Cape Verde

The future is bright for Cape Verde

Tom ArmittTom Armitt recently joined the Travel Foundation as a new Destination Programme Officer. 

Half way through my second month at The Travel Foundation, and I am starting to get my head around the responsibilities that I have been assigned.

I was first put in charge of the Cape Verde programme: an interesting destination for me as I started my tourism career in West Africa researching the possibilities for the development of community-based Ecotourism in Senegal, and working closely with local communities to design and manage heritage trail tourism experiences in Sierra Leone.

Cape Verde has a lot of potential for the implementation of Sustainable Tourism principles within its fast-growing tourism industry. While big-complex, all-inclusive tourism is holding sway, the 10 island archipelago seems to have learned from other nations’ mistakes and has set its sights on sustainability. It has recently been in the news for increasing its renewable energy output by 300%.

On Sal, the island where The Travel Foundation works, a Destination Council has been created, bringing tourism stakeholders together from the public, private and third sectors to ensure that sustainability principles are made part and parcel of the island’s tourism development strategy. Slowly but surely this initiative is taking root, and the council has built on some of the Travel Foundation’s past work with the Cape Verdean Crafts, Discover the Real Sal and Better Beaches programmes.

In my opinion, the future is bright for Cape Verde, the future is sustainable tourism!

– Tom Armitt


Crafting a sustainable future in Sal

debora-abu-rayaToday’s blog is a guest article from Débora Abu-Raya, who is based in Sal, Cape Verde. Débora joined the TF team in July 2013 and has since been working to build our programme of work on the Island of Sal. Today, Débora updates us with the latest from the Cape Verdean Craft project. The project aims to increase the awareness, provision and competitive nature of the Cape Verdean craft offering in Sal, increasing sales to tourists to improve the livelihoods of artisans and help create a more unique tourism product. More on the project here.

As a Cape Verdean, I want to see tourists shopping for locally made crafts, and taking something home that is unique to the islands. Aside from the romantic notion that a little bit of Cape Verde will be spread around the world, it’s vital that local businesses are able to benefit from tourism, and that as a destination we’re providing a unique, quality experience, in order to protect our future in tourism.

Craft producer SalCape Verdean craft producers and vendors haven’t had it easy since the growth of tourism on Sal. Initial research showed that imports, lack of knowledge, lack of diversity of products and poor access to market have all contributed to a difficult market place. On top of that, there was very little communication between producers, vendors, regulatory bodies and the ministries. We were left asking questions such as…who could help? How could we help to protect the future of Cape Verdean craftspeople in Sal?

With backing from the Destination Council (you can read more on that here), we pulled together a strong group of influencers from both public and private sectors that would help us address some of the issues, and more importantly, co-ordinate efforts and take ownership in the long term.

A year on, I was so pleased to organise a workshop for local craftspeople, being run by two designers from M_EIA (University Institute of Art, Technology and Culture in Cape Verde). It focussed on meeting customer demand and customer service. Leão Lopes led the 5 day workshop, and recognised that due to the lack of formal training, traditional craftspeople in Cape Verde were getting lost in the market. We collaborated to design the training course to address issues found in the initial research.

Andrea Monteiro from LAlambicIt’s rewarding to see a year’s worth of research, planning and future-proofing reaching the local craftspeople. On the day, I spoke to craft producer Andrea Monteiro who said “This training helped me to have a more critical look into my work and to be aware to the need of constant innovation. We had an excellent trainer, who obviously knows very well the craft and design areas/sectors in Cape Verde, and that lead me to know more about what’s happening in other islands with craft and to get more info about designers that I can work with.”

The project is due to finish in December, and I don’t want to jump the gun, but I think we’re almost at the point where we can answer my earlier questions…

Who could help? Input is needed from many parties, and to list all those involved would be too long (you can read that here!) but to make this project work we needed, and got, buy in from all sectors – public, private and NGO.
How could we help protect the future of craft in Sal? Our approach was to first understand the issues, then bring together the people who influence those. Of course, upskilling the producers and vendors was important, but without a supporting network, it wouldn’t have a lasting effect.

Sal Paintball makes holidays greener

Sal beach cleanOn 12th July around 40 people came together in Sal, Cape Verde, to clean about 2km of beach. Almost 500kg of rubbish was collected, mainly plastic bottles and fishing gear (fishing nets and containers) washed up on Kite beach, on the East coast of Sal.

The most unusual items they collected were a water boiler, a gas bottle, and a pepper shaker. The most common pieces of trash were plastic bottles – around 300 of them in all, which underlines how important it is for everyone to try and reduce their single-use plastic (e.g. with re-usable bottles).

Thank you so much to all the participants and organisers, and especially to Sal Paintball and Explore CV for the lunch, drinks and activities at the end of the beach cleaning, and to the CMSal (City Hall) for supplying water, bin bags and transport. Sal beach clean Photos: Duncan Gillies, Sal Paintballers.

