Food Security

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 741–762 | Cite as

Factors influencing animal-source food consumption in Timor-Leste

  • Johanna T. Wong
  • Brigitte Bagnol
  • Heather Grieve
  • Joanita Bendita da Costa Jong
  • Mu Li
  • Robyn G. Alders
Original Paper


Poor dietary quality is an underlying contributor to the high rates of maternal and child undernutrition in Timor-Leste. The majority of households own livestock: however, the consumption of domestic animal-source food (ASF) is low, and there are few reports of the utilisation of non-domesticated species. This mixed-methods study was conducted in three villages from mid-2015 to mid-2017. Two hundred and three households with children under 24 months were enrolled in the quantitative study of maternal and child dietary diversity. To explore factors affecting household ASF consumption, 12 key informants were recruited for in-depth interviews and 312 participants, mostly mothers and fathers of young children, for focus group discussions. Participants expressed a desire to consume more ASF. Barriers to ASF consumption include having low income or limited income streams, high levels of small livestock morbidity and mortality leading to small or unstable flock or herd sizes, reserving livestock for sale and ceremonies, and living far from forested areas or where hunting is not allowed. Factors that enable greater ASF consumption include villages being located near forested areas with wild animal populations, those that observe a large number of ceremonies of long duration, households with a greater number of small livestock, and where women are able to make autonomous decisions about livestock assets. Findings suggest that policies and programs designed to achieve sustainable improvements in household nutrition would include a focus on women and improving the health and production of small livestock species frequently utilised by households.


Animal-source food Undernutrition Livestock Timor-Leste 



This research would not have been possible without Mario Moreira dos Reis from the Nutrition Department in the Timor-Leste Ministry of Health, field assistant and interpreter Ananias Frederico Benevides from the Livestock and Veterinary Directorate in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the communities in Timor-Leste that accommodated us, and the respondents who kindly offered much of their time and knowledge by participating in research activities. The authors would like to acknowledge the Government of Australia and The University of Sydney for their financial support of this research, as well as the Government of Timor-Leste for their technical and practical support.


This research was funded by The University of Sydney and the Government of Australia.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This research project was approved by the Timor-Leste Ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries, and Health, and received ethical approval through The University of Sydney for both Human Ethics (Project number 2014/815) and Animal Ethics (Project number 2014/705). The research was conducted in accordance with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.

Statement of informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. Study aims, activities, and the voluntary nature of participation were explained to each potential participant prior to enrolment into the study at baseline. Each participant then gave their signature or a thumb-print if illiterate to indicate consent prior to each round of data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature and International Society for Plant Pathology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Charles Perkins CentreUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  3. 3.International Rural Poultry CentreKyeema FoundationBrisbaneMozambique
  4. 4.DiliTimor-Leste
  5. 5.National Directorate of Veterinary and Livestock ServicesMinistry of Agriculture and FisheriesDiliTimor-Leste
  6. 6.School of Public HealthUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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