May 10

Pepper & Vanilla — New Santomean Products Enter French Markets

Roça São João dos Angolares, São Tomé

"Grains of paradise" or "Guinea pepper" (Aframomum melegueta) at Roça São João dos Angolares. Photo by Inna Moody

I’ve just heard through the grapevine, Sao Tome & Principe is about the enter the European markets with peppers and vanilla.

The news is nothing short of a dream come true for a group of Santomean farmers, two of whom, António Pinto and Helena Bragança, say it’s worth believing in agriculture in Sao Tome.

Below reporting from local and international media, key points translated from Portuguese.

For the first time in the history of the agriculture in the islands, a new product entered the external market, a product that joins the famous Santomean chocolate.

Pela primeira na história da agricultura das ilhas, no âmbito da exportação entrou no mercado externo um novo produto que assim se junta ao famoso cacau são tomense.

Source: Artur Pinho, BBC Africa

The first shipment of 3 tons, composed on 1,2 tons of white peppers, and 1,8 tons of black peppers, produced for export, left the country on last Wednesday, with destination France. This is lot should already have been transported in 2009, however due to the requirements of the French market.

A primeira remessa de 3 toneladas, composta por 1,2 toneladas de pimenta branca e 1,8 toneladas de pimenta preta, produzida no país para exportação já terá deixado o país esta quarta-feira, com destino à França. Trata-se de um lote que deveria ser exportado em 2009 mas, devido às exigências do mercado francês.

Source: T. Andrade, O Parvo

These peppers are from last year, and go only now, because of exportation and certification procedures with the French Ministry of Agriculture.

“Esta pimenta é do ano passado e só vai agora, devido a demarches com a exportação e certificação e a autorização do Ministério da Agricultura francês”

Source: T. Andrade, O Parvo

António Pinto and Helena Bragança were two satisfied farmers. “It was worth it, and everybody who believed and took the bet, will be a rich farmer in Sao Tome”, assured António Pinto.

Helena Bragança added, that it was a “great fight, a lot of effort, and for me a great joy”.

António Pinto e Helena Bragança eram dois agricultores satisfeitos. “Valeu a pena e toda a gente que acreditou e apostou vai ser um agricultor rico em São Tomé” garantiu António Pinto.


A agricultora Helena Bragança também se mostrou satisfeita, considerando que “foi uma luta grande, muito esforço e para mim é uma grande alegria”.

Source: Artur Pinho, BBC Africa

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— Kris Haamer

Apr 10

Tomé: The Story Of One Man’s Name

Nuvens de Tempestade - Storm Clouds

Up in the Air. Photo by Rui Almeida

November 1975:  The final exodus of the Portuguese in Angola. A plane packed full of people and overloaded, approaches São Tomé and Principe across the Gulf of Guinea. Inside, the silent crowd, a young couple holding hands, pretending to sleep.

José, an agricultural engineer, expert on coffee plantations, worried about the future. Luisa, a teacher, this time not thinking of her students, only concerned with the child rafting, and beginning to show signs of wanting to be born.

The doctor in Luanda had advised her not to travel. The board had been informed there were no doctors. Only the hosts, their sympathy and their knowledge of first aid.

In the midst of thoughts, José felt the distance in his hand, a squeeze.

– Luisa? You okay?

– I think this will start … How long before Sao Tome?

– One hour or more. I know. Please, stay calm. – Rose. But one of the hostesses were attentive. Knew and felt what was happening. Motioned him to sit down and approached.

– I have been watching you. Stay calm. Let this chair recline more. Breathe slowly, as if preparing for sleep. It is less than an hour to a stop in Sao Tome, but I will confirm to the cabin. Be right back.

It took a few minutes to inform, smiling, winds had shortened the travel time and that within 45 minutes would be in the islands. The captain had already informed the airport and were already providing assistance to pregnant women.

I was born in full runway! Isabel, the host-midwife and my godmother of baptism, had a remarkable efficiency, so I was told, yes, because I at that time only knew as a kid to scream …

In Sao Tome it was amazing how people recently involved in the process of independence, which could explain some alienation, if not hostility, put so much love to that helpless family – say abandoned – in unknown lands.

The warmth and support were such that we were there! We continue to be Portuguese, but in everything else, we are St. Tomé! With much pride!

