Spotlight on São Tomé and Principe at EXPO Milano 2015

Children playing the Sao Tome national
hymn @IFAD/S. Jonckheere
São Tomé and Principe is a small country consisting of two islands, located off the western shore of the African continent. Its primary economic activity is agriculture, with cocoa constituting its principal item of exportation. The isolation of Sao Tome and Principe created a biological diversity within the country that is composed of diversified ecosystems, forests, plains, savannah, and fens. The wealth of the biodiversity of the Islands is recognized by scientists worldwide. The sustainable exploitation of the biological diversity of Sao Tome and Principe is directly related to its conservation, so that it can also generate revenue for the local communities and thus reduce poverty.

Representatives from IFAD-supported project at
the Sao Tome Pavilion @IFAD/S. Jonckheere
By participating in the Cocoa Cluster at Expo Milano 2015, Sao Tome and Principe aims to show to the world that it is possible to find a balance between cocoa production and conserving  biodiversity, while at the same time improving the living conditions of local communities. Sao Tome’s experience demonstrates the vast potential of collective action and public/private partnerships to further rural economic development and poverty reduction. Sunday 27 September 2015 was the  São Tome and Principe day at Expo Milano 2015 and a number of events were organised, such as seminars, concerts, plays and food tasting.

Photo story on the cocoa value chain
@IFAD/S. Jonckheere
On Friday 25 September 2015, two seminars were held to present the work the Government has done, with the support of IFAD, on developing innovative and sustainable agricultural value chains and promoting responsible agro-tourism. The Participatory Smallholder Agriculture and Artisanal Fisheries Development Programme (PAPAFPA) has set up partnerships between the São Tomé government, IFAD, the Agence Française de Développement and European companies, aimed at developing entire value chains (from production to final markets) within an ethical framework. These partnerships enhance returns on investments in traditional cocoa, coffee and pepper value chains through the use of organic and Fairtrade certification and by linking to European markets. In addition, geographic indications are currently being piloted for the three commodities. Smallholder families participating in the programme have seen their yearly income increase, on average, from a level of 25 per cent below the poverty line to 8 per cent above it. Many producers have invested in home improvements and items such as bicycles, generators, radios, refrigerators and television sets. Some successful producers have used the profit from organic cocoa production to set up small roadside shops, run by women, generating further profits for families.

Seminar on sustainable agro-tourism
in Sao Tome @ICEA/P. Sciurano
At the same time, PAPAFPA has also supported the development of sustainable agro-tourism. Agro-tourism offers the opportunity for tourists to participate in the process of food production, to learn more about the lives of the rural people, and for local communities to generate additional income generation. The project facilitated the setting up of a platform which brings together a range of public and private stakeholders at national and regional level (tourist operators, eco-lodge and hotel owners, agricultural cooperatives and international certification bodies) and develops common tourist packages. As such, a “cocoa route” has recently been inaugurated, which allows the visitor to familiarize him- or herself with the production and processing of cocoa and to engage with local communities. The work is now being continued under the Smallholder Commercial Agriculture Project.