The resilience of agricultural systems in Timor-Leste
Laure Emperaire (IRD)
Brunna Crespi (MNHN/IRD)
Paper short abstract:
Instability is an important feature of Timor production systems: irregularity in rain, natural events, climate change, political events. The paper will address the agricultural and symbolic solutionswhich express a deep understanding of the fragility and uncertainty of the environment.
Paper long abstract:
Instability is an important feature of Timor production systems. Such instability primarily characterizes the environments: rains, which are crucial for the rain-fed agriculture in marginal conditions, is in itself irregular and significant contrasts characterize the distribution of rainfall throughout the year (sometimes the dry season is very long) and from one year to another. Spatial distribution of precipitation is also irregular, with large variations in the different elements of the landscape. Added to these difficult conditions, mythology and history keep track of the occurrence of natural events like tsunamis, and one can perceive today a significant impact of climate change (raise of sea levels, droughts, erosion). What is interesting is that in local myths, past critical events are often related to political events. Political events such as conflicts, wars, resulting in the division of human groups and resettlement of populations, are also very present in history; the 1975 Indonesian invasion is one of the last events, the most dramatic of course, of a local history jostled by wars, trade deals and colonization. To overcome these uncertain conditions, both natural and political, people have systematically recourse to a mixed system combining agriculture and foraging of semi-domesticated or spontaneous products, even during good years, in order to keep the system active; for example such system has been strongly reactivated during the resistance to the Indonesians. Other very important management methods involve rituals, supported by a rich mythology, which are themselves an expression of a deep understanding of the fragility and uncertainty of the environment.
Dwelling in an evanescent landscape: people's strategies to deal with chronical uncertainty