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.