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December 19 2013

Glimpses Into São Tomé and Príncipe's Art and Culture Biennial

[All links lead to Portuguese language pages]

Giving a voice to the seventh edition of the Art & Culture Biennial of São Tomé and Principe, which started on November 28, artists, journalists and visitors have been commenting on the event that is scheduled to run until February 28, 2014. Some of the ideas behind this biennial are featured together with images and music in a video produced by the organization. 

In the video, artist Olavo Amado talks about his work ”(Re)vestir monumentos” (a play with words around dressing and covering monuments), in which he reflects on the past colonization of the country by coating old and historical sculptures with new clothes and local patterns. 

Kwame Sousa, also a Santomean artist who has around 65 works to be exhibited in the Biennial, introduces his 12 “colonial widows”, making connections between “today's society and the colonization of yesterday” as well as the mixing of cultures.

For Hernane Ferreira, a visitor from Cape Verde, the Biennial “contributes a lot by introducing pieces of São Tomé to the world” as well as by introducing new ways of being and thinking to the country. 

The video starts with the following quote from Santomean journalist São de Deus Lima:

Let us dare to dismiss the stigma of fear and prejudices that threaten to hinder our wings.
Let us dare to instill a fair, sufficient dose of impatience in our ways, in our pace of making.
We want to relearn how to celebrate our splendor and exorcise our horrors.
To rethink the way we look and see ourselves, without ever abnegating ourselves, because we are.

Sao de Deus Lima for the Biennalle of São Tomé and Príncipe

Sao de Deus Lima for the Biennal of São Tomé and Príncipe

Watch the video:

Photos, updates and the program are being shared on the Facebook pages of the Biennial of São Tomé and Príncipe and CACAU (an acronym for House of the Arts, Creation, Environment, Utopias – Casa das Artes Criação Ambiente Utopias – which also means cocoa), where most of the activities take place. 

October 11 2013

Re-Imagining Lusophony and Decolonizing the Mind

The Fourth International Congress in Cultural Studies – Colonialisms, Post-colonialisms and Lusophonies has a call for paper submissions open until October 15, 2013:

To demystify, to dehierarchize, to establish a policy of difference, to allow a multiplicity of voices, to constitute so many projects of possible modernities/rationalities within post-modernity, to mobilize, to re-politicize, to imagine other political, social and economical models, this is the task (utopian, of course) that is, for us, essential in the re-imagining of Lusophony.

(…)

A postcolonial reflection in a Lusophone context cannot avoid the exercise of criticism to the old dichotomies of periphery/center, cosmopolitanism/rurality, civilized/savage, black/white, north/south, in a context of cultural globalization, transformed by new and revolutionary communication phenomena, which have also globalized marginality.

The congress will take place from April 28 to 30, 2014, in the city of Aveiro, Portugal.

September 03 2013

The Fight to Save Traditional Medicine in São Tomé and Príncipe

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

It is still through the use of traditional medicine that nearly 80 percent of the population of developing countries ensures its citizens’ primary health care, according [en] to the World Health Organization, which established Traditional African Medicine Day on August 31, 2003. In São Tomé and Príncipe, the use of medicinal plants as a resource to cure various illnesses and diseases is no exception.

The second smallest country in Africa after Seychelles, is considered the “el dorado” by many international researchers, recognized worldwide as one of the major African hot spots of biodiversity (en), with at least 148 species of plants exclusive to its location.

With an immense natural richness, great importance is given to the medicinal plants on the islands instead of the industrialized medications, forging the individual uses of the latter.  

Rural area of S. João, São João of Angolares, São Tomé e Principe. Photo by Maria Cartas on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Diversity on the table. Rural area of S. João, São João of Angolares, São Tomé e Principe. Photo by Maria Cartas on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The viability of the therapeutic benefits of commonly used plants has already been proven by researchers that were in the region, such as Maria do Céu Madureira, who in the last few years has been one of the prominent faces in the collection, sensitization, and the spread (with the proper credits) of the intellectual richness still relevant in the islands.

Scientific facts and traditional recipes about the use of multiple plants were published in a book (PDF), with the coordination of a researcher in the fields of pharmacology and ethnobotany, titled “Estudo Etnofarmacológico de Plantas Medicinais de S. Tomé e Príncipe” (Ethnopharmalogical Study of Medicinal Plants of S. Tomé and Príncipe).

In an article about “Plantas Medicinais e Medicina Tradicional de S. Tomé e Príncipe” (Medicinal Plants and Traditional Medicine of S. Tomé e Príncipe) (PDF, 2012), available in the repository of the Center of African Studies of the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE-IUL), Maria do Céu Madureira affirms:

Em S. Tomé e Príncipe um grande número de medicamentos derivados de plantas
tem sido utilizado desde há séculos pela medicina tradicional.  De facto, há muitos locais em que é praticamente inexistente, ou mesmo nula a prática de medicina ocidental… Aqui, a medicina tradicional reveste-se de uma importância decisiva, já que é, por vezes, a única alternativa terapêutica a que as populações podem ter acesso.

In S. Tomé and Príncipe, a large number of medications are derived from plants that have been used for centuries in traditional medicine. In fact, there are many places in which Western medicine is practically nonexistent, or at least invalid… Here, traditional medicine is especially important, since sometimes it is the only therapeutic option that populations can access.

Sun Pontes and Maria do Céu Madureira at the first TEDx São Tomé conference, 06/20/2013. (used with permission)

Sun Pontes and Maria do Céu Madureira at the first TEDx São Tomé conference, 06/20/2013. Used with permission.

Those who possess profound knowledge about the subject are traditional therapists, usually known by various local terms such as “tchiladô ventosa” (applier of suction cups), “stlijon mato”, (surgeon of the forest), or “patlela” (traditional midwife). These people, almost all centenarians (except for some rare exceptions), are the carriers of knowledge that was passed down to them by their ancestors through oral transmission, and today are numerically in extinction.

At the beginning of August, Global Voices reported on the documentary project Soya Kutu (Short Histories) that has produced short animated features involving a set of “traditional doctors”, children, and young people. The short videos tell stories about medicinal plants and their traditional uses, giving value to the cultural references with which they are associated.

One example is the most typical dish of the country, Calulu, which contains medicinal herbs with beneficial effects for malaria, colic, roundworms, diarrhea, dysentery, and headaches, among others, as shown in the video “After the day of the Bocado (Mouthful)“:

Young students in a tourism course described their perception of the importance of traditional medicine for the São Tomé and Principe population in a project undertaken for the subject History of Heritage:

Constatamos que a nossa terra está enriquecida de cura para todo o tipo de moléstias e doenças. Desde as mais insignificantes ervas daninhas, até as árvores de grandes portes, constituem uma fonte de remédios para todos os males.