My mother has her students. My father his coffee. I, after studies in London, working in computer science that this country desperately needs.

But what I really like this sea is fabulous! Just seeing: You can not tell! …


Oceom (Oceans Diving)

With so much “excitement” to speak of S.Tomé he had forgotten to present me … And so:

When the embassy official asked the name my father gave the baby, he buckled his smile wider to say:

– Tomé! What else could it be?

Apr 10

João Morais’ Leve-Leve With A Dollar A Day — Part 3

Hotel Miramar São Tomé

Hotel Miramar. Photo by Inna Moody

Manfred Galland is German. But he’s lived in Africa for almost 50 years, and first came to Sao Tomé over 30 years ago.

Manfred has been the director of the Miramar Hotel for 12 years, and previously led the Polana hotel in Maputo, Mozambique.

Standing inside his hotel, Manfred has no idea about the young man outside, devouring the hotel’s Internet connection.



S. Tomé, Roça S. João: o local do "pecado"

Roca Sao Joao, led by João Carlos Silva. Photo by Joao Maximo

It’s the same story with electricity. But it’s not only electricity, that worries those who live in the capital…

Aires Fonseca is one of the many night guards who get no sleep during the night of the capital. After all his song is no more than a revolt against the status quo. Aires is there for another long night with open eyes …. especially attentive to the state of the country, and the mosquitoes that never leave him.


On television, malaria is still a reality. The spraying campaigns and the new drugs are a warning against the disease that has most affected Sao Tome for decades, and has been deadly. Although the situation is under control, still some cases of malaria do appear, such as the daughter of Eclair. In the central hospital of Sao Tome, the scene is now more exciting, than it was a few years back.

Taiwan e São tomé contra a malaria

Malaria prevention program. Photo by Isabel Julietta

These indicators no longer satisfy João Luís Batista, Professor of Public Health at the New University of Lisbon. In passing in the country, after having done his PhD thesis on malaria in Sao Tome, this researcher is nevertheless a warning.

Malaria is only one of the problems affecting today’s health care system in the country. Dr. Pascoal da Apresentação complains about the lack of equipment, and specialists Hospital Aires de Meneses, for example they lack a cardiologist.

University of Lusíada

At the University of Lusíada de São Tomé this is school year zero. For the first time the country has university education, which can help stop the exodus of young people from the archipelago, and strengthen the senior management of the country. For all these reasons, the dean Fernanda Pontífice believes this is a historic landmark.

During this year (2007 ed) the University will teach 3 courses and about 200 students. The annual fee is 1000 Euros, in a country where the minimum wage is around 50 euros a month.

The road to Sao Joao de Angolares is bad. These 60 kilometers require a jeep, and a lot of patience. For an hour’s drive. But today, despite the holes, the road has asphalt.


S. Tomé: Sr. Fernando Mendes e afilhadas

Fernando Mendes with the kids. Photo by João Máximo

Fernando Mendes is already more Santoméan than Portuguese. He emigrated to the islands when 16 and today he’s almost 80 years old. He has no desire to leave São João dos Angolares.

Fernando Mendes is a businessman, he has gardens and livestock. He was here during the stage of colonialism, the one-party rule, until the present day democracy. In politics he does not interfere, but praises the presidential portraits of Eanes and Soares he has in his room.

Even today, Fernando Mendes is well informed on Portugal. Even the weather he knows by heart… What he doesn’t know if he’ll one day return.

Not far from the center of São João dos Angolares is the office of the only Health NGO outside the capital.

Anantole Txenko Niki is the Head of the Ami in Sao Tome. The Ukrainian doctor has been on the islands for 6 years. Public health is something that over time come to the voice of Olivia Paiva, a nurse for 6 months on the ground. São João dos Angolares brings back her childhood in Lisbon. They have at least calm ocean, a short-sleeve weather and lush vegetation.

João Carlos

Joao Carlos da Silva. Photo by Robert Grant

João Carlos Silva, a cultural agitator in Sao Tome, the same man know from Roça Com Os Tachos (Plantation With The Pots) television series, spends much of his time in São João dos Angolares. These days, he does not hide a restlessness of soul when it comes to the future. The country needs before anything, and above all, an introspection.

The End of a Long Journey ...

