The Deputy SRSG/Resident Coordinator, Mr. Finn Reske-Nielsen, visited three projects implemented by the Government with the support of the UNCDF-UNDP Joint Local Governance Support Programme (LGSP) in Same, Manufahi District, accompanying high level representatives of the international community in Timor Leste, including Norway, New Zealand, Ireland, European Union, Ausaid and other UN representatives.
“Since 2007 through LGSP, UNDP and UNCDF in close collaboration with UNMIT have been supporting the Government of Timor Leste to establish an accountable and effective local government and Decentralization in the country, - says Mr. Reske-Nielsen. – I am personally impressed with the concrete impact of the projects developed in the Manufahi District, where hundreds of families now have access to water facilities, medical services and a growing market structure”.
After an introductory meeting with the Manufahi District Administrator, the group visited the Same District Hospital, whose rehabilitation was completed in 2009, following specific requests from various communities at that time. The project substantially improved the hygienic conditions of the structure, which is now a key reference for more than 50,000 people residing in the area, including some Sub-Districts of the Manatuto District.
In Same the Local Development Programme (LDP) supported the rehabilitation of two buildings of a local market in 2008 and 2009. After the inauguration of the market, community members, mostly women, were able to sell their local products throughout the year, whereas before the commercial activity was heavily affected by the road conditions and lack of transportation during the long rainy season.
“When there was no market I used to sell my squash and cassava in my own house, with just a few friends buying – explained Domingas, one of the many women working every day in the market – But now my income has more than doubled and I can buy books for the kids”.
In Maniku, Suco of Letefoho, the group had the chance to interact with some of the beneficiaries of a Water Supply Project completed in 2010. Before the project, women and children had no access to water and needed to go to nearest river, which is at a 2 hours walk. Now, they don’t spend more than 10 minutes. In all the projects, the LGSP provides technical support to the District Assembly in terms of local planning, prioritization of proposals and assistance throughout the project implementation phase. The Local Development Programme (LDP) was introduced in Timor Leste in 2004 by UNCDF and UNDP in partnership with the Government and with the key contribution of the Government of Ireland as main donor.
"A concrete, well resourced and vibrant local governance is crucial for a balanced rural development. - said Mr. Eoghan Walsh, Head of Mission of Irish Aid- Irish Aid has been supporting decentralization and local governance in Timor Leste since their very early stages and we intend to continue our support in future as part of our Country Strategy for Timor Leste for 2010-2013”.
Under the LDP, communities are able to identify their practical needs and priorities thorough a participatory local planning mechanism, in areas such as health care, education and small infrastructure. The LDP also supports capacity development at the local level through the provision of block grants to local assemblies, enabling them to develop management skills through an integrated approach of learning by doing in issues such as budgeting, procurement, monitoring and evaluation.
“The strong engagement of local communities is the key for successful rural development – said Ali Gillies, Head of Mission of AusAID - “The local governance projects that we have visited today are great examples of how a bottom-up participatory process in identifying needs and priorities can make a big difference for the beneficiaries”.
“With the increased focus that the Government of Timor Leste now gives to local governance and rural development,- says Hans Peter Christophersen, Head of Mission of the Royal Norwegian Embassy Section - we were very pleased to observe the significance of the impact of LGSP, partly supported by Norway, to the local communities in Manufahi. The visits to the Same market, District Administration Office, District Hospital and Water Supply Project were excellent examples of projects adding a lot of value to the communities”.
In 2011 the Ministry for State Administration and Territorial Management allocated US$ 3.5 million for the Local Development Fund (LDF). The budget will cover the implementation of small scale development projects mostly in the area of infrastructure, education and health care services, in all the 13 Districts of the country. Out of the total budget, US$ 183,000 has been allocated to Manufahi.
“No development will be viable or sustainable without the valuable participation of the communities in all the different steps of the project implementation, – states Carlitos Martins, MSATM Director General – and it is through and on behalf of the communities that the Government has strongly endorsed the Local Governance Support Programme principles and objectives”.