The colonial plantation in Sao Tome and Principe

To understand the socio-economic context of the plantation workers, it is needed to explain the structure of the plantation estate - the roça (a kind of small administrating village).

In the colonial days, some roças employed thousands of workers on the extensive estate containing several sub-states intended as smaller dependent complexes linked to the same property. The state included usually the administrators complex, the technicians and sub-administrators houses, most of them Portuguese, a chapel, a kinder garden, a grocery shop, a tool shed, the factory of cocoa, the workshop, a guest house and most impressive, the hospital.

The connection between roças and city was either by sea or, linking the biggest roças as in the case of Agostinho Neto and Agua Ize, railways leading all the way to the commercial port. The roads between the different roças are sparse and mostly trail and in colonial time were in better state, whereas today most of them have become forested due to lack of maintenance.

Before independence on the 12th of July 1975, the most important roça in coffee context was Monte Cafe at an altitude of about 500 meters above sea.

After independence, many estates declined very fast and now these villages are residence of big comunities, among them mainly descendants of old contracted workes brought from Cape Vert, Angola, Mozambique, etc. The majority of plantations and their system desapeared. Large part of the plantation workers stayed by, now living on subsistence agriculture, without the infrastructures that would permit transportation in large scale to the port of commerce, without the know-how of the former administrators to manage the complex and without capital to invest and to take care of maintenance.

In 1991, the first democratic elections took place and following them, relationship with the outside world abroad were intensified and as an example, tourism began to appear. With the presence of development projects from organizations like the UN and the World Bank, the rural estates were sold in tiny pieces of about 1 hectare each in an attempt to motivate the formation of agricultural associations.