More on Sao Tome and Principe

The nation of Sao Tome and Principe covers two islands and several mostly uninhabited islets in the Gulf of Guinea. A 190,000-strong, lower middle income country with a history of slavery and failed socialist reforms, Sao Tome is heavily indebted and ranks 143th out of 188 for Human Development.

About half of the total land area of 960 km square is devoted to farming, chiefly of export commodities: most nutritious food produced here leaves the country.

In 2015, the nation benefited from strong cacao production and plunging oil prices; GDP has grown by 4-5 percent in recent years. But the small size of Sao Tome’s population and economy remains a significant obstacle to development. Central to poverty reduction is education, where WFP assistance is concentrated.

Current issues in Sao Tome and Principe

In 2015, more than 60 percent of the population was estimated to be living below the national poverty line of US$1.70 per person per day. (More than 40 percent lived on less than US$1.25.) The mortality rate for children under five was high at 51 per thousand. In the late 2000s, almost a third of Sao Tomean children in that age group were found to suffer from moderate or severe stunting; three in 10 were chronically malnourished.  

With Sao Tome heavily dependent on imports, food availability is unpredictable: there is no deep sea port; in bad weather, landing is difficult on the country’s one short airstrip. No cereals are cultivated on the islands; what little produce is grown for domestic consumption is vulnerable to floods and landslides. 

Poor nutrition partly helps explain low educational attainment. Other factors are poverty; lack of access; lack of motivation due to a limited employment market; and teenage pregnancy, which is relatively common.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Sao Tome and Principe

WFP has been working for more than 30 years to improve the nutritional status of San Tomean children and encourage school enrolment and retention. This involves providing a daily hot meal to 43,200 primary school children (first to sixth grades). School meals have increased enrolment, stabilized attendance (currently 97 percent) and reduced dropout rates; they also enhance students’ ability to concentrate during class. 

As part of the process, WFP has established kitchens equipped with eco-stoves, storage facilities, parent-teacher associations, teacher monitoring mechanisms and, at many schools, vegetable gardens. 

In 2012, we began transitioning our school feeding responsibilities to the Government – a process due to be completed in 2016. The strategic objectives of the project are to:

•    Maintain the high level of access to education and human capital development in assisted schools and kindergartens;

•    Strengthen the capacity of government ministries, particularly the National School Feeding and Health Programme, in school feeding management, resource mobilization, monitoring and evaluation, and other critical areas; and

•    Lay the groundwork for a sustainable, nationally-owned school feeding programme.

The transition project has had three main components:

•     Funding and Budgeting. WFP has been helping the Ministry of Education develop a resource mobilization strategy aimed at stable, multi-year funding.

•    Cost-effective programme design. WFP has examined the option to introduce light meals (snacks, soup) in collaboration with parents. 

•    Institutional arrangements for monitoring and accountability of implementation. WFP has helped identify resources and capacity gaps. We have also provided training and support on procurement, logistics, food storage, and monitoring and evaluation.

World Food Programme partners in Sao Tome and Principe

WFP cannot fight global hunger and poverty alone. These are our partners in Sao Tome and Principe:


•    Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

•    Government of Sao Tome and Principe

•    Helpo

•    Instituto de Estudios de la Hambre

•    MARAPA 

•    National School Feeding and Health Programme (Sao Tome and Principe)


•    United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

•    World Bank

•    World Health Organization (WHO)

•    ZATONA-Adil

Featured Sao Tome and Principe publications

Looking for more publications on Sao Tome and Principe? Visit the Sao Tome and Principe publications archive.