The Main Gas Station. Photo by Armando França

The Fixation On Oil

In the jeep’s radio returning to the capital, oil features often in the news. Already for a few years there’s this permanent anxiety. Although the country has already received $ 50 millions as a bonus for signing the concession agreements, the Prime Minister ensures that the country will still have to wait at least another 3 years (meaning today, 2010 – ed).

The population no longer appears to believe in the oil, and the benefits they may get. In all the conversations, the tone is almost always the same.

Final Thoughts

I remember the words of Agostinho. I remember Claudio Corallo. I remember Manfred. I remember Helio. And I remember especially the most recent conversation, with João Carlos Silva.

The Prime Minister understands well the feeling of living in a country close to oil, and the criticisms the government receives.

In any case, this country that in 2003 imported 650 barrels of oil a day may, with estimates of the IMF, produce 10 years later, 30 thousand barrels per day. The calculations of the IMF also say that these islands where over one half the population are still living below the poverty line, are likely to receive 400 million dollars by 2015.

True or not, what is certain is that after the sugar cane, and cocoa, there is a a new word, still weird-soundng, which has become part of the vocabulary of Sao Tome and Prince.

João Morais is a Portuguese journalist since 1989, with 15 years of experience as a radio reporter, now working as an Editor for TVI Television. This story was first published on Jan 19, 2007 on TSF – Radio. For the Portuguese radio version listen here.

Apr 10

The 7 Districts – Our Coverage Thus Far

Banana beach

Banana Beach on Principe. Photo by Ana Rainho

São Tomé & Príncipe is divided into 7 administrative districts, six on São Tomé, and one on Principe. This post gives a geographical overview of the stories we’ve already covered – and those still missing.

The six regions of Sao Tome are Água Grande, Cantagalo, Caué, Lembá, Lobata, and Mé-Zóchi. The single region on Principe is called Pagué.

Hold on, and we’ll take you on a round-trip around the 7 seven regions, on the two islands.


1 – Água Grande, the Capital District

Cidade de São Tomé

Sao Tome Capital. Photo by Maria Cartas

This is the region around the capital of São Tomé & Príncipe, São Tomé including the city itself.

Most recently, Richar Heller wrote about the highschool Liceo Nacional.

A week before that, an overview of the Santomean air ban, and the poor state of the air strip in the capital, written by yours truly, was very popular.

Joao Morais wrote about the life of a taxi driver in the capital, in his 3-part series on living leve-leve on a dollar per day.

One of the first posts of the blog, was a listing of the restaurants in the capital, and we also mentioned the infamous Pilolo Atomico at Café & Compania.

Carlos Alberto Jr. wrote about his adventures with the fishermen on Gamboa beach, while yours truly said  Praia Lagarto was not the best choice.

2 – Cantagalo, the Eastern District

São Tomé

Boca do Inferno. Photo by Maria Cartas

This is the district down the road from the capital. The Roca Agua Izé plantation is beautiful for photography, sadly inhabited by squatters. Our own Jose Santos wrote about the Roca Agua Ize plantation.

There’s  also the Club Santana Resort nearby, with a French restaurant and bungalows. Close to Santana there’s the Cascada Blublu waterfall and a village by the same name. The most famous sight in the district is the Boca do Inferno.

3 – Lobata, the Northern District

Farol Lagoa Azul

View from the Farol Lagoa Azul. Photo by Inna Moody.


This district is on the road north. The capital of the Lobata region (the northern side of the island) is Guadalupe. Out on the sea there’s a small islet called the Ilhéu das Cabras (Island of the Goats).

We listed some of the Northern beaches, including the famous Lagoa Azul.

Notice the Baobab trees in the distance.

4 – Lembá, the Western District

Praia dos pobres

Neves beach by José Augusto

The capital of the Lembá district is Neves. This is where you arrive on the second day if you are doing the Pico Sao Tome to Neves walk. There is a petrol terminal and the Rosema beer brewery.

We’ve absolutely no coverage from the Lemba district so far. If you want to write about this part of the islands, you’re most welcome.

5 – Caué, the Deep South

Cão Grande

Cão Grande. Photo by Isaac Afonso

The capital of the Caué district is Sao Joao dos Angolares, which is where the famous Roca Sao Joao is located.

