Timor-Leste Placeholder

Tara Bandu and participatory land use planning

About the Implementing organization

Name: RAEBIA- Timor-Leste

Country: Timor-Leste

Year of establishment: 2013

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization / Legally recognized non-profit status


One of the most serious end threats in TL is slash-and-burn agriculture. Although banned, the weakness of gov. institutions and national law has meant that this agricultural system persists. In 2007, RAEBIA began to look for a solution by combining modern and traditional approaches. The modern approach aimed to replace shifting agriculture with permanent terrace-farming, to replace the open-grazing of animals with a household- based livestock system, and to set aside spaces for forest conservation. Yet it became clear that more had to be done not only to promote the new practices associated with permanent farming but also to prohibit the old ones associated with slash-and-burn. RAEBIA found the answer in an indigenous system of law and resource mgmt that dates from the pre-colonial period. Known as Tara Bandu (TB), it placed cultural taboos on hunting and clearing land. TB had fallen into disuse during the Indonesian period (75-99). RAEBIA was the first NGO to blend traditional resource regulation with an agricultural agenda consisting of farming, livestock mgmt and forest conservation. The traditional authority of TB now serves to fortify and legitimise a new system of land mgmt, enacted through RAEBIA’s Participatory Land-Use Planning Program (PLUP). This combination of old and new means that RAEBIA has not imposed an external system of regulation, but relied on a deeply-rooted tradition to effect change ‘from the inside’: moving with culture rather than against it.

Nature Element

Forests / Mountains / Rivers

Type of Action

Protection / Restoration / Sustainable use / Access and benefit sharing / Awareness and education

Sustainable Development Element

Food security / Water security / Climate action

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

In Batara and Faturasa the initiative has reduced shifting ag by two thirds over a five-year period. This reduction is a direct result of the TB-related fines, which have been imposed assiduously by leaders who have recognized the importance of soil protection given the loss of arable land. In the new zones flagged as ‘protected old forest’, burning has stopped. Strategies that meet the requirements for grazing has also eliminated open-grazing in 6 of 8 sub-villages. Clarification of village boundaries, using GPS, have also reduced border and land disputes. In 5 villages, permanent terrace-farming was made operational on marginal soils using mulching: increasing arable land and reducing pressure on regenerated forest. Improvements in water availability are anticipated since water is scarce in the dry season. As forest regeneration proceeds, a more sustainable harvest of wood for homes/fencing and will be possible and the use of terrain according to conservation principles.

Sustainable Development Impacts

There is a complex relationship between slash-and-burn agriculture and GHG emissions. The indiscriminate and often uncontrolled burning in rural TL contributes greatly to GHG emissions. The hoped for expansion to all watersheds, is therefore of national significance. Sustainable terracing requires no burning, and therefore limits emissions, while forest conservation counteracts the GH effect. Crop variety diversity similarly counters the potential losses resulting from vulnerable monoculture practices, especially given climate-change related irregularities in rainfall in a land where nearly all crops are rain-fed. Forested lands, reduce soil degradation and runoff, and in extreme cases will prevent landslides, to which TL is susceptible from extreme weather. Forest conservation leads to water conservation locally and downstream; As the dry season becomes longer, as the rains become less predictable, water retention and managing the irregularity and availability of water is critical.


The success of the initiative has laid the groundwork for its spread to other watersheds. How RAEBIA has implemented this initiative, the mistakes made and lessons learned, directly impinge on how it will be implemented in the remaining areas. It has been designed on the basis of policy and knowledge, but it also generates knowledge and templates for practice at the national level and determined not only for collectives of NGOs but also for the Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry. As much in formal reunions as in informal gatherings and encounters, knowledge and technologies, meanings and intentions, aims and aspirations, are being exchanged, produced, and adapted in all directions, between individuals, farmers, experts and institutions, governmental and NGO. The Tara Bandu PLUP is both local and national, operating at every level, with RAEBIA’s practice positioned at the centre of what is effectively a broad network of multi-scaled and multi-sited experiences and interventions.


The Tara Bandu process was recognised for their impact on the community and landscape within 5 years. Since 2010, there has been a steady increase the watersheds where TB/ PLUPhas taken place. This has been with local, government and international support: JICA, USC, FAO
1Faturasa Remexio Aileu2009
2Fadabloco Remexio Aileu 2011
3Hautoho Remexio Aileu 2012
4Tulataqeu Remexio Aileu 2009
5Batara Laclubar Manatuto 2014
6Manelima Laclubar " 2014
7Cribas Manatuto " going
8Orlalan Laclubar " going
9Gurusa Quilikai Baucau 2016
10LakuliuQuilikai " 2016
11Umana-IcoVenilale " 2016
12Umana-UluVenilale " 2016
13Fatulia Venilale " 2016
14Uatuhaco Venilale " going
15Uailaha Venilale " going
16Letemumo Quiikai " going
17Macalacu Quilikai Baucau 05/2017
18Crito Rei Dili Ongoing
19Fahisoi Lequidoe Aileu On going
20Fahisoi Remexio Aileu On going
21Maumeta Remexio Aileu 5/17
22Manucasa Lequidoe Aileu 5/17

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