Agriculture and farming in Cabo Verde

Cabo Verde

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Agriculture in Cabo Verde

The Cabo Verde (cape Verde) archipelago is located off the western coast of Africa. It consists of ten large islands of volcanic origin (of which nine are inhabited). These islands present a total surface area of 4033 km2 and the islands are grouped as:
- northern group (Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia and São Nicolau);
- southern group (Santiago, Fogo and Brava);
- eastern group (Sal, Boavista and Maio).

Cabo Verde is named for the westernmost cape of Africa, Cape Verde (French: Cap Vert), which is located in nearby Senegal and is the nearest point on the continent. The largest port in the islands is located at Mindelo, on São Vicente. Topography across most of the islands is quite rugged, with steep peaks in the islands of Santo Antão, São Nicolau, Santiago, Fogo and Brava, and altitudes that easily exceed 1000 m in some islands, thus offering a wide range of habitats over relatively short distances. The climate is generally moderate with stable temperatures and extreme aridity. February is the coolest month, with temperatures in the low 20s C. August and September are the hottest and wettest months. The average annual relative air humidity varies from 75% in the arid lowlands to more than 80% in the highest areas.

According to the general agriculture census , the agricultural population represents around 34 % of the population of Cabo Verde (around190 000). The total arable land area is 36,450 ha, of which 81.9% is rainfed, 16.8% irrigated and 1.3% has both dry and irrigated agriculture. Cabo Verde’s agriculture is family-oriented, based on small, unorganized small units (micro-owners), not exceeding 1–1.5 ha. About 11% of the total area of Cabo Verde is used for agriculture. About 71% of the cultivated areas have less than 1 ha and, of these, more than a half has less than 0.5 ha, and only 11% is larger than 2 ha. The biggest island Santiago (991 km2), is also the major agriculture centre, accounting for 52.5% of Cabo Verde’s total agriculture area. Significant areas are also found in Santo Antão (16%) and Fogo (15.8%). Approximately 68% of the total arable land is occupied with rainfed crops, 26% with agroforestry and 6% with irrigated crops, mostly restricted to moist slopes.

The staple crops, such as maize and beans, are produced through rainfed subsistence farming, whereas irrigated crops (i.e., sugarcane, tomatoes) are mostly grown for commercial purposes. Most West African agriculture is essentially rainfed, and Cabo Verde is no exception, ever struggling with a key limiting natural resource, water. Among the irrigated crops, sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum) is the most important one, besides tubers like potato (Solanum tuberosum) and various tropical fruits such as banana (Musa spp.) and papaya (Carica papaya). Various vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, kale, onions, and peppers are grown in irrigated areas. Most of the irrigated land is still used for sugarcane production, particularly in Santo Antão and Santiago, occupying between 45%–80% of their agricultural areas. Coffee (Coffea arabica) is grown as a cash crop in the wetlands. With the exception of bananas and papaya, fruit production is mainly under rainfed conditions and yields are still far below their potential. The importance of the fruit-production sector in Cabo Verde agriculture sector is growing about 8600 tons per year, namely of banana, papaya, mango, citrus, avocado and grapes.


Sugarcane is an important crop in Cabo Verde, mainly for its by-product “grog”, a highly alcoholic drink, very much appreciated by locals and tourists. Grogue is the national drink of Cape Verde. It is rum distilled from sugar cane with an alcohol rate of 40%. The smell of the drink reminds of warm banana. Grogue is also called grogu or grogo. The artisanal liquor is associated with the Cape Verdeans and is drunk on several occasions. Grogue is traditionally made from sugar cane juice.) In short, this works as follows. If the sugar (white or brown) will flourish it is cut. The sugar cane stalks are pressed and the residue is molasses. This is the syrupy product from the production of sugar cane. The molasses is diluted with water in order to let it then ferment. After heating ultimately alcohol can be distilled from it. Of every 200 litters of thickened molasses distillery can produce up to 30 liters of quality grogue.


For a country where 80 percent of the population lives in near the coast, coastal fisheries play a huge part in the food, nutrition, livelihoods and local economies of Cabo Verde. In 2016, the artisanal fleet adds up to a total of 1,688 vessels, most of which are “boats” employing over 10,200 people. Total catches for this year stand at 4,400 tons, of which about 30% were tuna, 35% small pelagics, 28% demersal fish, and less than 6% sharks, molluscs, shellfish and other species. Fish, crustaceans and molluscs are among the products most exported by Cabo Verde. In 2015, fishery products accounted for 84.5% of the country exports: 44.5% as fresh products and 40% as processed and canned products.

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