Poverty Alleviation, Ecotourism, and Biodiversity Protection in Príncipe Island

Poverty Alleviation, Ecotourism, and Biodiversity Protection in Príncipe Island

Alda Matos (Escola Superior Náutica Infante D. Henrique, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5691-7.ch004
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Príncipe is the smallest of the two São Tomé and Príncipe (STP) islands and site of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Two-thirds of its seven thousand inhabitants are poor, and the productive fabric does not generate enough resources for poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation. Moreover, STP archipelago belongs to the group of small island developing states (SIDS), recognised by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development as a particular case, and international funding for development and sustainability support is available. In addition, the autonomous government of Príncipe identified ecotourism as a niche market to develop, establishing goals for this activity. This chapter presents some results of the actions that have been promoted. In future work, the author studies the case of Cape Verde, another Portuguese speaking SIDS, aiming to understand what has been done in terms of poverty alleviation and its impacts.
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Príncipe Island, henceforth Príncipe, is an autonomous region of the state of São Tomé and Príncipe (STP), located in the Gulf of Guinea, 220 km off the African west coast. The STP archipelago has a total area of 1001 sq. km, homeland of 178,739 inhabitants (estimated in 2018), of whom 7,000 are from Principe, and two-thirds of the country’s population is poor. In addition, the insularity condition affects the economic development and business environment thereby impeding competitiveness and poverty alleviation (Dallimer & King, 2008). The World Bank (2005) highlighted that STP is not a poor country; it has become poor as the result of poor national resource management and inadequate policy options.

In 1900, STP was the world`s biggest producer of cacao, but the plantations collapsed in the 1970 decade. From 1986 to 1990, and after a decade of abandon of the country´s colonial legacy of the cocoa monoculture plantation economy, the country`s authorities have undergone a rehabilitation program of some state-owned estates, conceding them to private foreign management, financed by international institutions, in order to increase cocoa output and achieve economic recovery. Due to the poor condition of the cacao trees and the international cocoa prices decrease´, the higher annual production was insufficient to increase exports´ revenues (Seibert, 2016). In the following years, the failure of the agricultural development increased rural migration, urban poverty and emigration mainly towards Portugal, Gabon and Angola (Poças, 2016).

A key event in the archipelago´s recent history is the discovery of offshore oil reserves in 1997. In the following years, oil companies paid sizable “signing bonuses” to start exploratory oil drills, and an agreement was signed with Nigeria, in 2001, on the creation of the Joint Development Zone (JDZ) in the maritime area. Meanwhile, the exploratory oil drillings yielded unsatisfactory results and the exit from the JDZ of Chevron, Addax, Sinopec, and Total companies diminished oil prospects for the foreseeable future (IMF, 2013). Present in STP since 2015, Galp acquired a 45% stake in Block 6, in which it is an operator. In the following year, Galp acquired a 20% stake in blocks 5, 11 and 12 (Galp, 2019). In 2017, a 16,000 sq. km 3D seismic acquisition campaign was launched across all blocks, but the impacts of the eventual financial return to the local economy are still awaited.

Meanwhile, since 2000 little improvement has been achieved in poverty mitigation in the archipelago: roughly 67,4% of the local population has an annual per capita expenditure of less than STP “dobra” 10.9 million, equivalent to an amount under the threshold of 445 € annual per capita revenue estimated as the poverty line for the country (Gama & Sanoussi, 2017). The lack of up-to-date poverty data undermines efforts to reduce poverty in the country. Still, recent World Bank estimates, based on growth assumptions, indicate that around one-third of the country’s population lives on less than US$1.9 PPP per day and more than two-thirds of the population is poor, at a poverty line of US $ 3.2 in 2019, with an increase of roughly 2 percentage points in comparison with 2010. This small change in poverty has been mainly attributed to increases in the value of household income rather than the redistribution of income across the population. Moreover, inequality in STP remains high for international standards (Gini index of 56.3 in 2017), and additional welfare indicators such as the Human Development Index (HDI) indicate 0.59 for STP under the average for selected peers which is 0.62 (The World Bank, 2018, 2019). Ever since 2010, the African Development Bank considers STP a ‘Fragile State’ due to persisting poverty, economic vulnerability to external shocks, weak government capacity and inadequate provision of basic social services to the population (ADB, 2012).

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