OREANDA-NEWS. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is leveraging the skills and capacity of Timor-Leste's high youth population to help the country's thriving coffee industry become a key contributor to inclusive growth and sustainable development.

ADB's assistance, through a $225,000 grant sourced from ADB’s Technical Assistance Special Fund, will help develop Timor-Leste's coffee industry through the preparation of a comprehensive coffee sector development plan that will be implemented with the private sector and the youth.

“The initial ADB diagnostic work for the coffee sector development plan has highlighted a range of issues where financing and other development assistance is needed,” said David Freedman, ADB Country Economist for Timor-Leste. “Youth engagement is a key issue and achieving adoption of good agricultural practices at scale remains a challenge.”

Coffee is grown by almost one-third of all Timorese households and has been the country’s largest non-oil export for the past 150 years. Coffee has the potential to play an important role in the future development of Timor-Leste, providing certain weaknesses in its production are addressed.

Conflict and under investment in the coffee sector in 1975-1999 contributed to a loss of farming skills and left a legacy of aged trees. Since 2000, numerous reports by the government and its development partners have identified lack of industry coordination as a constraint to the development of the coffee sector. Progress has been made in training farmers and rolling out replanting programs but much more work needs to be done.

Working alongside the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Timor-Leste Coffee Association, ADB has partnered with the Coffee Quality Institute—a US-based non-profit working exclusively on coffee sector improvement programs—to help develop the plan. Work on the plan is underway with inception workshops held in September, while baseline assessments of training and applied research capacity from the government and the private sector are being finalized.