The small island nation of Sao Tome and Principe (STP) in the Gulf of Guinea is often referred to as ‘the Galapagos of Africa’ – in reference to its rich and diverse forest ecosystems. However, STP’s fast-expanding population and rising demands for food, energy and space are increasing the pressure on these natural resources. About one-third of STP’s forests have been converted to coffee and cocoa plantations, and those that remain are under increasing threats from clearing and overexploitation of fuelwood.
The government of STP recognises the threat that continued unsustainable practices pose to livelihoods and economic growth, particularly in the face of anticipated impacts from climate change, and has identified forest and landscape restoration (FLR) as a strategic priority for the country. TRI’s STP project is the first initiative supporting FLR in the country, which to date has only engaged in fragmented attempts to reverse deforestation and degradation trends.
One sign of STP’s strong support for FLR was the swift establishment of an FLR platform involving 40 participants from a broad range of institutions – national and local administration, civil society, the private sector, the army and police, and research bodies – recognised by the Ministry of Agriculture through an official decree. The FLR platform is organized into thematic subgroups and will play a pivotal role as an advisory body to the project team, spreading the word on FLR around the country and facilitating the consolidation and scaling-up of FLR work.
One of the unique features of the STP project is the degree to which its impacts will be felt throughout the country. In meeting the project’s target of 35,500 ha under restoration, over one-third of the country’s land area will be directly impacted by the initiative, and most of the population will likely participate and/or benefit to some degree from the project outcomes.