Timor-Leste: Cooperative BEHAFU - Mary MacKillop Today

Timor-Leste: Cooperative BEHAFU

The Women’s Livelihoods Group – Credit Union (C.U.) BEHAFU project commenced when Comunidade Edmund Rice (CER) exited from Timor-Leste. Mary MacKillop Today accepted the responsibility of transitioning the Terrace Timor Network’s Card Project to a sustainable livelihood project. This project has been implemented in the Ermera Municipality, with an initial group of 55 women when started, this has now increased to 87 members (consisting of 71 females and 16 males). The groups’ previous income generation activity was making gift cards to sell in Australia.

When it was transferred to Mary MacKillop Today, the focus became transforming the Women’s Group into a sustainable Cooperative and diversifying their livelihood opportunities. Mary MacKillop Today approached the Secretary of State for Cooperatives (SECoop) in Timor-Leste to provide training to the group, and in August 2020 SECoop officially inaugurated the Credit Union (CU) BEHAFU Cooperative. Mary MacKillop Today has delivered various trainings designed to support income generation activities, in addition to training on group management, saving and loans, small business management, and all cross-cutting themes. The objective is to empower the women to take the lead of the cooperative and help to increase their incomes to support their families through saving and loans activities, running small businesses and horticulture activities.

Mary MacKillop Today will continue to support the Women’s Group project known as Credit Union (CU) BEHAFU* Cooperative until June 2024, with a focus on preparing them to independently manage the cooperative and link them with government and other stakeholders to support them when Mary MacKillop Today exits. An Advisory Board will support the last phase of the transition to independence for an additional 6 to 12 months. To date, 62 cooperative members have accessed loans to fund income generation activities.

*BEHAFU stands for Bedma Hatutan Ba Futuru in Tetun. Bedma means “Blessed Edmund Rice, Mary MacKillop”. Hatutan Ba Futuru means “Continue for future / Pass on to the future”.

Terrace Timor Network (TTN) has contributed funds to the project since 2006.


  • Skills training is provided to expand cooperative members’ livelihoods and income generation opportunities (training includes topics such as technical horticulture practices, food processing, sewing and machine maintenance).
  • Cooperative management training and mentoring, including financial literacy, accounting, and small business management, plus facilitating learning exchanges with other local established cooperatives building long-term relationships.
  • Provision of small low-interest loans (microcredit) managed by cooperative members for cooperative members. Regular mentoring is provided by locally based field staff to support record-keeping, loan application and repayment processes.

Annual Impact

  • 87 cooperative members will have access to low-interest loans to support small business activities.
  • 87 cooperative members are empowered with skills and knowledge to manage their cooperative and diversify livelihoods activities.
  • Over 600 family members will benefit from increased income generation opportunities.
  • Contribute to generating incomes from sustainable livelihoods activities.
  • Fostering positive working relationships with local government agencies for long-term sustainability.

Summary Evaluation Report 

Gilberto’s Story

Meet Gilberto, who is a member of the Cooperative BEHAFU program. Gilberto grows vegetables and has cattle and the Cooperative supports his small business where he buys chairs and rents them for events.

Watch his story …


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