Alfredo Rompão is not like other farmers. Along with his 10 brothers and sisters, he was born and raised in São Tomé, the capital city of São Tomé and Principe, light years away from the lush hills of São Nicolau, a village in the central part some some 7 miles or 12km South-West of São Tomé where he now lives, working the fertile land to which he is deeply attached.
Alfredo is the only one of his siblings who chose agriculture. “I am happy and I love what I do,” he explains in Portuguese-laced Creole, in the middle of his fields.
The agricultural and fisheries sectors could play a major role in reducing poverty and improving food security in São Tomé and Principe. It could also promote the country’s social and economic development. Collectively, these sectors contribute at least 20% to the country’s gross domestic product, 80% of its export revenues and employ more than 60% of the workforce. However, the two sectors suffer from a lack of modern infrastructure, limited technical capacity and, in general, a lack of investment.
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 Program (PRIASA) in 2015. The program focused on upgrading the main artisanal fishing landing sites in Sao Paolo, Neves, Santo Antonio, and Santana. It also rehabilitated and extended 27 kilometers of feeder roads and 10 irrigation systems. Furthermore, it established six agricultural processing units.
Through the program, Alfredo and other farmers 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. The number of farmers increased, leading to a rise in agricultural production and a greater variety of products. “Now we have a balanced diet,” he says.
Alfredo is even happier because he works with his wife and their children. “Agriculture is the cornerstone of the family,” he insists. “São Tomé is a green country, it can give us a lot of food. We just need to throw seeds in the ground. 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.”