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International Partnerships

Timor-Leste – building roads with women engineers and protecting workers from COVID-19

Aurelia Candaz Moradi is 28 years old and comes from a village in the Manatuto municipality of Timor-Leste. After graduating from high school in 2016 she struggled to find work. Then, in September 2019, she got a job working alongside her father on a road rehabilitation project in her village.

The road rehabilitation is part of a €12 million Enhancing Rural Access (ERA) Agro-Forestry Project funded by the European Union. The ERA project supports the development of a skilled private sector that is able to service infrastructure needs for rural communities. Roads are important in providing links to inputs and services that agro-forestry development needs, along with connections to the market. And, indirectly, they help improve student mobility and health services for rural communities.

Aurelia is extremely happy with the job opportunity the road rehabilitation has brought. “The ERA project has meant that I can contribute to the family income,” she says. Once complete, the road will provide access and market openings for agro-forestry produce, giving her family and the community the chance to earn more income.

Aurelia is not the only woman to benefit from the ERA project. FETO Enjiñária – meaning “Women in Engineering” in Tetum, one of the Timor-Leste’s official languages – is a local group that helps budding women engineers. Four of the women have taken part in ERA training for local contractors. This reflects ERA’s broader aim of giving local contractors and engineers the capacity to deliver infrastructure, create jobs, support incomes and provide market linkages that can alleviate poverty and develop rural areas – with women as a driving force.

A total of 34 local contracting firms are involved in the project. Women own over half of these firms and make up 30 % of the 5 000-strong workforce. In all, the project will build 77 kilometres of new road in agro-forestry areas in the east of the country.


The ERA project has also handed over two compaction rollers to three women contractors. The rollers were purchased through an advance payment facility offering bridging finance for top-of-the-range mechanical equipment. They will make a huge difference to the contractors and to the communities where they work: the roads will be completed in record time, and the operators will acquire new skills.

Worker safety is, of course, paramount – especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why the European Union and the International Labour Organization, which implements the ERA project, have issued guidelines for project contractors and workers on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep safe from the virus.


As part of its global response to COVID-19, Team Europe has made over $3 million available to Timor-Leste to support its fight against the pandemic.

The ERA agro-forestry project comes under the Partnership for Sustainable Agro-Forestry between the Government of Timor-Leste, the European Union, Germany and the International Labour Organization. The partnership aims to contribute to peaceful, inclusive and sustainable development in Timor-Leste and, to this end, it strives for:

  • better rural access;
  • job creation;
  • agro-forestry development to generate economic and domestic revenue opportunities; and
  • a lasting fall in food insecurity and malnutrition.