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Sustainable Agriculture Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP)

$21 million to increase the productivity and marketed production of smallholder agriculture.
Photo: Joao dos Santos


In Timor Leste, the agriculture sector sustains the livelihoods of 64% of the country’s labor force, but contributes to only around 10% of the economy. The unemployment rate is around 70%, with more than half of the population under 25 years old. Malnutrition and food insecurity are particularly pervasive in remote rural areas, which in many cases are only accessible by horse or foot, and nearly all households exhaust their home-grown food supplies within nine months. These areas typically have rain-fed crop land used for unsustainable small-scale subsistence farming, and large areas on steep slopes with infertile soils. They are also particularly vulnerable to weather shocks like floods and off-season rains.


SAPIP aims to improve incomes, food security, and nutrition in select areas of Timor-Leste by improving country-led public sector investments to increase smallholder agricultural productivity, empowering farmers and linking them to markets, strengthening adaptive research and extension institutions, reducing risk and vulnerability, improving rural non-farm livelihoods, and strategically deploying technical assistance. The project supports municipal and watershed agriculture development planning, farm development initiatives, small-scale infrastructure and farm equipment, and the Ministry of Agriculture’s planning, financing, monitoring, and coordination functions. It focuses on improved watershed management to enhance livelihoods and to reduce climate-related vulnerability by improving water management and supporting agro/social and commercial forestry for environmental rehabilitation. Activities also include developing and strengthening farmer groups (FGs), associations, and cooperatives, which will engage women and young people. As SAPIP introduces new technologies, it plans to roll out training using the Farmer Field School model, targeting newly established FGs, to increase farmers’ knowledge and skills on agriculture best practices and to demonstrate the benefits and cost-savings associated with working as a group. Additionally, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is supporting the government to strengthen its monitoring and evaluation functions.

Project Status



  • Timor-Leste



Focus area

  • Fragility

Supervising entity

  • World Bank


After an initial delay due to the national election, SAPIP began implementing and has contracted NGOs to support project activities in watershed management planning. As of December 2020, the project has benefitted 71,195 people, of which 37 percent are women, and has provided 57,898 days of training. Significant progress has been made with FGs, and 12,794 farmers are now members of an association (77 percent of the end target of 16,500), including 4,642 female farmers (94 percent of the end target of 4,950). This achievement has led to 28 percent of the targeted farmers and 33% of the targeted female farmers already having started to adopt improved management practices and agricultural technology promoted by the project.


Jan Joost Nijhoff
Senior Agriculture Economist & Task Team Leader, +62-21-5299-30392