São Tomé and Príncipe: São Toméans Look to Govt, One Another for Action On the Environment

31 January 2024
press release

Three-fourths of citizens say pollution is a serious problem in their community.

Key findings

  • Three-fourths (76%) of São Toméans say that pollution is a "somewhat serious" or "very serious" problem in their community. o As the most important environmental issues in their community, citizens cite trash and plastic disposal (45%), pollution of water sources (20%), and sanitation (14%). o Most respondents (87%) say plastic bags are a major source of pollution in São Tomé and Príncipe.
  • Almost half (48%) of São Toméans say the primary responsibility for reducing pollution and keeping communities clean rests with local citizens. A similar proportion assign that responsibility to their local government (43%) while far fewer say it is the responsibility of the national government (7%).
  • Even so, an overwhelming majority (89%) of São Toméans say the government should be doing more to limit pollution and protect the environment, including 75% who say it needs to do "much more."
  • But only 44% would prioritise environmental protection over jobs, while 38% say the government should focus on creating jobs and increasing incomes, even if that means increasing pollution or other environmental damage.
  • Only 28% of São Toméans say the benefits of natural resource extraction, such as jobs and revenue, outweigh negative impacts such as pollution.
  • Almost seven in 10 citizens (69%) want the government to regulate natural resource extraction more tightly in order to reduce its negative impacts on the environment.

São Tomé and Príncipe is known for its rich forest ecosystems, but agriculture and fuelwood consumption have led to a decline in forested areas, endangering rare and endemic species (Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2023; Seibert & Clarence-Smith, 2023). Agriculture, particularly cacao, coffee, and coconut palm, is vital to the economy, contributing 20% of gross domestic product (GDP) and employing 60% of the population (Agence Française de Développement, 2021).

The country has also experienced climate-change impacts such as rising temperatures, prolonged dry seasons, and sea-level rise, leading to natural disasters such as floods, storms, coastal erosion, and droughts. The government declared a state of disaster in December 2021 after severe flooding from a major storm and initiated a National Adaptation Plan in 2022 to mitigate climate-change vulnerabilities (UN Environment Programme, 2022).

While São Tomé and Príncipe has no known mineral resources, the country has considerable deep-water hydrocarbon reserves within its maritime boundaries (Seibert & Clarence-Smith, 2023). In 2001, São Tomé and Príncipe established a Joint Developing Zone with Nigeria for the exploration of petroleum and other resources within their shared boundaries (International Trade Administration, 2022). Foreign companies have also shown interest in the country's oil reserves, with some acquiring the rights to oil blocks off São Tomé and Príncipe's coasts.

This dispatch captures the results of a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 questionnaire that explores São Toméans' experiences and perceptions of pollution, environmental governance, and natural resource extraction.

Survey findings show that a majority of São Toméans believe pollution is a serious problem in their community, ranking waste disposal and water pollution as the most important local environmental issues. Most want their government to do more to limit pollution and protect the environment.

Citizens are divided as to whether environmental protection policies should be prioritised over jobs and incomes, but most say the government should tighten regulations on natural resource extraction to reduce their negative impact on the environment.

Nina Silvia Iskandarsjach Nina Silvia Iskandarsjach is an international relations student at Stanford University and a Stanford in Government Fellow at CDD-Ghana

Gildfred Boateng Asiamah Gildfred Boateng Asiamah previously served as a research analyst at the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana).

AllAfrica publishes around 500 reports a day from more than 100 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.