Richard Heller wrote about the Carnival in Sao Joao de Angolares nearby.

Your truly listed several beaches in the south, including Praia Jale and Praia Xixi.

We also wrote about the OLPC Project at the Sao Joao school, run by the fabulous Beth Santos.

Caué holds one of the best known sights of the islands, the Cao Grande or Big Dog. This is a huge phallic-looking rock formation that sticks out of the rain-forest 800 meters. We’ve used the rock as a symbol of the islands on our Facebook page.

6 – Mé-Zóchi, the Interior District

Sao Nicolau waterfall

Sao Nicolau Cascada (waterfall). Photo by Inna Moody

The capital of the Mé-Zóchi region is Trindade. Your truly gave a short oveview of the Obo National Park. Close to the city there’s the Cascada Sao Nicolao waterfall.

Towards the interior there’s Bom Suggeso. Most of the trails leave from Bom Sucesso, and you can easily get here on foot from the Boa Vista inn, which sits on Monte Café.

One of the  walks from Bom Sucesso is to reach Lagoa Amelia. This is a strange volcanic crater deep in the forest of the Obo National Park. On the way back , there’s the Bom Sucesso botanical garden. And a collection of more than 100 different orchids that grow on São Tome

There’s a two day walk from Bom Successo climb to Monte Pico, and descend to Neves. If no clouds, spectacular view of the island before the descent to Neves in the north part of the island. Michael Stein has written a wonderful account of the experience.

7 – Pagué, on Principe


Sprout on Praia Banana beach on Principe. Photo by Ana Rainho

So you’re thinking where’s number seven, right? That’s right, there is no number 7 – that’s because we want to challenge You to write us about Principe, and the Pagué region.

The sprout in the image symbolizes opportunity!

We know there’s a number of interesting stories on Principe, from the incredible newfound biodiversity and unknown species, to the infamous expedition made by Albert Einstein’s friend Eddington in 1919, to many newer stories we’ve not even heard about.

So get writing, and drop us a line!

Apr 10

Richard Heller Meets Students at Liceo Nacional, S. Tomé

Kids. Phot by Richard Heller

Kids. Photo by Richard Heller

The Liceo Nacional, the main high school of São Tomé. It is on the Marginal on the east side of town, facing the water.

The main Liceo building was built by the Portuguese in 1969. It is pink and looks pretty, but it is also concrete and badly ventilated.

Temperatures in the classrooms – often with 60 or more pupils in them – regularly reach over 100 degrees F (38 degrees C is far less expressive) and on the day I visited two teachers had fainted and been forced to go home.

The Liceo has over 6000 pupils, who often have to be taught in two shifts or even three. Competition for places is intense but so too, sadly, is the drop-out rate, evidenced by the number of school age children who are street vendors.

There are fees, and although these sound small to foreigners they bite hard into the budgets of poor families, especially when they have to add books, stationery and the cost of the simple but smart uniform.

Children under tree. Photo by Richard Heller

If pupils drop out, so too do teachers. Salaries are low (and occasionally not paid), stress is high. Tertiary education is very limited and to gain a teaching qualification Santomeans have to go abroad. Not surprisingly, many do not return.

As elsewhere in the country, the Liceo has many gifts or projects from overseas donors and some are half-finished or disused. The US navy presented a complete gymnasium – it was being used as a store room.

The pupils get plenty of exercise in their extensive grounds: on a short visit I saw four soccer or netball games in progress. One soccer game took me back to my childhood: they were playing with a tennis ball. That version encourages very fast players with great ball control.

It made me sad that the country currently plays no international football (FIFA threw them out because the national team did not have enough money to play away matches).

I visited a few classes but it was hard to judge the quality of the teaching, partly because I didn’t speak Portuguese and more importantly, because the pupils were excited by the foreign visitor. I did see pupils doing homework in corridors and in the grounds, which suggested commitment (and a lack of suitable space at home.)

The Liceo is extremely strong in art and design, and rightly proud of the pupils’ brightly coloured murals and their outdoor furniture. (The whole country seemed highly gifted artistically: public buildings and places are regularly adorned with murals or statues, private buildings, even shacks, are handsomely decorated, and local furniture and household goods are very well made).

I was told that the pupils do most of the maintenance of the school facilities and equipment themselves.

