PUBLICATION: A new story of sandalwood for Timor-Leste

The history of sandalwood is inextricably linked with the history of Timor-Leste and its people. Now, we’re proud to share its story.

The native tree that covered Timor-Leste’s hilltops and sustained its families long before the first colonial traders reached the country’s shores, sandalwood drew the attention of Portuguese explorers and Indonesian soldiers, caused the planting of Timor-Leste’s famous coffee crops and the razing of its forests, and unlocked the tiny half-island to the rest of the world. Sandalwood’s economic, ecological, social, spiritual and historical value can’t be understated.

Much like Timor-Leste, the story of sandalwood is one of resilience during conflict and hope among despair.

That’s why AI-Com, together with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, the University of Western Australia and the University of the Sunshine Coast, is proud to make available for download our new publication: Hanoin Ai-Kameli, a reader-friendly story of the history of sandalwood in Timor-Leste.

The publication is available in Tetun and English and can be downloaded for free here.

The booklet was launched earlier this month at AI-Com’s mid-term results meeting, by representatives from ACIAR, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, research partners, and the Australian Ambassador to Timor-Leste, his excellency Peter Roberts.

“We’re proud to work with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research,” said Ambassador Roberts at the meeting. “We’re helping to achieve innovating solutions for farming families in Timor-Leste, and accelerate the development of sandalwood, which has a long and important story and significant value in Timor-Leste.”

The booklet was officially launched by the Ambassador, representatives from ACIAR, the Ministry’s director-general for agriculture, Maria Odete Goncalves as the representative of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, and director-general for forestry, Manual Mendes.

In her remarks, director-general Goncalves highlighted the long relationship between ACIAR and the Ministry, which began in 2002, and emphasised the importance of collaborative research and innovation for strong rural development.

“We know that 76 per cent of Timor-Leste’s population is involved in agriculture,” she said. “We must continue to do research to develop appropriate and adapted technology for farmers. The Ministry recognises this. We must not be weary to continue learning more. We can continue to develop the agriculture sector in Timor-Leste through research.”

The history of sandalwood deepens an understanding of Timor-Leste’s story and offers a compelling pathway for the country’s development and future prosperity. This booklet aims to share the sandalwood story and provide information required for the restoration, development and remembrance of sandalwood in Timor-Leste, for the benefit of both future generations and of the Timor-Leste tree itself.

The publication is available in Tetun and English and can be downloaded for free from AI-Com’s website.

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