East Timor is one of the poorest countries in the world and claims a 40 percent national poverty incidence. A former colony of three countries — Portugal, the Netherlands and, lastly, Indonesia — East Timor has not kept pace with its Asian neighbors. The struggle for independence from Indonesia destroyed infrastructure and displaced about 75 percent of the population.
Gaining independence gave East Timor some national development direction and momentum, but serious challenges remain. Despite some strides in primary education and gender equality, most analysts agree that the country will fail to meet its Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Furthermore, the country’s agriculture industry is almost solely reliant on subsistence crops instead of contributing to broader socio-economic development. In 2011, the Australian Agency for International Development estimated that 80 percent of the poor are dependent on agriculture for livelihood.