Photo by Richard Heller

The Liceo is achieving against steep odds. It is the main hope of a high school education in a poor country where nearly the population is under 15.

Its hardest task (I was told) is to persuade many pupils to finish their education when prospects of further education or a worthwhile job seem very remote.

The Liceo would appreciate more contacts from overseas, including partnerships with other schools.

I cannot give an email address – so can only suggest writing to the Principal, Liceo Nacional, Avenida Marginal 12 Julho, São Tomé, São Tomé e Príncipe.

(See this website or phone up the school: + 239 2222184– editor).


Richard Heller is an Oxford graduated British author, journalist, speechwriter, ghostwriter, editor. His novel A Tale Of Ten Wickets is available on Amazon.


Apr 10

João Morais’ Leve-Leve With A Dollar A Day — Part 2

Claudio Corallo, mestre chocolateiro

Chocolatier Claudio Corallo. Photo by Tiago Cruz

Cocoa is the largest export of Sao Tome & Principe. An ancient, and unique brand of Cocoa plants survives on the fields of Claudio Corallo, and local producer of ecological chocolate. These plants is what Corallo was after, when he first came to Sao Tome over 30 years ago.

An Italian by nationality, an agriculturist by trade, the man discovered a unique and ancient variety of cocoa on the islands. Brought back from South America on the other side of the ocean back in the 1800s.

This cocoa, flavored with history, is what many call the world’s best.



After 13 years of producing coffee and cocoa in Sao Tome, Claudio Corallo acknowledges that he must have been crazy to invest in a country without conditions and infrastructure.

Lost Years

Today, even the Prime Minister, Tomé Vera Cruz (as of 2007, current PM is Rafael Branco – ed), admits that Sao Tome lost these 30 years after the independence.

This year the PM believes Sao Tome will have extra help from the International Monetary Fund, with a debt cancelation amounting to $380 millions.

When the Prime Minister says that we must start from scratch, he refers for example to the energy issue. Both the capital, and the country,  often have to endure power cuts – the lack of electricity is a constant daily problem. At night Energy Officials in their Jeep try to stretch the little energy that exists

Now sitting in the Jeep, I’m reminded of Helio, the unemployed painter in the neighborhood of Madrede

Hotel Miramar

Hotel Miramar

us, with whom I’d talked days earlier.

What’s Your Dream?

By 11 at night, the city is dark and silent. The avenues and the marginal sleep early, and only rare figures break the night. Along the coastal road and the Hotel Miramar, the main hotel in the city, in the dark of the night, a strange blue light glows, someone is sitting on a low wall. A single light in the darkness.

The strange light of the marginal is the notebook of Mário, a young man who hangs out on the wireless Wi-Fi network from the hotel, travelling for hours to other worlds on the net.

Mário tells me afterwards, that his mother is an engineer at United Nations, and that’s the only way she managed to buy hm the laptop. Now his dream is going to college in Portugal.


João Morais is a Portuguese journalist since 1989, with 15 years of experience as a radio reporter, now working as an Editor for TVI Television. This story was first published on Jan 19, 2007 on TSF – Radio. For the Portuguese radio version listen here.

Apr 10

Air Ban: Paradise Island to Be Cut Off From Air Travel & Shipping?

São Tomé International Airport

São Tomé International Airport. Photo by Inna Moody

Apparently, the airport in São Tomé is in danger of being shut down, because of a impeding ban by the International Civil Aviation Organization, following an inspection in January.

Companies flying the Santomean flag were previously banned from flying into European airspace, for lax safety measures. According to Tela Non, the islands will have to implement fundamental improvements involving financial investment in civil aviation sector in order to get out of the blacklist.

The country is heavily dependent on the Portuguese air company TAP for flights to Europe. Last December TAP threatened to cancel all flights to the archipelago unless the runway was repaired, as reported by Afrol.

The Prime Minister, Rafael Branco, said this on a press conference:

It’s an issue we have to resolve rapidly. Very rapidly even, according to the report. But to have two fire trucks at the airport, we need something like two million dollars (almost 1.5 million euros) and we don’t have that money.

More Coverage on AFP, MacauHub, and on Tela Non here and here.

Shipping Ban?

