Francisco Ramos (pictured left)
Sao Tomé & Príncipe’s Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development
The small country of Sao Tomé & Príncipe has big plans to become 100% organic, growing good food that has a positive impact on its people, its national economy — and the planet.
Sao Tomé & Príncipe — an island off the western coast of Central Africa — is small in terms of population size (it’s home to around 201,000 people). But in terms of leading by example, it’s an absolute giant.
That’s because Sao Tomé & Príncipe has made the bold commitment to become 100% organic, growing food that is healthy for its people and the planet. It’s hoped that producing good food in quality and quantity will guarantee nutritional security, help reduce the country’s reliance on imports and open up lucrative export opportunities.
Mapping out the organic journey
“We are not 100% organic yet,” cautions Francisco Ramos, Sao Tomé & Príncipe’s Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development. “But we are working towards it. It’s important to do so because there are a lot of external markets requiring organic products such as coffee, cocoa, pepper and coconut oil. A healthy product will contribute to a healthy population, helping us fight diseases and plagues. This will then impact the economy by decreasing our need to import medicine. Overall, the importance of becoming 100% organic is to improve our people’s lives and the national economy.”
A healthy product will contribute to a healthy population, helping us fight diseases and plagues.
To that end, the Government has been working with various stakeholders to finalise a National Organic Action Plan. “Agriculture is a transversal sector and we need everyone on board,” explains Ramos. “We also need to acknowledge that this isn’t an easy process and it might even outlast the present government. Our goal is that the Plan is put into action as soon as possible.”
Implementing organic production policy
Policies are also being adopted to stimulate organic production, including measures that facilitate access to bio-inputs and reduce the use of synthetic inputs (such as fertiliser and pesticides). An organic movement in Sao Tomé & Príncipe has been officially established, while leaders in organic agriculture have been trained to steer the transition across the country.
Thankfully, the move to organic has been favourably received, particularly among the country’s coffee, cocoa, pepper and coconut producers. “That leaves us with a smaller part, which is also the hardest: horticulture,” admits Ramos. “The population that depends more on horticulture is finding it harder to transition to organic. But this process can’t be rushed. It needs to be consistent and balanced and we already have some farmers that produce greenery/vegetables with a certificate. It gives me hope that we can continue to work towards becoming 100% organic.”