Getting a share of the tourist dollar

IMG_2656In 2014 we carried out research into the supply and customer demand of Cape Verdean crafts in Sal, and ran a 5 day workshop for 15 craft producers and 11 vendors with the help of craft experts Unearthed.

But what difference did our training make? Would changes to product design and pricing help the artisans to make more sales to tourists? We found out in June, at a small craft market at the Oasis Atlantico Salinas Sea Hotel.

In preparation for the event, five artisans received some extra coaching on what selection of products to bring to the fair, how to approach customers, and how to present their stalls, for example, by decorating them with traditional fabrics and palms.

Andreia Monteiro from L’Alambic, who produces a wide range of the local liquor grogue, developed recycled packaging as a result of the training. She was delighted with their sales on the day, saying:

“It was such a good day for us and since the market we’ve had a number of customers coming into our shop who said they’d seen us at the market – I wish we could do more of these hotel craft markets!”

Sotero Lopes who creates white turtle, flower and heart necklace pendants from shells has changed the thread he uses from white to black to show off the pendants more and sold almost double what we would usually expect to sell at a day at the craft market.

Djumanga, who carves large wooden statues from driftwood that appear in a few local hotel lobbies has started producing carvings in smaller sizes that tourists can pack in their suitcases. At the fair he made twice what he used to make at the beach.

In July, five more craft producers who attended the training will appear at the hotel craft market, and the General Manager has said she’d like to make it a weekly event for her European guests.

Follow up training, and technical design support for the craft producers is being planned for 2015.IMG_2660

A pinch of Sal: a year of projects in Cape Verde

Volunteers Cape Verde

Volunteers in Cape Verde

Our three projects in Cape Verde – Better Beaches, Discover the Real Sal and Cape Verdean Craft – all launched in January 2014, with the aim of supporting the island of Sal to become a leader in sustainable tourism.

I visited Sal for the first time in May and was struck by its stark beauty and semi-lunar landscapes, and the carefree attitude of its residents. Life seems to dance around finding the perfect wave, followed by happy hour at a Santa Maria bar. Many visitors to Sal don’t have a chance to experience this side of Cape Verdean culture and I left hoping we might be able to change that.

Two particular achievements from 2014 really stand out for me. Firstly, creating the Travel Foundation’s first National Volunteering Programme, recruiting and training 12 volunteers who, from October to December, spent over 500 hours conducting surveys with residents and visitors and collecting data against Greener Beach criteria on eight beaches. The volunteers gained work experience, an insight into the tourism industry in Sal, and the chance to interact with people from different cultures.

Cape Verde craft training

Secondly, I’m particularly proud of the five day workshop we held with 15 craft producers and 11 vendors, covering topics such as costing and pricing, the green market and product design. Craft consultants Unearthed facilitated the training based on their decades of experience supporting producers in Africa, and I was lucky enough to be in Sal at the same time.

Handing out training certificates to the producers at the end of the week was a particularly emotional moment, and I know the training will have a real impact on how they make and sell products.

Now the pressure is on to keep up the momentum for 2015 and support the craft producers in product design and development, and help them get their wares into hotel shops.


– Isabel Kearney, Destinations Programme OfficerIsabel

Read more about our Cape Verde programme here >

Serra Negra beach clean in Cape Verde for World Oceans Day

Serra Negra beach clean, Sal, Cape Verde

To celebrate World Oceans Day and Make Holidays Greener Month, the Travel Foundation worked with the Sal-based NGO SOS Tartarugas to organise a beach clean in Serra Negra, Cape Verde.

25 participants collected approximately 700kg of rubbish over 3.5 hours, including fishing nets, plastic boxes, wood and glass – enough to fill three pick-up trucks.

Members of the Sal Destination Council kindly supported the beach clean:

  • APP (water and electricity company) donated 100 rubbish bags
  • Hotel Oasis Salinas Sea donated 25 litres of drinking water and rubbish bags
  • RIU Hotel donated 30 bottles of juice, rubbish bags and cups
  • Guiantur, the Association of Tourist Guides, gave use of their pick-up truck
  • City Hall of Sal donated rubbish bags

The event was also supported by the Protected Areas Project, which provided a pick-up truck and driver, and School Kim Barbosa, which provided catering equipment. A traditional Cape Verdean hearty stew called cachupa was made by a lady called Felipa for the beach clean team.

Serra Negra beach clean, Sal, Cape Verde - Cachupa time

The Travel Foundation’s National Programme Manager for Cape Verde, Débora Abu-Raya said, “Despite the amount of rubbish we collected from Serra Negra, we still have a long way to go before the beach is clear of plastic. As our Better Beaches project progresses, we’re hoping to encourage more local residents and visitors to come to beach cleans and take better care of the beach environment. I’m sure we will get there!”

