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A community ready for dangerous rains

During rainy season in Timor-Leste, many communities experience flash flooding and see their rivers rise to dangerous levels. In remote Ermera municipality, families have long been vulnerable to the whims of the weather. But now, one strong community is preparing to protect itself from disaster.

In a remote village in the mountainous coffee-growing region of Ermera, fat drops of rain splatter into mud and hit corrugated roofs. Maria*, sitting under her verandah, glances up nervously. It’s the start of the rainy season in tropical Timor-Leste and the community must finish its work reinforcing riverside drainage channels before the floods start, or hundreds of households could be at risk of dangerous flash flooding. 

“When it starts to rain the water follows quickly up here, entering the house, and reaches up to hear,” Maria says, hovering her hand above hip-height. “There’s too much water coming down here. The drain needs widening so it doesn’t flood our houses and destroy our land.”

Maria and Fatima with children in their village, which lies near a river prone to flooding in the wet season.

As she watches the rain from the dry verandah, neighborhood children run by, shrieking and giggling in the approaching storm. They too know how important it is for the community to strengthen its drainage before the river overflows. 

The drain needs widening so it doesn’t flood our houses and destroy our land.

In Timor-Leste, mountainous topography, heavy rainfall and harsh deforestation make communities vulnerable to natural hazards that batter resilience and threaten families. This vulnerability is compounded by environmental degradation and high rates of poverty, which leave communities struggling to prepare for or prevent disasters.

With technical and material support from Plan International Timor-Leste, the community finishes reinforcing drainage channels with thick, sturdy cement. As the rain falls, pale muddy water streams easily through the new channels, away from the households.

One community in Ermera municipality builds new, strong drainage in anticipation of the river rising in the wet season.

“I feel good to have worked on this project,” says Fatima* cheerfully. A mother and farmer, she’s one of many women to have worked on the construction. 

“We can do this work because Plan provides us with the materials we need: stones, cement, sand. This really helps out community. I’m very happy because my kids are secure.”

Nearly every household in the village is now free from flooding, and the community will construct more drains this year, ensuring every house in the village is protected by the next rains. 

This really helps out community. I’m very happy because my kids are secure.

Plan International Timor-Leste, together with Government of Timor-Leste staff, is working with communities and partners across the country, identifying risks like flooding, landslides, high winds and droughts and equipping communities with the knowledge and skills to take action. 

The Building Disaster / Climate Resilience in Communities along Dili-Ainaro and Linked Road Corridors in Timor-Leste Project is a program of the Government of Timor-Leste supported by the World Bank and partners. Names have been changed to protect privacy.