Inclusive, evidence-based development of a National Fisheries Strategy for Timor-Leste that sets the direction for future fisheries and food security investments.

Published on: April 29, 2020, Submitted by Cristiano Rossignoli on: April 23, 2020, Reporting year: 2019

Reviews of recent research and a deeply consultative process engaging resource users, their communities, resource managers and key stakeholders led to the co-development of a National Fisheries Strategy.

As a post-conflict small island developing nation with persistent poverty and high rates of under-nutrition, the fisheries sector in Timor-Leste can play an important role in nation building, improving nutrition outcomes, providing livelihoods and supporting resilient economies of coastal communities. Fishing capacity is low  and fisheries benefits suboptimal, and unlocking this requires a coordinated investment approach. The National Directorate of Fisheries within the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, requested assistance from WorldFish in developing a National Fisheries Strategy (NFS). Working with international experts, government agencies, locally engaged international agencies, stakeholders and communities over a period of 18 months, a highly consultative Strategy document was developed. A series of local, regional and ultimately national forums insured strong input and ownership by resource owners and users. The strategy hsa been informed by research conducted in the sector (by WorldFish and the FAO Regional Fisheries Livelihoods Program) in the areas of fisheries co-management, technology, fishing capacity, livelihood interactions (see Mills et al. 2017), fish consumption and sector status (see Lopez-Angarita et al. 2019). The Strategy emphasizes the diverse, gendered benefits of small-scale fisheries and promotes equitable small-scale and local fisheries development as the priority. While much of the impact from the Strategy will be realized through implementation over the coming years, the process of development has had diverse capacity impacts. For the first time in Timor-Leste communities have been directly engaged in the process of setting sector priorities and directions, and their priorities incorporated both into the strategy and into the parallel activity of revising the fishery law (also led by WorldFish). The process has built the capacity of MAF staff in gender sensitive and engaged approaches for working with fishers and fishing communities, and to the early processes of co-management. The promotion of women's voice in management, and the Women Fishers Forum held as part of the consultation process form part of a strong momentum for women's collective action in the fisheries sector. In 2019, the Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture has taken a package consisting of the National Fishery Strategy, the revised Fishery Law and the National Oceans Policy (developed in collaboration with WorldFish) to the Council of Ministers for endorsement as legal documents to drive sector development. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has thus taken over the English version of the NFS and translated in Portuguese, which is the official legal language in Timor-Leste.

Disaggregates for Sphere of Influence

  • 3.2.1 - More productive and equitable management of natural resources

  • C.1.3 - Conducive agricultural policy environment


  • Gender: 1 - Significant objective

Specific Disaggregates for this Policy Indicator

  • Policy/Investment Type: Policy or Strategy

  • Whose policy is fixed? Public Sector

  • Level of Maturity: Level 1 - Research taken up by next user (decision maker or intermediary)

Linked Policies


This work was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems (FISH) led by WorldFish. Funding support for this work was initially provided by  the Norwegian-funded Fisheries Sector Support Program. Additional funding to support extensive consultation processes was sourced from the Asian Development Bank. The project was a partnership between WorldFish Timor-Leste, the Directorate General of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, and fisheries resource owners and stakeholders. 

CRPs & Partners

CRP on Fish Agri-Food Systems - FISH CRP

WorldFish - WF



sustainable natural resource managementpolicy development processfisheries management


About the author

David Jonathan Mills is FP2-1 Cluster leader, Resilient coastal fisheries at WorldFish - WF.