By Isabel Kearney, Destinations Programme Officer

Cape Verde Destination Council welcomes new sustainable tourism projects

Destination Council in Sal, Cape Verde

Destination Council in Sal, Cape Verde

Destinations Programme Officer Isabel Kearney gives an update from Cape Verde…

Last week, 18 members of the Destination Council for Sal, Cape Verde, met at Hotel Oasis Salinas Sea. The Destination Council was set up by the Travel Foundation to bring together key tourism stakeholders including the Ministry of Tourism, local government, NGOs, hotels, tour operators and ground agents.

Collectively the council is working towards a vision of Sal as “a welcoming, clean and beautiful island, full of Cape Verdean culture, tradition, craft and music. A destination recognised internationally for sustainability, protecting the environment and involving local communities”.


During the meeting National Programme Manager Débora Abu-Raya gave members an update on the Travel Foundation’s three new projects in SalBetter Beaches, Discover the Real Sal, and Cape Verdean Craft – and the council discussed how they could get involved in activities and involve other stakeholders.


Questions were raised about how to deal with stray dogs on the beaches and the quantity of litter being washed up – members who had organised beach cleans shared shocking stories of the amount of litter collected in just one hour. Through the Better Beaches project, and with the cooperation of residents and visitors to Sal, the Travel Foundation hopes to improve the beach environment so that it can be enjoyed by more people.

Débora said, “I’m really pleased that the second Destination Council meeting went so well. Members are engaged in the projects and showed real passion for turning Sal into a sustainable tourism destination.”

Over the coming months, the Destination Council will be working on a joint action plan in order to achieve this vision for Sal, as well as contributing resources towards a beach clean for World Oceans Day on 8 June.

Beach clean in Cape Verde

Sal beach clean

To celebrate World Turtle Day, Isabel Kearney, Travel Foundation’s Destinations Programme Officer for Cape Verde took part in a beach clean on 25th May in Sal. The beach clean, which was organised by SOS Turtles, saw local residents and the SOS Turtles team come together on Kite Beach to collect litter. Isabel said:

“Despite being the most popular of Sal’s beaches for kite surfers, I was surprised by how much rubbish we collected – we filled twelve large bags in an hour with plastic jerry cans, bits of fishing nets and broken glass bottles.”

Isabel is in Sal for two weeks working with National Programme Manager Débora Abu-Raya visiting the Travel Foundation’s projects and attending the Destination Council.

For more information on the Travel Foundation’s work in Cape Verde, please visit our project pages and if you are in the travel industry, sign up for a beach clean as part of this July’s Make Holidays Cleaner campaign.


New sustainable tourism activities in Cape Verde


The Travel Foundation’s recent trip to Sal, Cape Verde was dual purpose: we announced a new programme of sustainable tourism activities for the island and photographer Chris Willan was there to capture the scenery and culture of this fascinating destination.


In addition to announcing the new programme of activities, one of the main objectives of the visit was to work with the destination council to define a vision, strategy and activities to support Sal in becoming a leading sustainable tourism destination.

The destination council is composed of 21 members, including tour operators, hoteliers, NGOs and representatives of local and central government and associations as diverse as the IFP (a hospitality training centre), the ADEI (a business development organisation) and the Department of Tourism. The idea is to bring all these organisations together to work towards a common goal which will help protect Sal’s environment, provide economic benefits to the resident population and offer holidaymakers enhanced holiday experiences.


Although visited by some 500,000 people each year, Cape Verde is a little known country… when you say you are travelling to Cape Verde most people’s first question is “where?”.

Cape Verde is an archipelago of 10 islands (and two rocks) which lie 500km west of Senegal in the Atlantic Ocean. 501,000 people inhabit nine of Cape Verde’s islands. Santiago is the largest and most populated island and is also home to the capital city, Praia. Sal is one of the smaller islands, just 18km long by 7km wide with a population of 20,702.


Located in the Barlavento (meaning windward) group of islands, Sal is the oldest of the Cape Verdean islands. It was originally named Llana (flat island), before being renamed Sal (salt) after the salt pans, now one of Sal’s most visited attractions, were discovered. Despite its size, Sal boasts 11 protected areas and is believed to be the world’s third most important nesting site for loggerhead turtles.


Landing on what appears a largely barren and desolate island, it may seem surprising that there is so much to see and do in Sal. However, during a short trip in February this year, Chris Willan captured the laid-back surf spots at Kite Beach, Angulo Beach and Ponta Preta; the Santa Maria pier bustling with fishermen and vendors; and the nightlife of the capital city, Espargos.

We think Sal has much to offer, and we are looking forward to working with the destination council on a number of activities to enhance experiences for both local residents and visitors.

By Suzannah Newham, Destination Programmes Officer