Fostering sustainable community development

The Atabae community was mainly sustained by an almost cashless subsistence agriculture in the first years after Indonesian occupation but now is developing a growing cash economy. This trend is essential for the sustainable development of the community so young people can gain local employment.

Following the philosophy of PALMS Australia,  FPET has tried to focus on actions aimed at sustainable community development to avoid creating a relationship of dependency. This has required a consultative approach from the very beginning where we worked with the priorities of the local community. Initially this was done through the Atabae Parish Council. While the Parish Council is still consulted, an effort was made through David and Margaret Hall to establish a specific Community Consultative Committee to help guide FPET activities.

The establishment in late 2011 and early 2012 of the Atabae coomunity committee, Friends and Partners with Australia (FPA), marks a major milestone in the progress of our partnership with the Atabae community. This committee seems has taken on the role we were hoping to service through the earlier consultative committee that did not gain local commitment though our failure to effectively communicate its purpose to the community.

While FPET maintains its continuing interest in the economic and social development of the Atabae subdistrict, it has limited capacity to achieve this from its own resources. We mainly look for opportunities to collaborate with or otherwise encourage others to do these things. We are now expecting FPA to work with us to attract this other support for the benefit of the Atabae community.

We once had a small involvement in providing microcredit but did not continue with it as there are adequate microcredit services available. We also supplied a few livestock once but this was then dropped as a local priority. We have been trying to develop a small plantation of trees and intercropping as a pilot program but this has proved to be difficult for us despite the obvious potential for such ventures. Some new small businesses are being established. We expect some more will be started and staffed by young people trained in relevant trades through our scholarships.

With the help of FPA we look forward to broadening our joint commitment to other community development projects through collaboration with other local East Timorese organisations who can provide additional specialist expertise to build local skills and management capacity.

This vehicle was the first major FPET expense, but it was vital in moving people and supplies within the community. This photo was taken soon after its arrival in East Timor and it has done a lot of hard work since then.
A meeting of a former community committee formed to assist directing FPET work in the Atabae sub district. Second from left in this picture is Peter de Hass, inaugural president of FPET who was visiting Atabae at the time.