We testify that our land is enriched with remedies for all kinds of sicknesses and diseases. From the most insignificant weeds, to the trees with the largest statures, is constituted a source of remedies for all illnesses.

Alberto, Txiladô-Ventosa (Applier of Suction Cups). Photo by Maria do Céu Madureira in the article

Alberto, Txiladô-Ventosa (Applier of Suction Cups). Photo by Maria do Céu Madureira in the article “Plantas Medicinais e Medicina Tradicional de S. Tomé e Príncipe” (Medicinal Plants and Traditional medicine of S. Tomé and Príncipe). Used with permission.

Without neglecting the imminent worry about the loss of this immaterial heritage, they affirmed that “traditional medicine has acquired a significant place in the society of São Tomé and Príncipe” because:

(…) faz parte da crença do povo são-tomense, pois desde há muito tempo que as pessoas acreditam nos tratamentos e nos efeitos da medicina tradicional. Esta crença foi-nos transmitida pelos nossos avós, tornando-se assim, a nossa tradição «quá cú bé mé nu, dona mu cá fé, ele só çá vede, ele só cá buá dá nom» – (o que eu vi minha mãe e minha avó a fazerem, é para mim verdadeiro e melhor para nós)

(…) it is a part of the beliefs of the people of São Tomé and Príncipe, because for a long time people have believed in the treatments and in the effects of traditional medicine. This belief was passed down to us by our grandparents, and thus becoming our tradition «quá cú bé mé nu, dona mu cá fé, ele só çá vede, ele só cá buá dá nom»- (what I saw my mother and my grandmother do, is to me true and the best for us)

According to them, the practice has gradually diminished in the country for various reasons such as the disinterest of newer generations, the refusal of older people to pass on knowledge to the younger ones, and the diminished credibility of traditional medicine in the face of scientific medicine. That's why, they affirmed, “it's necessary to preserve this knowledge, so that it doesn't disappear.”

While many of the curious and foreign specialists continue to make expeditions to São Tomé and Príncipe in search of “traditional doctors” of the islands so that they will share share their knowledge, there are those who criticize the “appropriation of traditional knowledge” for the uses of the pharmaceutical industry. Xavier Muñoz, geographer and president of the Caué-Amigos (Caué- Friends) Association of S.Tomé e Príncipe based in Barcelona, wrote in 2008:

As diferentes espécies de plantas medicinais que escondem os matos húmidos africanos estão a dar dia a dia novas fórmulas de princípios ativos farmacológicos nos laboratórios das grandes multinacionais, que são imediatamente patentados, baixos [sic] marcas industriais e produzidos com os anos a grande escala. Posso concordar que os custos de desenvolvimento dos produtos farmacológicos nessas empresas podem ser altos, mas isso não deveria supôr a apropriação dos direitos sobre a base do conhecimento que é originário muito frequentemente do saber tradicional local.

The different species of medicinal plants hidden in the humid African jungle can produce day-to-day new formulas of active pharmacological elements in huge multinational laboratories, that are immediately patented under industrial brands and produced for years to come on a large scale. I can agree that the costs of development of pharmacological products in these businesses can be high, but this shouldn't mean that ownership rights can be assumed over the basis of knowledge which frequently originates in the traditional location.

He believes that this knowledge should be valued and preserved, as does Brigida Rocha Brito, doctor of African Studies, who appeals for teamwork between the different kinds of knowledge:

 Também defendo que as medicinas tradicionais são de preservar, bem como o conhecimento dos mais velhos. Acredito que este pode vir a ser um excelente trabalho de parceria entre a investigação científica e a sabedoria tradicional de carácter popular.

I also defend that traditional medicine should be preserved, as much as the knowledge of the elderly. I believe that this could come to be an excellent project of partnership between scientific research and popular traditional knowledge.

July 16 2013

São Tomé Pulls ‘Rotten Rice’ After Protests

Protest over reports [pt] of the circulation of rice unfit for human consumption in São Tomé have led to the withdrawal of the food from the market by order of the government at the beginning of July.

The rice was part of a 900-ton order worth about two million US dollars imported from Cameroon using public money. The deal was a direct agreement [pt] between the importing company D.S. Neves Limitada, owned by deputy and Secretary General of the São Tomé Democratic Convergence Party Delfim Neves, and Santoméan Prime Minister Gabriel Costa.

Rice, which is one of the most basic and most-consumed foodstuffs in São Tomé, is usually given to the country as a donation from Japan through a cooperation agreement [pt] between the two countries. Approaching an expected rice shortage [pt] until an expected 3,000-ton shipment arrived in June, it is likely the rice from Cameroon was an urgent purchase to keep the market supplied in the meantime.

But the rice displayed a visible infestation of “mould, remains of dead larva and other insects”, according to a Preliminary Report [pt] into the quality of the rice from the Centre of Agronomic and Technological Research (CIAT) on 6 June 2013. The report circulated widely on social media, reinforcing discontent among the people of São Tomé, who had already reported instances of rotten rice online since the end of May 2013.

In the face of the ensuing scandal, the government decided [pt] at a council of ministers on June 23 that the rice should be temporarily withdrawn until conclusive results of tests requested from abroad arrive in the country, as the results appearing in the government agency Centre of Agronomic and Technological Research's report were deemed to be inconclusive. But the rice continued to be sold, leading the government via the Ministry for Commerce, Industry and Tourism to order [pt] it collected from the market and banned from sale.

Sacks of rice from Cameroon. Photo by Carsten ten Brink on Flickr (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Sacks of rice from Cameroon. Photo by Carsten ten Brink on Flickr (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0)

We don't want rotten rice

The matter has been widely discussed [pt] by the country's Internet users, especially on the group “São Tomé e Príncipe ★ Téla Non ★“ [pt] on Facebook, which has the greatest audience and influence in the country. A photo of the rice shared by Arlindo Santos on the group gave rise to numerous comments, such as the following by Nayr Santos who states [pt]:

É triste mas é verdade! Hoje tive a oportunidade de deparar com esta “qualidade” de arroz que esta a venda na nossa praça. Poderia não acreditar nesta foto, mas vi, infelizmente, de perto o arroz para o “povo” consumir… Digo o “povo” pra ser de uma forma super limitada, porque os que mandam chegar esse arroz cá na ilha pra ser consumido, de CERTEZA que não fará [sic] o uso do mesmo, estes e outros todos que têm as costas largam [sic]!

