Timor-Leste celebrates progress on World Water Day

3 min read
Timor-Leste girls holds buckets of water
Image: WaterAid/Josefina Pereira

Celebrations were in order in Timor-Leste on World Water Day last month, with the rural village of Suco Liurai being declared “Open Defecation Free” and a tree planting ceremony taking place in Likisa. Both events were held to acknowledge World Water Day on Friday 22 March, which this year had the theme of “Leaving no one behind”.

Over 40 households and almost 200 people in Suco Liurai, Turiskai, Manufahi now have access to clean water and toilets thanks to the work of WaterAid and local partner Fundasaun Luta ba Futuru (FLBF).

“The communities organised themselves to build the water systems in the village with the assistance from our technical staff,” FLBF program manager Armando da Silva said. The water system construction is still in progress but is on track to finish in May 2019.

Suco Liurai is a very rural village in Manufahi, which has no electricity, supermarkets, public transportation or public services such as health care facilities. It takes approximately 6 to 8 hours of walk to reach the village from the main street, and the majority of the population are farmers.

Suco Liurai

In addition to celebrating their new Open Defecation Free status, the Suco Liurai community also took the initiative to plant trees near water resources as part of a National Tree Planting Campaign. This activity aims to protect water resources in the village.

Meanwhile in Tibalau, Gugleur village in Likisa, at a simultaneous World Water Day celebration event, community leaders also partook in a tree planting event. This initiative was recently launched by the Timorese government in order to replenish forests and restore wetlands to mitigate the effects of climate change and improve human health.

Hundreds of thousands of seedlings were prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (MAFP) Timor-Leste, Likisa. “We need to stop wildfires and cut down trees near water resources,” MAFP Director Mr. Mario da Silva said. “Water is so important to all lives, including human, animal, and biodiversity.”

“This World Water Day, we’re calling our attention to protecting our water resources because trees can improve water quality as they grow and the roots also help break up compacted soils through infiltration process.”

Tibalau, Gugleur village in Likisa

During the event, which was attended by local government, local partners, civil society and Water User Groups, WaterAid’s work in Likisa was acknowledged. The chief of the Water User Group revealed that locals have been walking long distances (about four and a half kilometrs) to collect water for almost 20 years, but this has now changed.

“During the dry season we used a small boat to collect water, but sometimes we also had a hard time due to heavy waves and we could not use our boat anymore because it’s not good to risk ourselves prior to fetching water on the other side,” Marcelino Afonso, one of the beneficiaries of Lualisa and Tibalau water system, said. He also explained that locals often gave up on other activities just to collect water. “But now, everything seems much easier since WaterAid helped establish a water system in our village.”

Also during the event, Diresaun Servisu Agua e Saneamentu (DSASA) Likisa municipality representative Mr. Luciano dos Santos asked for communities to constantly take care of the existing facilities and maintain its sustainability. He also added that it is important to contribute funds for operations and maintenance as stated in WUGs policies. DSASA will provide finance and management training to Post Administrative Facilitators (FPAs) in order to help support sustainability of water, sanitation and hygiene systems in rural areas.

The municipality administrator’s representative Mr. Renato Nunes Serão explained that World Water Day is a worldwide celebration and an important day for everyone. “All mankind needs water, and therefore our government is committed to providing support to its people in terms of basic infrastructures like electricity, road, and clean water.”