rua Dom Boaventura No.12,
Motael – Vera Cruz, Dili,Timor Leste
Tel.: +6703324641