STeP UP works with grassroots organizations to develop and facilitate projects
for training and community improvement.
STeP UP works in Sao Tome and Principe with grassroots-level organizations
that are legally recognized by the local authorities, promoting the principles
of self-help development. Working with these local organizations, STeP
UP develops written proposals which clearly address problems in the sectors
of education and training in agriculture, the environment, health, and
income-generation. These proposals describe the specific project and seek
appropriate solutions to the identified problems, using the organizations
as the implementing agency. The proposals are submitted to individuals
and to local and international funding agencies for support. STeP UP's
long term goal is to provide these local organizations with the institutional
capacity to continue to identify problems, write proposals, and secure
funding on their own.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SAO TOME e PRINCIPE
When Sao Tome was discovered by Portugese explorers in 1470, the island
was probably uninhabited. For the next five centuries, it was primarily
used as a slave trading post and as an agricultural station, producing
sugar cane first and later cacao for chocolate production. Portugese colonial
rule was primitive at best, with the result that when Independence came
in 1975, the islands had few trained people and no infrastructure outside
of the plantation economy developed around single-crop agriculture. In
1975, Socialists assumed power, nationalizing all productive enterprises.
The Portugese largely fled, and for 15 years the economy slowly disintegrated.
In 1990, for the first time, democratic elections were held, and a new
government took over. However, it still has not been able to mobilize
resources to combat the chronic poverty and lack of health facilities
and educational possibilities that plague the islands.
THE DONOR COMMUNITY
Donor aid to STeP UP is funneled largely through multi- and bi-lateral
institutions such as the UN system and French Cooperation funding. There
are virtually no foreign NGOs. The multi/bi-lateral aid results in projects
which are focused from the to down, with little or no participation from
the supposed project beneficiaries. In fact, most aid stops at the government
level, and despite the fact that the country is burdened with an extremely
high aid-dollar input per capita, little of the funding has an impact
at the local level. While this is the case in much of Africa, the difference
in Sao Tome is that the non-governmental aid sector - often the prime
mover at the local level elsewhere - is weak. STeP UP's goal is to help
fill the NGO "gap".
THE TYPE OF PROJECTS THAT STEP UP SUPPORTS
TRAINING:the primary focus of STeP UP, a major element of all sectors
HEALTH: typically relates to training in disease prevention (e.g. latrines,
draining stagnant water to prevent malarial mosquitoes from breeding)
and construction of health facilities.
EDUCATION: Focuses on providing teacher training and materials to primary
schools, middle schools and to the sole high school in Sao Tome City.
Projects may involve the rehabilitation of buildings or the construction
of schools in remote communities.
AGRICULTURE: Projects in this sector provide training to farmers in techniques
used in the introduction of new crops to help diversify away from the
cacao monoculture. They also provide appropriate technologies for using
the abundant rain-water and natural fertilizers available on the islands.
ENVIRONMENT: Projects related to the environment are often closely related
to agriculture. Training in sound agricultural practices leads to a healthy
environment. Reforestation, protection of local species - often endemic
- and the rational use of existing resources are primary project activities.
INCOME GENERATION: Projects for training youth in practical services solve
two chronic problems on the islands: unemployment and a functional service
industry. These projects now focus on construction techniques, auto mechanics,
jewelry making, tailoring, and upholstery.
STeP UP is an NGO with accreditation in Delaware (USA) and Sao Tome.