The Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism

Sustainable agroforestry value chains to support forest and landscape restoration in Sao Tome and Principe

Year published: 10/11/2020

The amazingly biodiverse forests of Sao Tome and Principe are host to a rich variety of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) – fruits, nuts, spices, leaves, roots, mushrooms and many others – that have always been fundamental in the livelihoods of local people. Nowadays, many NTFPs are still an important component of the diet and a safety net for the most vulnerable sectors of the local society, as well as an increasingly valued and popular commodity on the national market. The promotion of income generating actions addressing the sustainable exploitation of NTFPs is relatively new in Sao Tome, although a few initiatives have made promising steps in recent years, led by the private sector – small companies involved in the gathering, processing and marketing of products – through projects often initiated with funding from international donors.

Funded by the Global Environment Facility, The Restoration Initiative (TRI) national project in Sao Tome and Principe is working to support short value chains based on the sustainable exploitation of NTFPs. The aim is to develop a stronger constituency for the protection of healthy and productive forest ecosystems, and a significant income generating opportunity for rural communities, with a focus on women and young people.

The work started with an assessment and preselection of potential beneficiary communities and target products based on criteria, such as the interest of the communities themselves, the market potential of the value chains and the availability of local knowledge and expertise for technical assistance.

The communities of San Carlos and Belavista, with a total of 260 members, were selected on the Sao Tome island to work on wild honey – a product in increasing demand from both locals and the hotel/tourism business. The work on honey will be carried out in partnership with the Écosystèmes forestiers d’Afrique centrale VI (ECOFAC VI) project of the European Union and implemented locally by BirdLife. On the Principe island, the choice fell on the communities of Montalegre and Generosa (141 members) and on the production of Búzio, an endemic species of forest snail, which is highly valued in Sao Tome and Principe and an important source of protein in rural areas. The project is also exploring the idea of supporting the communities of Águas da Belas and Bombaím (76 members) with a pilot action on bamboo, a species not indigenous to the country, which should be carefully managed as it is potentially invasive, but with a high potential to meet the demand for charcoal and as a material for the production of furniture. The project team is exploring a potential partnership on this, working with the Central African office of the International Bamboo and Rattan Organization (INBAR), based in Cameroon.

All these NTFP activities will start with a training programme, where national experts and members of communities with a successful record in the NTFP business will share their experience and know-how on production, processing and marketing with the new beneficiaries, building in particular on FAO’s market analysis and development approach. Techniques and methodologies for the sustainable extraction of NTFPs in the forest will also be part of the training. As a second step, financial resources will be made available for the purchase of equipment identified during the training course and needed for business take-off.

Right from the early steps of the process, the project facilitate contact and dialogue between future producers and potential buyers – agrofood enterprises, shops and tourism establishments – encouraging preliminary agreements where both parties will discuss quantitative and qualitative production standards, pricing and delivery mechanisms.

Marco Pagliani (FAO)