At least one post in the local forums indicates, that air travel is not the only problem – the port could also be in danger, because of being blacklisted by the International Maritime Organization for breach of rules relating to port security, established in the ISPS Code – International Ship and Port Facilities Security Code or the International Code for the protection of ships and port facilities.

The picture is more dramatic. We run the risk that the our only port and one airport prevented from receiving certain vessels and aircraft. It is time to ask what the leadership of this country wants for his people.

Portanto, o cenário é mais dramático. Corremos o risco de ver os nosso único porto e único aeroporto impedidos de receberem certos navios e aeronaves. É altura de perguntar o que é que a liderança deste país quer para o seu povo.

Source: Mé-Chinhô on Sao Tome Yahoo Group

Should these bans be enacted, Sao Tome & Principe could be left without European flights, and international ships. Unfortunately this is no April Fools joke.


Mar 10

Newspapers in São Tomé & Príncipe

Téla nón

Téla nón is a high-profile online newspaper in São Tomé & Príncipe, most popular in the diaspora

We’ve previously listed blogs covering Sao Tome & Principe. As the Santomean blogosphere is tiny, one might say non-existent, most of the discussion goes on around stories produced by newspapers. So today we give you a list of all the Santomean newspapers that are available online – enjoy!

Obviously, these newspapers are in Portuguese, so you might want to use Google Translate. Some of the sites, like Jornal Tropical, have been black-listed by Google, so if your browsers gives you a big red warning – just press ‘ignore’.

Lets start with the National newspapers.

International news agencies, and news sources.

If you start a blog about Sao Tome & Principe, find a news source we haven’t listed, or write an article for your local paper – let us know here.

Mar 10

José Santos’ Thoughts on the Plantation Roça Água Izé

Roça Água Izé. Photo by José Santos

Roça Água Izé. Photo by José Santos

We were heading South of São Tomé island to see the sea turtles that visit Jalé Beach each year. Água Izé is just on the way, by the EN2 (National Road 2) and I was curious about the very plantation, where commercial cocoa production first started. They say it’s one of the biggest…

São Tomé Road South. Photo by Inna Moody

São Tomé Road South. Photo by Inna Moody

We parked the jeep close to what seemed to be some old factories, I couldn’t tell if they still functioned.

Bags of Cocoa at Roça Água Izé. Photo by Consulate of São Tomé & Principe in Marseille

Bags of Cocoa at Roça Água Izé. Photo by Consulate of São Tomé & Principe in Marseille

All was strangely quiet. I wanted to talk with some locals. To have an understanding of the what was going on in the village – yes, that’s what some of the old plantations became, villages.

We walked around a little bit until we found a young boy, about 15 or 16 years old, passing by.

I approached him and asked if he could show us around, he reluctantly accepted to do it, I think just to be polite as santomeans usually are. His name was Lúcio but people called him “Musculino” – he was very slim  so I assumed someone put him that nickname meaning he had small muscles…

He took us to some nearby cocoa plantations that are nowadays owned by private companies.

Woman in a Window at Roça Água Izé

Woman in a Window at Roça Água Izé. Photo by Isaac Afonso

As we walked up the brown roads, ladies would beg us for “a candy for the children” which was something not that common in other parts of the island.

People here looked different, no joy on their faces. As I heard them talking to each other, I could understand they spoke cape-verdean creole (many people from Cape-Verd were contracted(?) in the XIX century to work in the plantations) not the most common forro, the dominant dialect.

Gradually Musculino felt more comfortable and volunteered to show us the famous hospital of the plantation that, I learned after, dating from 1928.

Musculino. Photo by José Santos

Our guide Musculino. Photo by José Santos

Though, he wasn’t comfortable to walk around with us half-naked so he asked for a few minutes to run home and dress up properly.

When Musculino was ready, we went up the hill. It was a steep climb, I feared for my fragile rented Suziki Vitara.

Huts on the Lagoon at Agua Izé. Photo by Inna Moody

Huts on the Lagoon at Agua Izé. Photo by Inna Moody

When we got there, boy, what a wondrous feeling. A mix of emotions froze my body, they can’t really be translated into words.

As I faced this majestic colonial building, my mind was transported into other times. Staring at its lordliness, I could imagine how powerful one would have felt being in charge of that territory, managing it, making it work.

For a moment I was João Maria de Sousa e Almeida running all that, finding workers, building railways, running a profitable business for the Portuguese crown as a proper nobleman.

