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Water and salt

Today, His Royal Highness The Crown Prince viewed UNDP projects first-hand, including one that brings clean drinking water to hundreds of families and another in which salt production provides women farmers with a good living.


This is the second day of Crown Prince Haakon’s field visit to Timor-Leste on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The day began with a long drive to the Ermera district, partly on very rough roads. 

Mobile courts 

One of the UNDP’s focus areas in Timor-Leste is working with the national judicial authorities to establish a state governed by law. The UNDP sees a well-functioning judicial system as a prerequisite for achieving democratic governance. 

People living in outlying districts have very limited access to the judicial system. A solution to this problem is to bring the courts to the people. Judges, free legal assistance and all the other elements needed for proper legal proceedings are brought out to the districts by means of mobile courts. This morning, Crown Prince Haakon sat in the audience as a lawsuit involving two local inhabitants was conducted. After the proceedings were concluded, the Crown Prince also spoke with individuals whose cases had been tried via the mobile courts. 

Water is vital 

In many parts of the world, access to safe drinking water is not a given. This is the case in many rural areas of Timor-Leste, and UNDP is therefore working together with local authorities to remedy the situation. Ensuring access to clean water is also an important component of the efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. 

In the village of Poetete, the lives of several hundred families changed for the better when they gained easier access to safe drinking water. Crown Prince Haakon heard many of their stories when he met with local people near the UNDP-supported water purification facility.

A number of women and young people were at the facility fetching clean water for themselves and their families during the Crown Prince’s visit. Previously they would have had to walk more than half an hour to get water. Thanks to the laying of several kilometres of water pipes from the water source and down to Poetete, safe drinking water is now only a few minutes away. There are pipes from the main water tank to a number of smaller tanks and from there to various local communities. The project, and the idea behind it, came largely from the inhabitants themselves.

For UNDP, this is an excellent example of effective cooperation between the authorities, international organisations and a local population that feels a strong sense of ownership towards the project. 

Women farmers produce salt 

Just outside the capital city of Dili, 26 local farmers have joined together in another UNDP-supported project: salt production. Twenty-one of the 26 farmers are women, and the facility generates income for many families. UNDP’s primary contribution has been to ensure that the farmers produce salt in a more effective, environment-friendly process that poses fewer health risks. 

The Crown Prince Haakon was given a demonstration of how the farmers produced salt in the traditional manner. The method involved gathering seawater and filtering it into large vats. The vats were then carried into small, very poorly ventilated straw huts. Inside the huts the farmers stood while they boiled the water over an open flame, waiting for the salt to crystallise as the water evaporated. This method yields little salt in relation to the effort involved, and there are health risks associated with standing in a smoke-filled hut in fierce heat. The Crown Prince experienced the heat as he stood inside one of the huts to watch the former production process. Another negative aspect of this process is the need to cut down trees for firewood, which is bad for the environment. 

Thanks to the UNDP project, the farmers have now been trained in a much more effective salt production method. A large facility consisting of a dozen or so pools has been built. Saltwater is pumped through a series of pools, where the sun evaporates the water, gradually increasing the salt concentration. The completed process results in high-quality salt. This method spares the environment and the health of the farmers, who no longer have to spend their workdays in a smoke-filled hut.

Last year, the 26 farmers produced more than 10 tonnes of salt, greatly improving the lives of themselves and their families. The project has helped to make the Ulmehra district one of the leading districts for salt production in all of Timor-Leste.


Crown Prince Haakon visits Timor Leste in his capasity of Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, in 2015. Photo: Christian Lagaard, the Royal Court.

About the UN Millennium Development Goals

In 2000 all the countries in the world agreed to establish common goals to eradicate poverty, and eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were formulated.

The general goal – MDG 1 – was to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The first of three targets under the goal was to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than USD 1 a day.

The eight MDG were to:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

At the end of 2015, significant progress had been made in all eight areas, and the countries of the world decided on 17 new goals - the Sustainable Development Goals.

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