Alfredo Rompão is not a farmer like others: along with his ten brothers and sisters, he was born and raised in the city, in São Tomé, the capital of São Tomé and Principe, an island country in Central Africa. Light years away from the lush hills where he now lives, working the fertile land to which he is deeply attached.
Alfredo is aware of the opportunity his parents gave him and his 10 siblings at a very young age: to let them choose the profession they wanted to pursue in life. Of the 11 children, Alfredo is the only one who chose agriculture, he explains in Creole mixed with Portuguese, in the middle of his hilly fields. And he has never regretted his choice. On the contrary: “I am happy and I love what I do.” He says.
Collectively weighing at least 20% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 80% of its export revenues and employing more than 60% of the country’s active population, the agricultural and fisheries sectors could play a major role in Sao Tome and Principe’s economy, and even help reduce poverty and improve the population’s food security, in addition to promoting the country’s social and economic development.
Despite this potential and the important role the sectors could play in the lives of many in São Tomé and Príncipe, the two sectors suffer from a lack of modern infrastructures, limited technical capacities and, in general, a lack of investments.
To support the government in addressing these challenges, the African Development Fund—the African Development Bank Group’s concessional lending arm—contributed nearly $7 million to launch the Infrastructure Rehabilitation for Food Security Support (PRIASA) program in 2015. The program focused on upgrading the main artisanal fisheries landing sites in Sao Paolo, Neves, Santo Antonio, and Santana. It also dwelt on the rehabilitation and extension of 27 kilometers of feeder roads and 10 irrigation systems. Furthermore, it established six agricultural processing units, an effort that has contributed positively to addressing the decline in agricultural production in the country because of market size and profitability challenges.
Through the program, Alfredo and other farmers have received training in cultivation, agriculture, and greenhouse usage to help them adopt efficient and more sustainable agricultural practices.
“Thanks to the greenhouses we have been provided with, things are changing. We have shelters, greenhouses and even a road thanks to the project,” says Alfredo with a cap on his head and large square glasses over a moustache. He explains that, thanks to the project, the number of farmers has increased, leading to a rise in agricultural production and a greater variety and availability of products offered in the market stalls. Now, “we have a balanced diet,” he says.
Alfredo Rompão is even happier because he works as a family, with his wife and their children: “agriculture is the cornerstone of the family,” insists the fulfilled father of a large family of workers.
The PRIASA project aims to boost the agricultural potential of Sao Tome and Principe, which has fertile land and a favorable climate. “São Tomé is a green country, it can give us a lot of food, we just need to throw seeds in the ground”, Alfredo emphasizes.
Impressed by the impact of the program and full of hope, Alfredo sees potential for a brighter future for himself and his country with continued investments like this. “What I wish, for São Tomé and for my children, is that we can have access to more training, have more seeds, and succeed in our work.”