Then suddenly, I was a slave being forced to work those lands.Feeling the pain of having been taken away from my home town where I was a nobleman myself. I had been traded like an animal and now had to learn the language of those who I hated.

Like myself, others where being brought from many African nations to work here and make someone else prosper with our sweat and tears.

Back to the present. The old hospital looks terrible these days. People are splitting up its huge rooms to make tiny “apartments” out of them. No roof, the shingles seem to have been stolen. Everything dirty and smelly. It’s a sad view.

In the end I asked myself: wasn’t it better when it all worked ?

But how could it be better if it all was at the expenses of slavery and disrespect for the human race ?

Well, that brutality fed all those people, things worked up to the point of having the biggest production in the World.

Yeah, right, but people were forced to do it against their will.. I’m sure the surrounding landscape was much more beautiful those days… but now people are at least free; aren’t they?

José Santos is a Portuguese traveler and software developer. He visited São Tomé and Príncipe, including the Roça Água Ize plantation, in January 2009.

Mar 10

João Morais’s Leve-Leve With A Dollar A Day — Part 1

Aerial View - São Tomé

Aerial View of São Tomé. Photo by Inna Moody

São Tomé, like the calm sea, rolling softly on the beach of Ana Chaves Bay, remains quiet and almost frozen in time. As if we had retreated 30 years. Or maybe more.

Marks of the past are everywhere. The streets are wide and without traffic. And the low houses of colonial origin, show, in many cases, the air of abandonment.

Here in this paradise, the second smallest country in Africa, with about 150 thousand islanders, the past is still present.

São Toméan girl

Yellow taxis and colonial buildings. Photo by Marko Laakkonen

The Taxi Driver

The past can be a taxi, used for more than 3 decades, dragging around the capital.

Cruz is 30 years old, and the taxi that makes his living, is older than the man.

In São Tomé, the price of gasoline is always very high. It’s almost as expensive as in Europe – a luxury for a country where the minimum wage evaporates, because you earn just some 50 Euros per month.

While Cruz is driving between the busy swarm of yellow-green taxis, he’s telling me that it’s not only gasoline that makes him tighten his belt every month. Apart from fruit, vegetables and fish, everything is expensive – at least for the 4 mouths Cruz needs to feed at home.

On the market, inflation seems to feel sorry for the vendors. Cruz confesses later, that he can only fool his fate of poverty, because he works a double shift.

The Painter

His is a life sleeping in a hurry, quite different from the one Hélio Quaresma leads. An unemployed painter, who works as a cab driver when he’s got gasoline. Hélio has been unemployed for 1 year. Today his whole future seems to be in shades of gray. Hélio has no idea with what money he will wake up tomorrow. In these complicated days, it’s his brother that often helps.

Pestana Equador - Ilhéu das Rolas

Ilhéu das Rolas Resort. Photo by Sandra Basílio

The Hotelier

30 years old, and lucky to work at a hotel on the Ilhéu das Rolas island on the equator, Augustinho earns about 200 Euros per month. Money that has to help fulfill his dream.

The dream is merely a balcony – one day it will be the best room in his small wooden house. After 8 years of work, and travelling to Portugal and Senegal, where he received training in hotel management.

On days off Augustinho dedicates his time to his family of wife and daughter, and his friends. Sunday in Sao Tome is like this: quiet and easy (leve-leve as is the saying), with all the time in the world for resting, for the friends, and music. A good day to meet Santa Margarida.

The Plantation Worker

The plantation of Santa Margarida is a few kilometers from the capital. And from what they say, it’s managed by the President, Fradique de Menezes. It is here that Leite Eugénio, a 30 year-old plantation worker lives, in a Roca in the countryside, where they used to put the contractors during the colonial era.

There’ no bathroom. Water and light are rationed. In the world of statistics, Leite Eugénio is one of those, that lives, or rather survives, with less than $ 1 per day. The table at his house, and the stomachs of his family know well –  what it’s like to have 20 euros for 4 people.


João Morais is a Portuguese journalist since 1989, with 15 years of experience as a radio reporter, now working as an Editor for TVI Television. This story was first published on Jan 19, 2007 on TSF – Radio. For the Portuguese radio version listen here.