Natural Hazard Risk
Sao Tome and Principe, a small archipelagic developing country, is vulnerable to natural hazards, such as coastal and river flash floods, storms, and droughts. Frequent flash floods and severe storms accompanied by hail, thunder, lightning, and violent winds particularly threaten the country. The confluence of such hazards from 2014 to 2016 resulted in widespread flooding across the communities of Praia Gamboa, Santa Catarina, Ribeira Afonso, Malanza, and Io Grande, destroying homes and causing the loss of human lives.
The island country is already bearing the consequences of climate change. Sea level rise, changes in wave action, and river flood patterns are exacerbating extensive coastal erosion and flooding. Particularly critical are impacts to sectors including agriculture and fisheries, as nearly 20 percent of the nation’s workforce is employed in artisanal fisheries and most villagers are small-scale farmers. Coffee production in the country has reduced over the last decade, and fishermen face increased danger due to weather changes. Climate change is also being observed through temperature rise and an extended dry season. For example, in 2010, Sao Tome and Principe’s dry season lasted for seven months instead of the typical three months in length.
The Government of Sao Tome and Principe has taken important steps to manage disaster and climate risks. Established in 2007, the Office of Director General of Environment under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is responsible for coordinating and executing all policies and strategies related to climate change and other environmental challenges.
In 2011, the National Disaster Preparedness and Response Council (CONPREC) was created to coordinate disaster risk management (DRM) activities and ensure an effective response to disasters. Additionally, the establishment of the National Committee for Climate Change in 2012 strengthened the capacity of national institutions to coordinate and manage climate-related challenges.
To further advance its DRM and climate resilience agenda, the Government of Sao Tome and Principe is prioritizing:
- Improving response capacity to climate-related disasters;
- Mainstreaming climate and disaster resilience in development sectors such as transport, tourism, energy, and urban development;
- Increasing awareness and education on disaster prevention and preparedness; and
- Developing reliable early warning systems to monitor hydro-meteorological conditions.
GFDRR’s support for disaster and climate resilience in Sao Tome and Principe began at the regional level in 2014. Key areas of focus have included supporting the country to better identify and reduce its disaster risk, enhancing climate resilience, and developing a regional capacity for disaster response and reconstruction planning.
Starting in 2014, through the Africa Caribbean Pacific-European Union National Disaster Risk Reduction Program, GFDRR supported activities to strengthen DRM capacity and disaster risk reduction (DRR) coordination, planning, and policy advisory in Economic Community of Central African States member countries, which includes Sao Tome and Principe. The project developed a plan of action for regional DRR and climate adaptation implementation. It also prompted the creation of the Regional Climate Centre in Douala, Cameroon in 2015.
Since 2016, GFDRR has supported technical assistance to strengthen the Government of Sao Tome and Principe’s capacity to reduce the vulnerability of the country’s coastal areas and promote climate-resilient integrated coastal management. Activities include updating the evolution of shorelines and assets mapping in targeted coastal communities, and producing a high-resolution digital terrain model of the country’s most vulnerable communities by using drones. The project has also strengthened capacity building for monitoring coastal zone evolution and produced information necessary to help the government and targeted communities plan adaptation options.
Going forward, GFDRR anticipates demand to support Sao Tome and Principe on:
- Reducing the vulnerability of coastal communities to natural hazards and climate change;
- Increasing institutional capacity and access to improved technical expertise and finance for climate and disaster resilience; and
- Facilitating effective implementation of climate resilience strategies based on sound analytics and risk information.