Wednesday, 20 March 2013

São Tomé and Príncipe: A Tiny Nation with an Environmental Perspective

São Tomé and Príncipe is a small nation in the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Africa.  Its name was given for the two main islands that comprise the country, the largest of each archipelago that it is made of.  While such a tiny nation would not normally register for its green record, looking at what they have done to improve their environment shows that no country in the world is exempt from caring for it. 

As a developing nation, São Tomé and Príncipe’s needs are different that those of Canada or Europe.  However, they still strive for sustainability, economic growth, and cultural expression, just like any other.  In pursuing this, they are working with other nations and organizations to ensure that their growth is not only economically sustainable, but that it is environmentally viable as well.  This article seeks to explore the Small Island Developing State (SIDS) that is São Tomé and Príncipe and show how every nation is responsible for protecting this world.

Food Security

As a part of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy, São Tomé and Príncipe are working to reduce poverty by half and add annual real GDP growth of 5% per year.  As a part of this, the African Development Bank has invested in São Tomé and Príncipe’s fisheries.  The goal is to reduce the food deficit in the country through sustainable practices that will ensure a lasting supply of food for the population as well as maintain environmental standards that will make it lasting.

São Tomé and Príncipe estimates it could bring in between 23,000 and 29,000 tonnes of fish per year.  This would help lower the current 22% of citizens who do not have enough food resources.  Environmental awareness actions within the program are meant to educate fishery workers on sustainable and green practices in order to ensure that a consistent stock is available every year.  This has been received through the Environmental and Social Management Plan, designed based on previous African Developmental Bank initiatives in other nations.  Such measures include:

  • Cleaning of runoff water before re-entry into the ecosystem;
  • Repopulation of old fishing tracks in order to protect historical and cultural fishing areas as well as ensure sustainability within existing water systems; and
  • Ensuring proper disposal of waste and toxic liquids through controlled landfills and incinerators.

Implementation of this plan is also a part of the island nation’s National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, signed in 2005.

Ocean Protection

Much of São Tomé and Príncipe can be classified as coastal.  The country has a rich diversity of undeveloped coastal areas; however these are threatened by deforestation, coastal erosion due to mining, desertification, unregulated tourism development, and a general lack of township planning.  There is also a newly emerging offshore petroleum industry that is growing and contributing to environmental concerns.  This is why a National Ocean Policy has been proposed by the United Nations for São Tomé and Príncipe as well as all SIDS nations.  This is important as continued erosion is damaging environments as well as tourism and fisheries development.

To counter growing oil production, the government passed the Oil Revenue Management Law, which is now considered a model for other nations.  Through the aid of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the World Bank, a percentage of oil revenues are diverted to future environmental needs.  This means that any offshore oil development must is required to contribute to environmental protection of the surrounding ocean area.

The Rio Convention of 1992 deals with sustainable development on a global level in dealing with resource development.  While non-binding, it has been used in the case of São Tomé and Príncipe to manage economic growth from natural resources in coastal areas while ensuring sustainability in the environment where it is being conducted.  The 1994 UN Conference on Sustainable Development of Small Island developing states, held in Barbados, is also being used to establish programs that take into account coastal and ocean issues for any new construction development on the islands.  This includes paying attention to coral reef habitats, wetlands, and life-support systems for marine wildlife.

National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA)

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Article 4.9, recognizes a classification of nations known as Least Developed Countries (LDCs).  These nations, of which São Tomé and Príncipe is a part of, have special needs when it comes to how they are able to incorporate climate change initiatives while continuing to develop other areas of their country.  Article 4.9 states, “The Parties shall take full account of the specific needs and special situations of the Least Developed Countries in their actions with regard to funding and transfer of technology.”  The use of NAPAs in such nations enables foreign aid for adaptable changes that place an emphasis on climate variability.

There are two NAPAs currently operating in São Tomé and Príncipe.  First, there is the Adaptation to Climate Change initiative that was begun by the World Bank.  The second is the Strengthening of the Adaptive Capacity of Must Vulnerable Sao Tomean’s Livestock-Keeping Households, initiated by the African Development Bank.  Key environmental vulnerabilities were outlined in six sectors: agriculture, forests and livestock; fisheries; public works, infrastructure and tourism; energy and water; health; and public safety and civil protection.  By working on climate change initiatives as well as certain social areas, the goal is to improve both the environment and the standard of living.  The UNFCCC is also coordinating their efforts, as well as those of the World Bank and African Development Bank, through the Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Rio Convention on desertification and biodiversity.  Additional funding for these programs have also come from the Japan Adaptation Programme.

It is important to note that this is only the beginning of the work that NAPAs wish to do in São Tomé and Príncipe.  There are a total of 22 projects currently outlined for the island nation.

The Future of São Tomé and Príncipe

As a SIDS and LDC nation, São Tomé and Príncipe has severe restrictions on what it is able to accomplish environmentally.  However, through external aid, such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the United Nations, they have been able to implement new strategies and begin projects to ensure a higher standard of life, meet basic needs of the population, and do so through sustainable and environmentally sound methods. This environmental transformation is also helping economically as new and existing industries are strengthened and can have an environmentally sound future.