The Sub-district of Baguia comprises of 10 villages and is located on the eastern flank of Mt Matebian: the second highest mountain in Timor Leste. This area is more lush than the dry northern parts of Timor, and Mt Matebian provides incredibly spectacular scenery. Mt Matebian’s rocky terrain provided good cover for the Falintil Guerrillas in their fight against the Indonesians and was a key stronghold.
The population of the Baguia Sub-district is around 13,000. Most people’s homes are of simple construction from bamboo with a thatched roof. Rice is grown in the lower areas using terracing, while higher up the mountain the terraces grow corn and beans. Water buffalo are used to till the land.
Transport around Baguia Sub-district is problematic as most villages have no passable roads and so can only be reached by walking along steep mountain tracks. People in this remote area cannot afford to own vehicles, so getting to school or the twice weekly market at Baguia town is always on foot. However, once a day a truck enables people to travel from Baguia town and a few of the villages to the large town of Baucau in about 4 hours. While getting to Dili can take two days.
Communication is very limited as there is no postal service and mobile phone service was only established in 2011. The Sub-district only has electricity in Baguia town and a few of the main villages, although supply is erratic and can be 'out' for several days at a time.
Despite these difficulties, the people of Baguia are a very proud people and have a strong sense of both local and Timorese identity. The people in Baguia are very warm and friendly and are keen to maintain a long-term friendship with Australia. They formed a Committee in Baguia to represent their community, which includes the equivalent of the Local government Mayor. The Baguia Committee works closely with the Committee in Stonnington to identify suitable projects and ways to progress and cement this friendship.
One of the biggest problems in Baguia and throughout Timor is the lack of jobs and consequently most people live a subsistence agricultural life. The per capita income in East Timor is US$1,939 compared with Australia of US$45,402¹. This means that 37% of the population live in income poverty – living on less than US$1.25 per person per day². The people of Baguia are striving to improve life within their community. In particular, they see the education of their children as a key way to achieve a better life and forge their new nation.
¹ World Bank 2012
² United Nations Development Programme
³ Geoscience Australia