Slavery has been abolished in 1875, but the “Roças” system was still very harsh. Portuguese landlords were occupying most of all the good farmland and, with a high degree of authority were very abusive towards the farm workers.
When Sao Tome achieved its independency, in 1975, lands were divided and delivered to the people and Portuguese landlords were banished.
Now, there’s almost no coffee production and only a slight one of cocoa. Most of the coffee plantations are owned by small farmers that still manage to work on their lands. Others didn’t have the chance. When lands were divided many people stayed with a piece of land far from home, so it was impossible to work on them. Results? They were abandoned, and, today, many “Roças” are just a place to sleep for a big amount of people. Not a place to work on.
But then again, now life is easy. Sao Tome people may not be rich, but they never forget to smile, dance and celebrate life. And, maybe, that’s one of the biggest challenges they teach us – every day just: smile and just live life… “leve, leve”.
A photo gallery by Cátia Biscaia and Rui Silva