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2.1 million bucks for rural cattle owners in Timor?

It has been a lot of fun being involved in the Peace Dividend Marketplace project (PDM-TL) in Timor-Leste. In fact it has been among some of the most useful work I have ever done.

The Timor-Leste Business Portal found at has about 2,700 business profiles online.  This website acts as something of a nerve centre for the real added value of the project – the Tender Distribution, Matchmaking and Marketing teams.  These teams create awareness, push tenders and create business transactions for businesses on the Business Portal.  The Portal is critical for sure, but the real money is made off the teams that move business information to buyers and suppliers around the country.  These teams help Timorese businesses make millions of dollars a year.

It is remarkable how a little information can go a long way.  This is not lost on the Timorese.  Information is power.  When confronted with a struggle against a dictatorship they used information to survive, make their case, outwit those that hunted them, and to advocate for change inside and outside Timor-Leste.

In the context of an independent Timor-Leste information is still powerful.  In this case commercial information.

Alot of PDM-TL’s work focuses on getting the international community to spend their dosh inside Timor-Leste – driving economic development.  However, increasingly the buyers are also coming from Indonesia.

In the coming weeks it seems that PDT matchmaking staff in Dili, Manatuto and Bobonaro are about to close a deal worth up to $2.1 million.  A couple of months ago, a buyer in West Timor approached a Bobonaro cattle dealer looking for 3,000 head of cattle to purchase for shipment to Java, Indonesia.  The Bobonaro dealer checked with his usual suppliers but found that at present local stocks could not meet such demand. What did he do?  He called Domingas dos Santos, PDT Representative in Bobonaro.

Domingas dos Santos May 2010 in Kupang West Timor - finding buyers for Timorese agricultural products.

Now Domingas is a woman with a head on her shoulders.  She was also a Regional Commissioner of the important CAVR reconciliation commission in Bobonaro district some years ago.  Being a smart woman she sensed a big opportunity, as cattle range in price from $250-700 depending on size/quality.  So she called PDT staff in several other districts and explained to them that she had big cattle buyer looking around.  They then did what they are paid to do.  They zipped up and down the length of the districts in which they work seeking suppliers for this buyer.  It being their home districts they know how to find stuff/people/cattle.  In the end they found  suppliers in Manatuto (and a few in Viqueque and Lautem) that can fill the order.  When the deal eventually goes ahead it could very well be one of the biggest cross border cattle deals in the last decade.  Just last night we found out that the sale might actually be as high as $3.1 million, as the buyer seems to be considering a a larger purchase than planned of up to 4,700 head of cattle.

In rural districts where many people live on less than a dollar a day, this is a very significant.  For some it will be the difference between a good and a bad year. All because of a small, but critical, little PDT network of business matchmakers.

The brain trust behind the matchmaking team are Ilidio Ximenes and Brigida Soares.

Far right Brigida Soares, second from right Ilidio Ximenes

Unfortunately, it looks like these services will soon be coming to an end.

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  1. Sherrie Zollinger says:

    While I realize that this big cattle deal may not be the norm, how can a project like this (the business portal) be moved into a sustainable model more quickly? Obviously it is very helpful to those participating. Couldn’t they therefore contribute a percentage (small) of their profits or the value of the deal to the operations of the business portal that is helping them to build their businesses? Or perhaps they could pay a small fee to be a member? In other words, how can those benefitting from the donor funds replace at least a portion of those funds in a manner that allows them to continue.
    On the donor side of the equation perhaps a model that builds in a diminishing donation would be a sign to the donor (or to new donors) that this project or any project for that matter would become self sustaining.
    It would seem to me that if any project doesn’t build sustainability into its model, the project becomes just a hand-out rather than a hand-up.
    It would seem to me that someplace in that $2.1 million or more, there would be funds to keep the project going. Please forgive if I am missing something or over-simplifying here.
    I am really impressed by what the project has created and believe that it has merit it continuing.

    Best Regards

  2. Shane McCarthy says:

    Good luck locating, rounding up, purchasing, loading, transporting, and profitably exporting 4500 head of healthy bulls across the border from Timor Leste to Indonesia.

    Pardon my cynicism but after seven years of trying to do that very thing your numbers sound a bit herculean to me.

    It might be worth your time to talk to the people that have already been doing it.

    Regards, Shane McCarthy NCBA-CCT

  3. Edward Rees says:


    Cynics are ALWAYS welcome!

    Well, the cattle have been rounded up. Most of them in Manatuto. As for their health, I am not an expert. The buyer is organised. Happy to provide details. No doubt transport, price etc are barriers, but we have done a few shipments already. Having said that can I suggest that you meet the team, they might learn a few tricks from an expert.

    Just give us a bell on timor-leste[at] and we can organise something.


  4. Edward Rees says:

    Shane, I think you met with the PDT team in the last few days, and all the details got cleared up. Thanks for being so helpful for them. Please feel free to make use of the PDT network any time CCT wants to. Edward

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