Country Profiles

Regional distribution

Figure 2 shows the distribution of cattle and buffalo over the country. Cattle are most densely populated over the western border areas, especially in Bobonaro (in sub-districts such as Maliana) and Cova Lima (Suai). They are also high in the north-western dry zone (east Bobanaro and Liquica). Cattle numbers increase again in the more extensive grasslands of the east (Viqueque, Lautem, southern parts of Baucau) and the south (Same). Cattle are distributed relatively densely and evenly in Oecussi. Cattle densities are lowest in the mountainous central zone of the country (Aileu, Ainaro, Manatuto, parts of Manufahi).

Figure 2. Cattle and buffalo distribution in Timor Leste.

Source: Data from NSD (2011). Map generated by authors. I dot represents 1,000 head, distributed randomly within suco boundaries

Cattle numbers combined with data on the numbers of households that raise cattle allows for calculation of average scale of cattle production by suco (Figure 3). While most cattle are raised in western areas, these are raised by large numbers of households (nearly 13,000 in Bobonaro and Cova Lima.) As a result, households in this western area raise a mid-range number of cattle (generally from 2.3 to 6.9 head). The central mountainous area have a low scale of production, but herd sizes are relatively high (4.7 to 6.9) in the south. With more extensive land areas, the scale of production increases into the eastern districts of Viqueque and Lautem, where households in several sucos have average herd sizes of 7 to 12 head.

Figure 3. Average number of cattle per cattle-holding household by suco.

Source: NSD, 2011. Map generated by authors

It is important to note, however, that scale of production is not necessarily an indicator of commercialisation. This is indicated in NSD (2008) data reported in Williams (forthcoming) that records household cattle sales and income in sub-districts throughout TL. Cattle sales were low throughout TL as households in all sub districts sell less than 1 cow per year, but cattle sales are highest in western areas due to more intensive systems (including cropping) and proximity to border and access to Dili markets. Conversely in more remote eastern areas like Lautem, cattle are raised in larger household herds in more extensive systems for long indefinite periods with low turnoff rates. There are corresponding patterns for income from cattle sales. That is, on a regional level, there is an inverse relationship between scale of production (household herd size) and levels of commercialisation (sales).

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