It's sad but true! Today I stumbled upon this “quality” rice which is on sale in our market. You might not believe the photo, but unfortunately, I saw this rice for the “people” to consume with my own eyes… I say the “people”, because those who ordered this rice to be sent to the island for consumption, are CERTAINLY not those who will be eating it, these people and all the others who have power!

Photo by Tito Cheque Djalma on Facebook (used with permission)

Photo by Tito Cheque Djalma on Facebook (used with permission)

Lucas Lima, a lawyer from São Tomé currently living in Portugal, commented [pt] after reading the Centre of Agronomic and Technological Research's report:

Em conversa com uma Mestranda em engenharia alimentar, coloquei-lhe a seguinte questão:
Com base neste relatório, o arroz objecto da análise pode ser consumido pela população?
Ela simplesmente respondeu-me que nem para animais se deve dar um arroz com essa qualidade. E disse mais, só não houve intoxicação alimentar porque o arroz é um produto seco ou seja, tem baixa quantidade de água.

Por ultimo disse-me que este produto a nível de nutriente, já não tem, come-se para “encher a barriga” mas não alimenta.

In a conversation with a Master's student in alimentary engineering, I asked her the following question:
On the basis of this report, can the rice which has been tested be consumed by the population?
She simply replied that rice of this quality should not even be fed to animals. And she added, the only reason why nobody got food poisoning was because rice is a dry product, that is, it has a low water content.

And to finish, she told me that this product no longer contains any nutrients, it is eaten to “fill the stomach” but it doesn't provide nourishment.

The company responsible for importing the rice refuted [pt] the accusations in a press release:

Quanto a qualidade do produto ora importado, gostaríamos de salientar que para além de visibilidade ocular de qualquer produto, faz-se fé nos Certificados de Qualidade e de Fitossanitário emitidos pelas entidades credíveis e vocacionadas para o efeito a nível internacional…

As for the quality of the imported product, we would like to stress that besides the ocular visibility of any product, trust can be placed in the Quality and Phytosanitary Certificates granted by credible organisations entrusted with this task at an international level…

The act of indignation went beyond Facebook comments, with a public protest held on June 26 under the slogan “We don't want rotten rice”.

The protest was recorded by Roberto Carlos and shared on YouTube [pt]:

A letter sent from Delfim Neves to the Cameroonian authorities at the beginning of May, and revealed by protest group São Tomé e Princípe Indignados [pt] on July 1 fueled the people's opposition and subsequent protests. In the document, Neves, with the intention of obtaining a tax exemption, referred to events which do not correspond to the true situation of the country. “Starvation crisis”, “starving population”, are some of the terms used in order to obtain the tolerance of the Cameroonian authorities.

Photo of the protest "We don't want rotten rice" (26/06/2013), shared by Tito Cheque on Facebook (used with permission)

Photo of the protest “We don't want rotten rice” (26/06/2013), shared by Tito Cheque on Facebook (used with permission)

Paulo Gomes commented [pt]:

Usar mesmo que indevidamente, o nome de um país (POVO) de forma fraudulenta em beneficio próprio pondo em causa futuras ajudas que os mesmos possam vir a necessitar já é de si só um ato de falta de caráter mas que ate se entende quando a ganancia assim dita. O que não se entende é quando se brinca com a saúde publica pondo em risco uma população por imperativos econômicos… acorda povo.

To use, even ineffectually, the name of a country (PEOPLE) in a fraudulent manner for one's own profit and potentially jeopardising future assistance that the people may need is an act displaying a lack of moral character but one which could be understood in terms of greed. What is beyond comprehension is the jeopardising of public health and putting the population at risk for economic gain… Wake up, people.

June 08 2013

Female Rapper to Speak at TEDxSão Tomé

Marlene Bandeira, or as she is better known Nely Strong [pt], has been added to the TEDxSão Tomé [en] speaker line up. Rapper, she uses local slangs to portray São Tomé and Príncipe [en] society in her lyrics. Recently, Nely released the song ‘Mordomia’ – a hit in the islands – with the rapper Tigre T. The TEDxSão Tomé happens in 20 June, 2013 and is open for pre-registration [en] until this Monday.

May 19 2013

TEDXSão Tomé: More speakers confirmed

Another two speakers [pt] have been confirmed for the event TEDXSão Tomé, in the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, in 20 June. Mark Richard Shuttleworth [en], a South African founder of the company Canonical Ltd, which develops free software like Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Xubuntu and Lubuntu and Guilherme Alves Luís Vaz de Carvalho [pt], an artist from São Tome that composed the song “Frutinha da Sorte” for the film “Frutinha do Equador”.

April 12 2013

São Tomé and Príncipe: Petition Against Deforestation

Raul Jorge, a Santomean citizen, launched a petition [fr] against deforestation in São Tomé and Príncipe, addressed to the current Prime Minister Gabriel Costa. The petition has already gathered more than 700 signatures. In October 2012, Global Voices reported about the situation; in response netizens published videos and a Facebook page in protest.

March 13 2013

Grievance of a Young Indignant Santomean

reflexão de um jovem

Vídeo intitulado “Porquê que os Santomenses não se indignam?”

Danilo Salvaterra published [pt] a video on Facebook that shows a young boy from São Tomé and Príncipe complaining about the general lack of basic infrastructures not only in Diogo Vaz (where the teenager lives and the video was recorded), but also in the rest of the country. He mentions access to education, sanitation, electricity, among other things.

(more…)

February 28 2013

Contemporary Portugal with São Tomé and Príncipe

Foto partilhada no álbum "Portugal Contemporâneo Com São Tomé e Príncipe" da página de Facebook da Pantalassa (usada com Permissão).

Photo from the album “Contemporary Portugal with São Tomé e Príncipe” from Pantalassa's Facebook page  (used with permission).

Until March 1, 2013, Pantalassa, a cultural association working with Portuguese language countries, is organizing a multidisciplinary program of artistic residences in the “marvellous islands” of São Tomé and Príncipe, together with CACAU. The mutual sharing of experiences and affections is presented in a photo-album, which is being updated throughout the project [all links in pt].

January 31 2013

All Side by Side for the Future of São Tomé and Príncipe

Todos Lado a Lado

Screenshot from the video of the song “Todos lado a lado pelo futuro do nosso país”.

Originally inspired by the style of the song “We Are the World“, renowned musicians from Sao Tome and Principe unite singing a theme by Kalú Mendes, titled “All Side by Side for the Future of Our Country.” The music covers all creole languages from the islands in order to enforce the concept of union in society, regardless of ethnic branches.

