Abstract: Timor-Leste, the southern hemisphere’s newest nation and one of our nearest neighbours, is striving for a future defined by economic independence and food sovereignty. While huge strides have been made in the short time since independence, many challenges remain. Notably, chronic food insecurity persists, illustrated brutally by a childhood stunting (growth limited by inadequate nutrition) rate of 58% – amongst the worst in the world. If managed well, fisheries have a critical role to play in improving food security and national food sovereignty.
The protracted nature of the independence struggle and the ‘scorched earth’ policy of the departing Indonesian forces have left a disturbingly ‘clean slate’ in terms of fishing infrastructure, capacity and institutional memory. In this seminar I will review recent participatory research that scopes the nature of coastal livelihoods and fisheries in Timor-Leste. Complexities in vulnerability context, livelihood and food system structure provide challenges to rebuilding a thriving, just and sustainable sector. Extreme bathymetry and a correspondingly limited coastal reef area provide a governance challenge for small-scale fisheries in the face of increasing demand for fish and climate change. I will outline future research directions and participatory processes envisaged for the design of a sector that contributes to nation-building while maintaining system integrity for future generations.
Bio: Starting his research career as crustacean ecologist at the Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, in 2006, David took a head-long leap into the world of fisheries and development. Based at WorldFish headquarters in Penang, Malaysia from 2006 until early 2011, he worked on diverse projects relating to fisheries information systems, governance, fisheries and food security, and aquaculture development. He has worked on projects in Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste. David is a visiting scholar at the Centre, and has a degree in Marine, Freshwater and Antarctic Biology (1988 – 1992) and a PhD in fisheries ecology (2001‐2005) from the University of Tasmania.