Timor-Leste is one of the most populated countries in the BSRP project, with a population of more than 1.2 million people. One of the newest countries in the world, Timor-Leste became independent from Indonesia in May 2002. Its land mass includes the eastern half of the island of Timor, the Oecussi (Ambeno) region on the northwest portion of the island of Timor, and the islands of Palau Atauro and Palau Jaco.

Timor-Leste has 13 administrative districts, namely Aileu, Ainaro, Baucau, Bobonaro, Covalima, Manufahi, Oecussi, Dili, Ermera, Lautem, Liquića, Manatuto and Viqueque. The country is further subdivided into 65 sub-districts, 442 sucos (villages), and 2,225 aldeias (hamlets)[1].


In terms of population distribution, the three most populated districts are Díli, Baucau and Ermera which are home to about 43% of the population. Díli district alone has about 234,331 people (an increase of 33.3% since 2004). The three least populated districts are Manatuto, Aileu and Manufahi (with 13% of the population). The average household size is 5.8 and the proportion of the population living in rural areas is about 70.4%.

Timor-Leste’s topography is dominated by a massive central mountainous backbone that rises to 3,000 meters and is dissected by deep valleys. On the northern side the mountains extend almost to the coast, but on the southern part the mountains taper off some distance from the coast, which provides areas of coastal plain. Up to 44% of the area has a slope of 40%.

Timor-Leste’s climate is affected by the West Pacific monsoon, which is driven by large differences in temperature between the land and the ocean.

According to the Pacific Climate Change Science Program (PCCSP) report[1], temperatures have warmed in Timor-Leste and will continue to warm with more very hot days in the future. Rainfall data for Dili Airport show a clear decreasing trend in annual and dry season rainfall since 1952; however there are data gaps. Rainfall patterns are projected to change over this century with more extreme rainfall days but little change in drought frequency. By the end of this century projections suggest decreasing numbers of tropical cyclones. Sea level near Timor-Leste has risen and will continue to rise throughout this century. Ocean acidification has been increasing in Timor-Leste’s waters, and will continue to increase and threaten coral reef ecosystems.

As with many other countries in the region, Timor-Leste is prone to disasters triggered by natural hazards. The main hazards are hydro-meteorological. Heavy seasonal rain is normally marked by flash flooding and landslides that can destroy fragile road networks, isolate communities and disrupt economic activities. Storms with strong winds occur very frequently and are problematic for the flimsy constructions that characterise the houses of the rural communities. On the other hand, a long dry season can cause drought, provoking wildfires and food scarcity which have affected districts and villages in different parts of the country. However, these recurrent hazards are mostly localised and involve a relatively small number of families per event. Threats from geological hazards also exist, although these are rare events. However, earthquakes and possibly tsunamis are challenges that need to be considered because of the potential they have to cause significant damage.

[1] Climate Change in the Pacific: Scientific Assessment and New Research. Ch. 2 Climate of Western Tropical Pacific and East Timor (2011). URL: http://www.pacificclimatechangescience.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Ch.-2.-Climate-of-the-Western-Tropical-Pacific-and-East-Timor.pdf


[1] National Statistics Directorate and United Nations Population Fund, 2011. “Population and Housing Census of Timor Leste, 2010. Volume 2: Population distribution by administrative areas”