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Sao Tome and Principe

Soil exhaustion, tongas, Bantu language, Gulf of Guinea, average annual rainfall

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Sao Tome and Principe, republic, located off the western coast of Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea (an arm of the Atlantic Ocean). The republic comprises the islands of Sao Tome, Principe, and several small islets. It covers an area of 1,001 sq km (386 sq mi).

Land and Resources

The islands are volcanic in origin, with mountainous interiors and fertile soils. The highest point is Pico de Sao Tome (2,024 m/6,640 ft) on Sao Tome. Lowlands flank the northeastern and southwestern coasts of the islands. The climate is tropical with virtually no seasonal temperature variations. The average annual temperature is 25°C (77°F) in the lowlands and about 18°C (65°F) in the highlands. The average annual rainfall varies greatly with elevation, from 5,100 mm (about 200 in) on the southwestern mountain slopes to 1,020 mm (about 40 in) in the northeastern lowlands. A dry season lasts from June to September.

Uncontrolled logging is a continuing problem in the country’s primary forests. Soil exhaustion and erosion are additional problems.


The total population of Sao Tome and Principe was estimated at 205,901 in 2008. The capital and principal port is Sao Tome (population, 2003 estimate, 54,000), located on the northeastern coast of Sao Tome island. The population, descendants of peoples who came to the islands beginning in the late 1400s, is composed of six identifiable groups: mestico, or mixed-blood; angolares, descendants of Angolan slaves; forros, descendants of freed slaves; servicais, contract laborers from nearby African countries; tongas, children of servicais born on the islands; and Europeans, mostly from Portugal. Portuguese is the official language, but 90 percent of the people speak Fang, a Bantu language. Most of the people are Christians; 75 percent are Roman Catholic.


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