Adaptation to Climate Change in São Tomé and Príncipe

Published: 19 December 2018

The combined effect of high exposure to natural hazards and lack of land use planning and enforcement of existing regulations, make the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe extremely vulnerable to the impacts of extreme events and climate change. Deltares and CDR International (sub-consultant) have partnered together and are working in close cooperation with MOPIRNA (the Ministry of Public Works, Infrastructures, Natural Resources and Environment) and local communities to quantify hazards, risks and adaptation options at eight locations in São Tomé and Príncipe.

The Islands of São Tomé and Príncipe

São Tomé and Príncipe is a Small Island Developing State in the Gulf of Guinea, in West Africa. The country gained independence from Portugal in 1975. Since then, many workers from former plantations migrated towards the coast to become fishermen. Coastal communities have been growing rapidly without proper spatial planning, occupying areas at high risk of natural hazards and the adverse consequences of climate change.

Natural hazards and climate change

The main natural hazards affecting the coastal communities are coastal flooding due to extreme storm surge and waves, river flooding, flash flooding and overland flows from intense rainfall, high winds, and beach loss. Climate change and sea level rise will exacerbate most of these hazards.

The state-of-the-art numerical models Delft3D, XBeach and WFlow will be implemented in order to assess the various hazards and climate change scenarios and the effectiveness of possible adaptation measures. Hazards will be translated into risks and damages to the local communities.

Social assessment, participatory risk mapping and soft solution

The study will focus on eight coastal communities: Iô Grande, Praia Melão, Pantufo, Praia Lochinga-Gambôa-Cruz, Micoló and Praia Abade. Attention will be drawn on the most vulnerable communities and sub-groups, in order to get a good understanding of local perception of problems and possible solutions. A stakeholder participation process, with interviews in all communities, and a participatory risk mapping process are essential components of the study. The findings will be used in tandem with the technical study to make the right recommendations for  implementing  suitable solutions. The project will emphasize “soft” solutions, wherever possible, rather than conventional “hard” structural solutions. Some examples of solutions relevant to these sites include beach restoration, re-planting, constructing canoe shelters, and increased community awareness.

“The use of tools and models in combination with the involvement of local communities to inform decision making is the real strength of this project,” according to the Deltares project leader Alessio Giardino.

Arlindo Carvalho, national coordinator of the project on behalf of MOPIRNA: “Many of the coastal communities at the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe are living in areas very vulnerable to the effects of climate change. It is a challenge and priority for the local government to develop and implement proper plan for the island and grant resilience to the coastal communities. It is a global challenge to reduce carbon emissions and the effects of climate change.”