January 25 2013

Three Portuguese Language States Ignore UN Convention Against Torture

Three Portuguese language countries are part of a short list of states which have not ratified the UN Convention against Torture: São Tomé and Príncipe, Angola and Guinea Bissau. Fábio Pereira, Communications Officer and Assistant Editor of Torture Journal, shares an open letter [pt, pdf] he has sent to the Portuguese Language Countries Community (CPLP) and a petition in Avaaz.
(more…)

December 31 2012

From Indigenous Protests to Online Preaching, Portuguese Language Countries in 2012

Every year, as the last days of the calendar approach, we select a few glimpses of citizen media from the action and imagination of the Portuguese-speaking online world.

Mainstream media often fails to provide broader and deeper coverage of social, cultural, political and environmental issues occurring in any of the eight lusophone countries. But citizen media from this vast linguistic region that spreads across the globe, has been there to fill some of the gaps and to fuel public awareness.

Such has been the case of the coverage of development policies adopted by the Brazilian government, and the consequences that directly affected river-dwellers, ‘caboclos' and indigenous communities across the country, and particularly in the Amazon. The construction of the Belo Monte Dam in the Xingu river, has perhaps become one of the strongest causes at the national level and beyond borders. In October, Sany Kalapalo, a young indigenous and a Xingu activist, told us how she makes use of the Internet as a tool to disclose indigenous culture and to mobilize people towards her campaign to protect the Volta Grande do Xingu region in the state of Pará.

In November, the Cry of Resistance of the Guarani Kaiowá quickly spread from the village of Pyelito Key/Mbarakay, in the town of Iguatemi, State of Mato Grosso do Sul, to a worldwide wave of protests in solidarity with the indigenous rights for their lands.

In November, the Cry of Resistance of the Guarani Kaiowá triggered a worldwide wave of protests in solidarity with the Indigenous Guarani-Kaiowá and their cause.

Photo of 5,000 crosses planted in Brasilia. Image from the Facebook page of Itiban Comic Shop

Throughout the year, a series of articles on Brazilian migration has taken us in journeys we don't embark upon through mainstream media.

From a “Dekasegibridge-blogger in Japan for the Brazilian community after the earthquake, to the 93 year-old Syrian migrant living in the state of São Paulo, passing through the history of the “Brazilebanese“, or Brazilians from Lebanon, and other stories. Brazilian immigration policy itself faces new challenges. In December, immigrant associations in Sao Paulo organized a rally demanding more rights with regard to the law of the country. Brazilian emigration too has been under debate, particularly through the lens of how Brazilian women are seen abroad, after highly criticized statements from the President of the Portuguese Bar Association at the end of the year, who said that what Brazil exports the most to Portugal is prostitutes.

To calm down the waters surrounding that debate, and bringing a bit of music to the mix, something that Brazilians have also exported this year was Michel Telo's hit ‘Oh if I Catch You' song, whose official video on YouTube has already reached an impressive 470 million visits. Although Telo's major worldwide success didn't reach the numbers of Gangnam style, it did indeed spark a global phenomenon of “Telobalization” at the beginning of the year, with the appropriation of the song for new versions in dozens of different languages. It also attracted some critics due to the arguable quality of Telo's work, and whether or not it should represent Brazilian culture abroad.

On culture and literacy, we highlight the Bicicloteca, a bicycle that carries a small library and free solar-powered internet access to the homeless of the city of São Paulo, and a creative writing competition promoted by the young Cape Verdean journalist Odair Varela on his blog over the course of seven weeks.

Platforms for civic participation

Interesting initiatives for civic participation that bridge the offline and the online worlds arose in Mozambique in 2012.

Up North, in Cabo Delgado, an "open terrace" hosts monthly public debates - which are transcribed live to Facebook - allowing for the discussion and dissemination of important issues such as the missing transparency in the extractive mega projects in the country.

In the Northern region of Mozambique, in Cabo Delgado, an “open terrace” hosts monthly public debates - which are transcribed live to Facebook - allowing for the discussion and dissemination of important issues such as the missing transparency in the extractive mega projects in the country. Photo by Terraço Aberto (Public Debate in Cabo Delgado) on Facebook

The People's Wall of Maputo, an authentic ”offline Facebook wall” in the extensive outer wall of @Verdade newspaper's building, allows for any citizen to express his or her complaints in a public and open way. Messages are later transcribed to @Verdade's media outlets, such as their print newspaper but also Facebook page and website.

A local diving school in Tofo, Bitonga Divers, has been raising awareness on the need to defend marine life against overfishing at one of Mozambique's most important tourist beaches.

Whereas in Guinea Bissau, where there is a huge Internet accessibility gap, a digital inclusion project called CENATIC - a computer center featured by Rising Voices in April - unfortunately had to shut down at the end of the year due to the high costs to support it. CENATIC was launched by a local NGO and aimed at providing more affordable access and support to individuals and organizations interested in exploring how a better connection can benefit their work.

From Sao Tome and Principe, STP Radio (Somos Todos Primos / We Are All Cousins)

In December Global Voices interviewed STP Radio (Somos Todos Primos / We Are All Cousins), from Sao Tome and Principe, an online community radio that plays an important role uniting the diaspora.

The future awaits

In the political arenas, 2012 was a year of presidential and parliamentary elections in East Timor, municipal elections in Brazil and local elections in Cape Verde. In Angola, Eduardo dos Santos was re-elected after 33 years in power. The country's complex path of development through the lens of citizen media is summarized in a separate post, Year of Change in Angola, But Everything Stays the Same.

By the end of November, São Tomé and Principe plunged into a political crisis, and in Guinea Bissau another military coup d'etat toppled the government in April 2012. A post from October reads:

While the international institutions express “concern” and conduct meetings, the people of Guinea-Bissau have little outlet for their fears and frustrations.

In Portugal, there were plenty of protests and two general strikes against the austerity measures in the European economic crisis scenario which develops into harder life conditions for the general population. The most participated demonstration took place in September under the motto “Screw Troika! We Want Our Lives”.

Among the multiplicity of conventional uses of digital platforms for activism, one of the most curious characters that caught our attention early in the year is in fact a 75 year old priest and writer called Mário Pais de Oliveira. He religiously uses social networks to share his very particular - and disruptive - thoughts on current events, and has hundreds of videos on Youtube and thousands of friends on Facebook. We finish this roundup of the year with a simple quote from one of his subversive homilies. Whatever 2013 brings:

We must come up with new ways to transform society

“Cousins” from São Tomé and Príncipe Unite the Diaspora Through Online Radio

They say that “We Are All Cousins” and make use of online tools and social media to unite virtually the people of São Tomé and Príncipe in the diaspora and spread around the world. Global Voices spoke to Guedes Machado Medeiros, general coordinator of the informal group “Somos Todos Primos” (STP, We Are All Cousins) which launched a new website for its online radio on December 22nd.

