As the second smallest economy in Africa, São Tomé and Príncipe covers two islands and several – mostly uninhabited – islets in the Gulf of Guinea. Around one-third of the just over 215.000 inhabitants live on less than US$ 1.9 per day, and more than two-thirds are poor, based a poverty line of US$ 3.2 per day. Eradicating extreme poverty, malnutrition and socio-economic development constraints is still among the country’s biggest challenges.
São Tomé and Príncipe faces significant challenges due to its insularity, remoteness – which translates into high export costs – and irregular landscape. Land surface and workers are limited, which prevents economic diversification and makes the country vulnerable to terms-of-trade shocks. Additionally, the nation is prone to natural hazards and climate change, which has negatively effects on agriculture, makes transport difficult and affects infrastructure.
The limited number of qualified workers in São Tomé and Príncipe is an obstacle to the production of goods and services on the scale needed to meet market demand. High unemployment rates and weak agriculture, fishing and livestock sectors, compounded by the impact of recurring natural hazards prevent national food production from meeting the needs of the population. Food availability and market stability are unpredictable due to limited infrastructure and poor market access. São Tomé’s heavy reliance on food imports causes fluctuations in food prices and affects the livelihoods of families, women, children, the elderly and people living with HIV.
Ranking 137th out of 189 countries in the 2019 Human Development Index (HDI), Sao Tomé e Príncipe falls in the medium human development category. In the 2019 Gender Inequality Index (GII), the country ranked 132nd out of 162 – an indication of the significant challenges it is facing in creating fair opportunities for most women and girls, for whom the national unemployment rate is 42 percent. Access to education and employment among teenage girls is still hampered by high rates of early marriage and pregnancy. Child mortality rates are high, with one-third of every 1,000 children born dying before turning 5.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has been working in São Tomé and Príncipe since 1976. As part of its country capacity strengthening agenda, WFP aims to reinforce the institutional capacities of the government, national stakeholders and local communities. Driven by a “whole of society” approach, WFP promotes collaboration among governmental bodies, the UN system, the private sector and national non-governmental actors. To enable long-term sustainable results, WFP provides a robust normative and technical methodology to ensure in-country counterparts are in the driving seat at each step, from defining sustainable goals to implementing, monitoring and reporting on the national strategy.
What the World Food Programme is doing in São Tomé and Príncipe
Country capacity strengthening
WFP’s work in capacity strengthening contributes to transformative change in systems, not only individuals. We achieve this in collaboration with the government, UN agencies and national actors. WFP’s agenda focuses on revision of policies and legislations, reinforcement of institutional effectiveness and accountability, planning and financial mechanisms, programme design, delivery and M&E, and ensures engagement of non-governmental stakeholders.
The government, local actors and WFP collaborate to deliver, monitor and achieve sustainable results for the national home-grown school feeding programme, targeting 25 percent of the total population. WFP enables institutional systems to grow by revising policies, reinforcing institutional accountability and financial sustainability, and incorporating a gender-transformative, nutrition-sensitive and environmentally-sustainable approach.
To reinforce the national food value chain system, WFP stimulates the local economy by sustainably linking smallholder farmers’ production to local markets. WFP collaborates with the government and national counterparts to strengthen smallholder farmers’ capacities, reinforce institutional information management, coordination and decision-making mechanisms, and ensure reliable analysis and tracking of the agriculture market and its main workforce.
In collaboration with national bodies, community leaders and members, WFP supports the government in ensuring equal access to development opportunities for vulnerable girls and women, and strategic engagement of men, as part of its school feeding and smallholder farming agendas. We do it through facilitating gender awareness and advocacy interventions and supporting the design and delivery of gender-transformative capacity strengthening activities.
To minimize the socio-economic impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has requested support from WFP in the areas of food security and nutrition to implement the National Contingency Plan. In collaboration with local authorities, communities and governmental bodies, WFP is providing direct food assistance to 5,000 vulnerable girls and boys, and their parents, from 209 schools in six districts, and to the remote region of Principe.
Humanitarian air service
The country is facing an unprecedented health, humanitarian and socio-economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. WFP is supporting the government, WHO, UNICEF, along with other key local actors, in receiving and delivering food and medical supplies, and facilitating prompt and strategic deployment of passengers to ensure life-saving response to assist the population and ensure humanitarian aid reaches all the most vulnerable districts.