SANTA CRUZ, Cabo Verde, November 16, 2021 – As we travel along the banks of the Ribeira dos Picos river, it is impossible not to be struck by the green valley that stands out before the aridity of the landscape in the rest of the region. Considered one of the largest agricultural streams of the country, the emblematic Ribeira dos Picos is the primary source of income for most of the 6,500 inhabitants who live in the valley. They cultivate sugar cane, vegetables, and banana, among other products.
The valley is located in the municipality of Santa Cruz, 34 km north of Praia, the capital city of Cabo Verde. In the 1980s and 1990s, this area became one of the largest producers and exporters of agricultural products and the country’s headquarter of the largest agro-food complex. Today, fishing, livestock, and agriculture are still the main income-generating activities of the population, 60% of whom are under 20 years old.
However, over the years, the road network has been vulnerable and expensive to maintain because of the geography (steep slopes), geology (unstable and crumbly terrain conducive to landslides), and climate (heavy rains, potentially explained by climate change and likely to become more and more common). In addition, most of these roads were designed decades ago for much lower traffic volumes than those of today, many need to be re-engineered if not reconstructed.