Global Voices Online (GVO): How did the group “We Are All Cousins” come about and what are the organisation's objectives?

Guedes Medeiros (GM): The group “We Are All Cousins” emerged in 2010, and was consolidated with the existence of the radio station “We Are All Cousins”, [which] brought us greater prospects and new ideas: our objective is to promote and sell our culture to the world, we believe that we are capable of publicising São Tomé and Príncipe to the four corners of the globe. As time went on, we realised that we could offer our audience a range of programmes which was not yet available, and that is when the Group bearing the same name as the radio station emerged, made up of young students from disciplines as varied as science and literature.

Alex Dinho ft WK Productions "We Are All Cousins T-shirts". Photo shared on the Facebook page of the radio station We Are All Cousins

Alex Dinho ft WK Productions “We Are All Cousins T-shirts”. Photo shared on the Facebook page of the radio station We Are All Cousins

GVO: Could you explain what “We Are All Cousins” means?

GM: [In Portuguese “Somos Todos Primos”, STP, or] “We Are All Cousins” means nothing more and nothing less than “São Tomé and Príncipe”, because we are a small country both geographically-speaking and in terms of population, where we all have a kinship connection, we translate this concisely as “Cousins”. We thought this label was the best way to keep alive the idea and the culture that we are a country based around family. Today we believe that with the “We Are All Cousins” project, we have brought more brightness, more life and thus, as has already been said, we unite the people of São Tomé around the globe.

GVO: One of the first actions of your Group was to create an online social community on the platform Ning at the end of 2009, but it closed after a year and a half. What are your thoughts on the experience of developing this online social community?

Guedes Machado Medeiros, born in the district of Mé-Zóchi, in Trindade, in São Tomé and Príncipe. He did a technical course in electronics and telecommunications at the Professional School of Braga from 2008-2011, and attended the University of Minho, where he studied Political Science.

Guedes Machado Medeiros (24 years old), born in the district of Mé-Zóchi, Trindade, São Tomé and Príncipe. Currently settled in London, after studying electronics and telecommunications in Portugal.

GM: The creation of the blog on the social community Ning was the first step taken by “We Are All Cousins” as a national “brand”. From that point on the network became, without exaggeration, a great success, and when the radio station was launched with the afore-mentioned name, nobody had to ask many questions because they already knew what it was about. We owe all of the success which we have achieved today to that blog, and I must emphasise that the majority of the people who form part of the project “We Are All Cousins Group” today met through the Ning platform.

We had to close the blog because it was costing us 22€ a month and we realised later on that with this amount we could enjoy something bigger than what the Ning platform offered us. It was from there that the idea of creating our “Official Portal” arose.

GVO: Even with the closure of the Ning community, we can see that you never gave up on your objectives. Can you tell us how the radio station “We Are All Cousins” was established?

GM: Unhappy with the closure of the blog mentioned above, we tried to look for an alternative until the Official Portal was launched. Since we are passionate about music and promoting São Tomé's values, we created a “Menu Playlist” on our old blog, where readers could enjoy listening to music in “Off” mode. Leaving the blog behind, as a joke between friends and my brother Ricolve Medeiros, we recorded a video in my bedroom playing at being radio presenters and we posted it on Youtube:

There was significant appreciation of the video from its viewers, and some of those who were closer made contact with us to encourage us to create a “Web Radio”. We considered all the possibilities and we tried to find a mechanism by which we could make these ideas into a reality…

GVO: Contact draws contact and…

That was how our IT genius Hugo Menezes appeared. With the software in his possession, he needed around 2 weeks of investigative work. When he finished his research, I received the best news I have ever received in my life. He contacted me to show me a surprise, that is, the radio station which was already up and running [through the platform Listen2myradio]. From there we have brought together the conditions, although precarious, to keep the radio online until today with our effort and dedication, but because we are all students and we live in different parts of Europe, we go on air more frequently at the weekends, which is when we have more free time.

"At the moment we use the platform Listen2myradio to broadcast our radio, but we will soon be launching our official portal SomosTodosPrimos.net where people will be able to enjoy a diverse range of content. "

New official portal accessible at SomosTodosPrimos.net, “where people will be able to enjoy a diverse range of content.”

GVO: Since its foundation, what type of content and programmes has the radio broadcast? What can you say about the radio's audience?

GM: Since we started our radio services we have maintained a diverse programme, 90% of which is made up of a variety of music. Even in these conditions, we have a considerable number of listeners because, for one thing, we use the social network Facebook in our marketing because it is a very powerful tool. To diversify a little our range of programming, we established a small partnership with the National Radio of São Tomé and Príncipe in which they provide us with some recorded programmes which we replay on our radio station. For information, we talk about the situations lived by students from São Tomé in Portugal and other places. We have listeners in São Tomé and Príncipe, Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Great Britain, Taiwan, Macau and many other countries, even though all of the work is still done in an “amateur” fashion.

GVO: We know that you have more ambitious projects, such as “Cousins TV” for example, which has left your listeners and Facebook followers eager and impatient…

Primos TV, coming soon...

Primos TV, coming soon…

GM: We feel that we have a great capacity to give more of what has already been done for our people and all those who appreciate the culture of São Tomé. As a result of this, we have now resolved to include in our project an online TV station which is still being studied and designed. For economic reasons it still hasn't been possible to officially launch the radio station, the online shop and the Cousins TV station which are our biggest ambitions. This is because we don't have the sufficient technical means to develop our work from here on. But while the joy for what we do exists, we've worked with whatever we had. We have some friends who have helped us, such as the artist Mesaro Soares, Ron-nie Cabral, the group STP Rappers who we could even consider to be among our sponsors. We are open to people who want to support us or who want to get to know the project more closely.

GVO: How do you interpret the empowerment of young people in São Tomé and Príncipe through active participation in social media?

GM: Without doubt our young people have begun to have greater access to the internet, and as we have a country [in which] 75% of the population is young, the trend is ever greater, and we hope that with the installation of fibre optics in São Tomé and Príncipe we will have an even higher number of internet users. In my opinion [the use of social media] is satisfactory given the difficulties we face with the telecommunications services in the country.

GVO: To end, what inspiring message would you leave for the young people of this global world, especially those from São Tomé and Príncipe ?

GM: Briefly, I would say: young people are the future of every country and while we are young, we have to begin to plant seeds and to dream big, and above all not let fear condition us. Our future is the reflection of everything that we have done today while we are young.

December 07 2012

New Twists in the Political Crisis in São Tomé & Príncipe

The small island nation of São Tomé and Principe has lived some the most epic weeks in its politics since its independence in 1975. After its government suffered a censure measure by opposition parties on November 29, political tension reached its peak, as the measure was passed without the presence of MPs of the party that leads the minority government, ADI (Democratic Independent Action). In response, ADI convened a demonstration calling for early elections.

