In response to water access, food insecurity and environmental protection ZEESM TL has begun improving irrigation.
Its focus has begun on the Tono river basin which divides the Oé-Cusse region. The Tono river and its tributary streams and sources stretch from the border with Indonesia right to the coast. It is the largest river basin in the region, more easily identified on maps than even the regional capital, covering in total over 800km². In contrast to the second large river in Oé-Cusse, the Noel Besi river basin, the majority of the Tono river basin is within the territory of Timor-Leste. Both of these reasons mean it is an obvious focus for controlled, sustainable and environmental sensitive development.
Although Oé-Cusse is known for its abundant water, during dry season rainfall can be as low as just one millimeter so irrigation, access to water supplies and the protection of natural pre-existing water recharge mechanisms is vital. An increase in reliable water supply in canals will increase food security. Water access also cuts down on exhaustive labor needed. Each day as a farmer in the region can spend up to 4 hours a day collecting water for household, livestock and horticultural needs.
The irrigation is also being carried out in Pante-Macassar and protection of water recharging is a vital part of ZEESM TL objectives regarding not just agriculture but also the environment.
Over 23km of canal and 45 km of water grid have already been installed coupled with a 200m dam. The eastern main canal stretches for 2.37km with a second canal on this side of 3.267km, a total of 5.637km. The western main canal stretches for 0.547km and its second canal has 17.139km of length, a total of 17.686km.
The distribution grid is already being put in place. As new tanks and reservoirs are completed they are joined to the grid, with new parts already beginning to replace the old, obsolete parts. It is estimated that over 1,000 families will benefit from these improvements.