Publication site : Frontiers in Sociology
Authors : Miriam Steffen Vieira, Eufémia Vicente Rocha
Date of publication : April 2021
Type of publication : Article
Cape Verde is commonly presented in the literature as an island and Sahelian country, in which its climatic conditions cause a rainfall deficit, originating dry periods that persevere and, therefore, impose a fragile agricultural development. As a result, poverty and vulnerability are phenomena that have crossed the archipelago’s entire history.
The Cape Verde archipelago is located on the West African coast. It is composed of ten islands, nine of which are inhabited, being its population comprised of 248,280 women and 243,403 men, according to the 2010 population census. Considered as a medium developing country, the percentage of the poor population (people living below the poverty line, based on an income of less than 49,485$ per year) was 26.6% in 2007, according to Cape Verde’s Unified Questionnaire of Basic Wellbeing Indicators, published in the Statistical Yearbook. Regarding the poverty distribution, the same survey showed a higher incidence in the rural areas, indicating that “the depth of poverty was 8.1%, whereas in urban areas this value was 3.3%, and in rural areas, it was 14.3%” and, concerning the intensity of poverty, “it reached 3.4% in 2007, while in urban areas it was 1.3%, and in rural areas 6.3%”.
“Natural, technical and social conditions of agricultural production, a land structure based mainly on the indirect exploitation of land and smallholdings, rudimentary production techniques and technologies in rainfed agriculture characterize the world of Cape Verdean agricultural production, making productivity extremely low and the income earned not able to guarantee minimally the survival of families, making more than two thirds of the farm members to have sources of income from extra-agricultural activities.”
“The rural world faces several problems related to the lack of land for cultivation
Thus, the rural world faces several problems related to the lack of land for cultivation, besides other environmental phenomena such as insufficient water for consumption and agricultural use. Regarding the water consumption in Cape Verde, it is mainly from underground sources. Its flow type largely regulates the exploitation of surface water that has a torrential origin. Therefore, its quantity is underutilized due to the difficulties of capturing it.
The water issue is considered of vital importance to overcome barriers to development. This is the result of the countless efforts to build water infrastructures able to solve the problem of water shortage in Cape Verde, such as the dams.
In these policies, it is assumed a development that bets on a multidimensional character, on an interdisciplinary approach, in which different dimensions of life are articulated, demanding participatory and empowerment methodologies.
Santiago Island is the largest in terms of surface (991 km2) and concentrates more than half of the country’s total population (approximately 54%). Santa Catarina is one of its nine municipalities and, in the past, was the most populous one. Today, agriculture and livestock are still vital activities for the region.
The Charco’s drainage basin extends over an area of 35.58 km2 with a perimeter of 32 km. Its annual average rainfall is 400 mm/year in the high-altitude spaces and 150 mm/year in the low. Besides that, it presents climatic extremes that diversify from the sub-humid, semi-arid to the arid, promoting three agroecological zones. The basin areas contiguous to the sea today face problems of marine intrusion. Hence the soil salinization, which, according to Cape Verdean technicians, is the result of the exploitation of aggregates (sand harvesting) by the local and surrounding populations.
Charco’s community, which is composed of 266 inhabitants, including 144 women and 122 men, comprises the areas of Figueira Coxo, Covão Dentro, Djangago, Lém Freire, Terra Vermelha, Taberna, and Locale (Dogoule). In them, a total of 51 households were identified, being 30 of them female-headed families, according to data collected from the Third General Population and Housing Census in 2010.
Recently, in 2015, the non-governmental organization Renascença Africana: West African Women’s Association (RAMAO) in Cape Verde held public sessions to create awareness in the population of several islands where extractive activities were manifested. It is a project that involves other countries in the African subregion and aims at “preventing risk in coastal areas”. The first action was in Santiago Island north side, comprising the municipalities of Tarrafal, São Miguel, Santa Cruze, Santa Catarina, therefore, covering women from the Charco’s community.
A television news broadcast about this awareness-raising action presented the perspective of women who participated in this meeting. A group of women who are in the sand harvesting made a manifest entitled “lenço branco na cabeça” (white scarf on the head).
These events make the women’s place of speech explicit, highlighting the overload of work to which they are exposed for their family reproduction, the State’s fragility for the provision of care services, as well as job opportunities with decent conditions for the survival of their families.
Land and Water Seen as Male References
The Cape Verde government has been allocating important resources to agriculture since the early years of Independence. To this end, it has counted on international help in both financial and technical fields.
The National Agricultural Investment Program, initiated in 2010, based on a six-year execution plan, foresees investments, some already underway, worth US$ 250 million to modernize agriculture. The expected funding is supported either by the Government (15.5%) or by external sources, namely the Portuguese Line of Credit (11.7%) and the BADEA (10.5%).
About 61% of this amount is intended to improve water management, being 52% used for the construction of dams, drilling holes, wells, dikes, pumping systems, desalination units, reservoirs, and 9% for the promotion of irrigation, in particular, micro-irrigation. Another important part (23%) is aimed at changing agricultural, forestry, and pastoral practices.”
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