The President of the Republic, Dr. Manuel Pinto da Costa, convened the Council of the State seeking a mutual consensus from the opposition and the censured government, but this hope was dashed absolutely [pt]. Formal consultations reached their end after a number of meetings, and the President broke his silence on the night of December 4, formally removing the 14th Constitutional Government led by Patrice Trovoada by Presidential Decree (23/2012 Part I, Part II [pt]).

ADI convened a new protest for December 5th, on the same day that it received in its headquarters a letter from the President [pt] inviting the party to form the 15th constitutional government and appoint a new representative in 24 hours. The ADI considered this period too short and unjust [pt], and continued to advocate for early elections.

As Jornal Vitrina [pt] says, the opposition parties, Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Principe - Social Democratic Party (MLSTP/PSD) and the Party of Democratic Convergence (PCD) both maintain that the President acted prudently and within the parameters of the constitution, showing that both are “open to dialogue,” leaving in the hands of the party recently removed from government a possible solution to the political crisis reigning in the country.

Protesters hold up posters in front of the People's Palace. Photo by Olinto Daio shared on Facebook (used with permission).

Protesters hold up posters in front of the People's Palace. Photo by Olinto Daio shared on Facebook (used with permission).

Reactions from São Tomeans online took no time at all.

For Emílio Pontes, who lives in Angola, “the political crisis is hard to solve. But this was a predictable situation, after the legislative elections in 2010 (…) because in a democracy the majority governs,” as he explained in a newspaper article for Jornal Tela Non [pt]. This opinion is also shared by Gerhardt Seibert, specialist in São Tome and Príncipe linked to the Center of African Studies in Lisbon, who maintained in statement to RFI that the possible scenarios are early elections or the formation of a new government.

Emílio Pontes republished [pt] on Facebook an article in which he supports early legislative elections, to be conducted within 90 days as stipulated by the Electoral Law:

Assim sendo, para a clarificação da situação política actual de São Tomé e Príncipe e para o bem do país, que o poder seja devolvido ao povo para que, soberanamente ele decida quem o poderá governar nos próximos quatro anos, sem qualquer atropelo, rumo ao desenvolvimento.

As such, to clarify the current political situation of São Tomé and Principe and for the good of the country, power should be returned to the people so that the people decide for themselves who will govern for the next four years, without any infringement, towards the path of development.

On the other side sociologist Humbah Aguiar, before the announcement of the sacking of government, published a noted in which he put himself in the shoes of the President, saying “If I were Dr. Pinto da Costa” [pt]…

caso fosse legal a votação da “Monção de Censura”, caso fosse legal a eleição do novo Presidente d’Assembleia, caso não fizessem sentido as razões apresentadas pelos deputados do ADI; e caso as acusações que a oposição faz ao governo serem verdadeiras; Ai, claro, mas só aí, convocava, eleições antecipadas, pois, não faria sentido ter um parlamento que não fonciona, segundo os seu regulamentos, e um governo que não esteja a trabalhar, para o povo.
Eleições antecipadas porque, não faz sentido convocar um ou dois, partidos que não ganharam as eleições para formarem governo. (…)  Em último caso, pedia ao ADI que indicasse, um novo Primeiro-ministro e, convidava-o à formar seu governo. Afinal, Patrice Trovoada não deve ser, a única pessoa do partido ADI que, pode ser, Primeiro-ministro.

In the case that the “censure motion” was legal, and in the case that the election of new President of the Assembly was also legal, and in the case that the arguments made by the ADI's MPs did not make sense, and in the case that the accusations made by the opposition against the government are true, ok, then of course, but only then, call early elections, as it does not make sense to have a parliament that does not function according to itself regulations and a government that is not working for the people.

Early elections because it does not make sense to call on one or two parties that did not win the [last] elections to form a government. (…) As a last resort, ask ADI to nominate a new Prime Minister and ask him to form his government. In the end Patrice Trovoada should not be the only person from ADI who can be Prime Minister.

Masses of people in the Plaza Yon Gato. Photo by Olinto Daio shared on Facebook (used with permission). One comment reads: "It is unacceptable that in 22 years of democracy 15 governments are nominated... We are faced with an average of 1 year, 5 months and 20 days per government.. We have to say ENOUGH to these blockers to our development..."

Masses of people in the Plaza Yon Gato. Photo by Olinto Daio shared on Facebook (used with permission). One comment reads: “It is unacceptable that in 22 years of democracy 15 governments are nominated… We are faced with an average of 1 year, 5 months and 20 days per government.. We have to say ENOUGH to these blockers to our development…”

If the ADI refuses to form a government, Pinto da Costa will have to invite the second-most voted party in the legislative elections of 2010, the MLSTP/PSD, to form the executive, especially if the other parties in parliament like the PCD, are willing to form a coalition. As a last resort either early elections will be held or a technocratic government is formed.

In response to the question posted on Facebook by DW Português para África - “What do you foresee in the immediate political future of São Tomé and Principe after the sacking of the government by President Manuel Pinto da Costa?” - the online audience did not forget the political situation lived by Guinea Bissau, a country that shares a colonial past, a history of political and military disagreements, and that in April was plunged into yet another political crisis, with a military coup d'etat that toppled the government.

Protester before the Palace of the People holding a poster that saying "Corrupt [MPs] out of the Parliament." Photo by Olinto Daio shared on Facebook (used with permission).

Protester before the Palace of the People holding a poster that saying “Corrupt [MPs] out of the Parliament.” Photo by Olinto Daio shared on Facebook (used with permission).

Meanwhile in the midst of the storm that threatens in São Tomé and Principe, a piece of good news emerges from the Transparency International perceptions of corruption survey this year: the country rose 28 places since last year, now in 72th place.

December 03 2012

São Tomé & Príncipe Accedes to the New York Convention

In February 2013, São Tomé and Príncipe will become the fourth Portuguese language country undersigning the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, announced the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. Last June, Law Professor at the University of Macau, Fernando Simões, recommended the accession [pt], claiming that it “promotes confidence and security of international trade agreements”.

December 01 2012

Political crisis in São Tomé and Principe

[All links lead to Portuguese language pages except when otherwise noted.]

In recent days the political sphere in São Tomé and Principe has plunged into a crisis situation involving a motion to censure government, scenes of fist fighting in the National Assembly, and a mass protest calling for early elections.

On November 21, opposition parties - Movement to Liberate São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP), Democratic Convergence Party (PCD) and the Democratic Movement Force of Change (MDFM) - presented a motion to censure the minority government led by Patrice Trovoada [en] (of Democratic Independent Action, or ADI), that was approved by the Assembly on November 29.

It is the second time that Patrice Trovoada as Prime Minister has been the target of a censure motion, the first in May 2008, three months after the beginning of his first term. In his second term since August 2010, this time, among the list of accusations presented by its signers, were alleged “acts of corruption, taking on negotiations overseas with ‘private companies sidelining the respective ministers with oversight, without the awareness of other sovereign bodies, and even less so with public knowledge'”, as newspaper Jornal Vitrina informs, adding:

O governo, não obstante ter um orçamento aprovado pela assembleia nacional, ignorou pura e simplesmente as alterações aprovadas pelo plenário da assembleia nacional e executou um orçamento completamente à margem das dotações orçamentais, facto que refletiu de imediato na falta de medicamentos nos hospitais, bem como no desprezo total do governo para com os necessitados.

Luta dos Deputados no parlamento

Fight between parliamentarians (click to see the video, skip to 04:50).

The government, despite the budget approved by the National Assembly, quite simply ignored the alterations approved by the National Assembly and executed a budget that entirely side-steps budget allocations, an act that resulted in an immediate lack of medications in hospitals, as well as a total disdain by the government for the most needy.

The underlying political conflict came to life in a parliamentary session on November 23 in scenes of “fist fighting” between MPs, as can be seen in this video (at 04:50). The unheard of events led the then President of the National Assembly, Evaristo de Carvalho (of the party in power), to resign, and on Wednesday, November 28, the opposition elected Alcino Pinto (do MLSTP/PSD) to take the post.

In a message to the country on November 26, the President commented on the conflict reigning in Parliament, in which he appeals for a dialogue “as the only democratically legitimate way for different points of view to confront each other.”

Alda Santos, a citizen of São Tomé, laments what happened in the parliamentary session:

A Representatividade do Povo de S.Tomé e Principe no Parlamento tornou-se uma autentica palhaçada e o Parlamento transformou-se num Circo onde sai palhaço, entra palhaço e por esse andar, assim vai sendo o dia-a-dia no Parlamento!

The representation of the people of São Tomé and Principe in the Parliament has turned into an authentic clown act, and the Parliament has turned in a Circus where when one clown leaves another comes along and this is the daily life of the Parliament!

On November 29, rejecting the approved motion and the nomination of the new President of the Assembly, the government called for a protest on its behalf, that brought thousands of people coming from various districts in São Tomé and Principe. They made their way through a number of main streets of the capital city towards the seat of government, where they concentrated with posters and slogans saying “The People Put [You There], The People Remove [You]”, “Patrice Falls, Pinto Falls”, and “Early Elections Now!”, among others who showed their support for the party:

The current Minister of Education, Olinto Daio, member of the government targeted by the impeachment measure, shared a series of photos on his Facebook page.

Sociologist and digital activist Humbah Aguiar recorded a video in which he comments on the current situation:

S.Tomé e Principe vive uma crise política parlamentar. Os deputados da oposição que constituem a maioria, derrubam o governo aprovando uma moção de censura, numa sessão parlamentar que contou com ausência dos deputados do partido no poder. Por um lado os partidos na oposição não desejam eleições e o partido no poder deseja eleições antecipadas.

S. Tomé and Principe is living a parliamentary crisis. The opposition MPs which constitute a majority, have brought down the government by censuring it, in a parliamentary session in which the MPs from the party in power were absent. On one hand the parties in the opposition do not want early elections and [on the other] the party in power wants them.

In the message, directed at the Prime Minister, at the opposition parties and at the President, he appeals for dialogue between politicians and for the scheduling of early elections:

Lauro José Cardoso, on Facebook shared a note entitled Patriotism vs Unpatriotism:

A nossa bandeira democrática está perdendo o sentido e sinceramente duvido q alguma vez tenha tido porque a realidade mostra que o passado não serviu de bússola nem de inspiração. todavia, o presente necessita de uma revolução mental e todos os santolas que se encontram realmente preocupados devem lutar a favor desta revolução contra os homens da picarreta. Heróis precisam-se e não falo do batman, spiderman ou superman, falo de nós seres humanos defensores da nossa pátria do leve-leve. O patriotismo é a principal solução .Não haverá mudança sem aliança nem haverá esperança sem confiança. Por conseguinte vamos fazer o caminho inverso em relaçao a esses chavalões da picarreta, vamos colocar barros no bauracanço e consertar esta balburdia!

Our democratic flag is losing its way and I sincerely doubt that it ever knew the way at all because reality shows that the past has not served as a compass or even as inspiration. However, the present needs a mental revolution and all São Tomeans who find themselves really worried should fight for this revolution against these con men. Heroes are needed, and I'm not talking about Batman, Spiderman, or Superman, I am talking about us, human beings, defenders of our homeland from the leve-leve [generally meaning “easy, easy” the phrase describes “the delightful, easy-going demeanor of the citizens of São Tomé and Príncipe”]. Patriotism is the main solution. There will be no change without an alliance, nor will there be hope without trust. So let's take the opposite route from these tricksters, let's fill in these potholes and fix this mess!

The President Manuel Pinto da Costa is expected to give his findings on the impeachment measure soon. Everything indicates that there will be early elections in the country.

Wrote in collaboration with Mário Lopes.

October 13 2012

São Tomé & Príncipe: Deforestation Threatens Biodiversity

São Tomé and Príncipe, like other islands in the Gulf of Guinea such as Bioko and Pagalu, is one of the countries on the West African coast that stands out when the issue at hand is biodiversity. For this reason, since the end of the 19th century these “beautiful equatorial islands” have attracted enormous interest from international researchers [pt].

Their forests have been classified by the international organisation WWF as one of the two hundred most important areas in the world in terms of biodiversity. They are the habitat for around 25 species of endemic birds, an extraordinary number and comparable [pt] to the “Galapagos Archipelago (22 species), which is eight times larger than São Tomé and Príncipe, and more than double the number of the Seychelles (11 species), which are slightly smaller than São Tomé and Príncipe”.

Beija-flor-oliváceo - Cyanomitra olivacea

The Olive Sunbird - Cyanomitra olivacea. Photo from the blog Apenas a Minha História (used with permission)

In the nineties, Birdlife International included the São Tomé and Príncipe forests in Africa's “Important Bird Areas (IBAs)“, located in the top 25% of the 218 “Endemic Bird Area (EBAs)” in the world.

Making the country a world reference for birds [pt], which are unarguably the most obvious representatives of the immense biological wealth, the islands have been a constant cause for celebration and appreciation, as is the case in the newspaper Jornal Quercus Ambiente [pt], where Martim Pinheiro de Melo affirmed in an article:

As ilhas de São Tomé e Príncipe no Golfo da Guiné teriam certamente fascinado Darwin se ele por lá tivesse passado.

The São Tomé and Príncipe islands in the Gulf of Guinea would have definitely fascinated Darwin if he had gone there.

It was precisely in search of the allure, magic and splendour which the “beautiful equatorial islands” offer visitors with open arms that Portuguese biologist João Pedro Pio went to southwestern São Tomé in July 2012 [pt], to Ribeira Peixe to be exact. His intention was to find birds (the Island Bronze-naped Pigeon, São Tomé Green Pigeon and Maroon Pigeon) and other rare species in danger of extinction, as is the case for the Ibis, which is at the top of the list [pt] as one of the critically endangered endemic birds.

The blog Apenas a minha história [pt], where João Pedro relates his experiences over the course of a year as a foreigner and researcher in São Tomé, describes the scene of devastation he found in the area where it should have still been possible to see the birds:

Bem, quando o transecto começou, numa zona que anteriormente seria floresta cerrada, agora era um descampado enlameado. Já não haviam árvores nenhumas! Foram todas cortadas indiscriminadamente (…) com a excepção de um ou outro Viru-vermelho que permanecia comicamente sozinho no meio de toda aquela destruição, não havia uma única árvore de pé.

Well, when the transect started, in an area that used to be closed forest, it became a muddy clearing. There were already no trees at all! They had all been cut down indiscriminately (…) with the exception of one or two Viru-vermelho remaining comically alone in the middle of all that destruction, there wasn't a single tree standing.

"Ao longe uma escavadora fazia o seu trabalho implacavelmente enquanto toda a paisagem parecia chorar a destruição causada."

“In the distance a bulldozer works ruthlessly while the whole landscape seems to cry at the destruction.” (Image used with permission.)

Ribeira Peixe, also called Emolve [pt] (after the vegetable oil company), was a large semi-abandoned oil palm plantation, a monoculture that always presented a danger to the island's biodiversity, a danger aggravated above all by the threat to go ahead with plans to rehabilitate and expand the plantation from the current 610 hectares to approximately 5,000 hectares, a fact confirmed [pt] in 2009 when the São Tomean State signed an agreement with Belgian company SOCFINCO for palm oil operation.

João Pedro created the following map of the area:

"A linha verde assinala o limite com o Parque Natural Obô. Toda a área vermelha é antiga plantação de palmeira ou floresta que eu já vi que foi cortada. Como podem ver, há muita floresta que dantes estava de pé juntamente com as palmeiras da Emolve e agora perdeu-se..."

“The green line marks the border with the Obô National Park. The whole red area is old palm plantation or forest that I have already seen has been cut down. As you can see, there is a lot of forest that used to stand together with the Emolve palms and has now been lost…”

The young researcher wrote that “the Government decided that it would be more profitable for the country to swap all its biodiversity, which is unique in the world, for a few tons of oil”:

O governo de São Tomé e Príncipe assinou um contrato com a Agripalma, cedendo-lhes 5000 ha, ou seja, terra suficiente para que o negócio de venda de óleo de palma se torne rentável. (…) E como se o Ibis e as outras aves endémicas presentes na zona não fossem suficientes para parar o abate descontrolado de árvores, é aqui que se pode observar o fantástico Pico do Cão Grande que, só por si, poderia e devia ser explorado como um foco de atracção turística importantíssimo para São Tomé e Príncipe! Mas não (…)

The São Tomé and Príncipe Government signed a contract with Agripalma giving them 5000 ha, in other words, enough land so that the business of selling palm oil would become cost-effective. (…) And as if the Ibis and other endemic birds in the area were not enough reason to stop the uncontrolled logging, it is here that the fantastic Pico do Cão Grande [Great Dog Peak] mountain can be seen by itself; it could and should be explored as an important tourist attraction for São Tomé and Príncipe! But no (…)

The former International Coordenator of the World Rainforest Movement, Ricardo Carerre [es], in the report titled “Oil palm in Africa: Past, present and future scenarios” explains the processes that led to the 50 - 75 [pt - both links] million dollar deal in exchange for priceless riches.

São Tomé and Príncipe is one of the signatories of the Convention on Biological Diversity and has committed to finding solutions for the preservation of biodiversity. However, citizens and Internet users alike ask themselves if perhaps a study or evaluation has been carried out by a qualified entity on the environmental impact that this monoculture system will have in both the short and long term.

The palm oil may be used for the production of “biofuel” for commercial purposes, but these palm plantations aggressively degrade the environment, absorbing the soil's nutrients and leaving it extremely poor until, in less than two decades, it becomes totally barren land, serving only for scrub growth, which is perfect fuel for fires. Furthermore, the factories that emerge to process this oil typically produce a large amount of contaminating waste, represented by husks, water and fat residues and, as it is presumably a monoculture, it will need a large amount of herbicides, fertilizers and pesticides.

There is the saying “learn from others' mistakes”, and the benefit of history is that we can learn to not make the same mistake. In Indonesia and Malaysia, for example, entire forests have disappeared with palm oil operations, as if they had never even existed. Close to two million hectares of forest are destroyed annually and the exploitation in question only seems to benefit large farming operations and corrupt governments, the weakest can only look the other way, an occurrence that has been spreading in other developing regions in the world.

Reposted by02mydafsoup-01 02mydafsoup-01

August 31 2012

Portuguese, a Global Language?

A community page on Facebook, Língua Portuguesa: Uma Língua Global? (Portuguese Language: A Global Language?) [pt], provides a diversity of materials to promote the debate about the expansion of Portuguese language and its consequences. Several critical issues on the policies of this language of around 200 million speakers are addressed, such as minority languages, multilinguism and linguistic colonialism.

August 01 2012

Sao Tome and Principe: Deforestation of an Area of Unique Biodiversity

“In the distance a bulldozer was relentlessly doing its work while the whole landscape seemed to be mourning the destruction”, denounced [pt] João Pedro Pio, a biologist living in Sao Tome and Principe, after visiting a former forest known for its unique biodiversity. The area - mapped on his photopost - has allegedly been sold by the government for palm oil agribusiness.

April 21 2012

Sao Tome and Principe: Memories of a Lonely Navigator

Follow the blog Odisseia nos Mares (Odysseys in the Seas) [pt] and navigate through the stories of Jorge Trabulo Marques - a retired Portuguese journalist and photographer who lived in São Tomé and Príncipe for 13 years during colonial times. Trabulo blogs on his memories of São Tomé, including lonesome adventures in the sea, trying to cross the Atlantic to Brazil.

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