“The future of humanity depends on the health of its oceans.”

The Cape Verde Archipelago is a country accustomed to looking at the sea. In addition to fishing, one of the pillars of its economy, the oceans also face the threats of the climate crisis in the guise of drought, desertification and the solution to the desalination problem. Its president, José María Neves, receives La Vanguardia within the framework of the Ocean Decade, a UN initiative that encourages scientific research and addresses the climate impact on the oceans, from global warming to plastic pollution. Neves, who is familiar with the comings and goings of the waves, warns that the sea requires “strong commitments” from everyone. As soon as possible.

Deep effects

We are causing changes such as sea acidification or the melting of the poles

Cape Verde, with 10% of its land area arable, is on the front line of the climate crisis. What challenges do you face?

For centuries, Cape Verde has suffered from severe drought, including famine and death, but they are now becoming more severe. We have been in a severe drought for almost 5 years. This is linked to the enormous scarcity of water, where we are witnessing strong soil erosion, as well as dusty snowstorms coming from the Sahara. These phenomena restrict our development.

Is the solution more sea?

I always say that the name Cape Verde is a misnomer, because it is neither Cape nor green, and therefore our future depends mainly on the sea. As desertification advances, we must produce water from the sea for human consumption, but also for agricultural and livestock production, industries, research, or tourism.


President of Cape Verde, José Maria Neves

Xavi Gorio / Probias

When you talk about the climate crisis, you look at the land (drought, fires…), but you point to the oceans. Why are they essential in the fight against climate change?

The poor health of the seas will make the impact of climate change even more painful. Today, there is ocean acidification and sea level rise, which will worsen as the Arctic melts. Climate changes will also lead to geostrategic changes in the world and changes in the transportation system because unnavigable seas will become navigable seas. There will be new transportation corridors for people and goods. For Cape Verde, the question is one of survival. Issues such as drought and desertification or the ability to ensure economic growth and prosperity will depend on how we fight now.

Sea level rise

“It will cause geostrategic changes; Because the seas that are not navigable today will be so.”

In Barcelona, ​​he called for “strong commitments” to confront maritime challenges. What should the global response be?

The world should be concerned about sea level rise. But the question is not how it might hit small island states or archipelagoes, because it would also affect coastal states or all marine biodiversity. We are depleting the Earth’s resources, and causing profound climate changes such as accelerated warming, sea acidification, or the melting of the poles. That is why it is necessary for the international community to pay attention to the sea because the future of humanity depends on the health of the oceans. The world must pledge to care for the oceans so that in the future we can obtain drinking water or produce food. We must realize the wealth it provides us.

Last week, he met with Spanish President Pedro Sanchez. what did you talk about?

Promoting investments in areas such as the fishing industry, renewable energy production or combating the climate crisis. But one of the key issues was the idea of ​​desalinating seawater to combat drought and desertification, areas of common interest. In Cape Verde, we have experience: on the islands of Sal or Boa Vista, desalinated water covers 100% of the population’s needs. We also have experience in wastewater collection and reuse. The problem is that they are expensive projects and we need support, not only in technology but in terms of financing. There could be unique partnerships between Cape Verde and Spain.


Cape Verdean President Neves asks for ‘deep commitments’ to care for oceans

Xavi Gorio / Probias

25% of the energy produced by Cape Verde comes from renewable sources. Is it the future?

This is true, and the idea is to reach 50% by 2030, but according to our studies, we can produce 40% more than we need and export. And we’re only talking about solar and wind, but it’s also possible to have green hydrogen. Cape Verde could become a renewable energy powerhouse.

Meeting in Moncloa

I spoke with Sanchez about desalinating seawater to combat drought; “common interest”

Species like tuna will decline by 45% in 75 years due to overexploitation. What is the outcome for the world?

This issue particularly worries me. The total number of fish decreases dramatically, and artisanal fishing becomes more difficult. It is necessary to develop a strategic plan to ensure sustainable management of fishing resources and improve the management of existing fishing agreements with the European Union.

He also spoke with President Sanchez about the Sahel region. What can Cape Verde do?

The Sahel corridor has a major terrorist problem. Libya played a balanced role in the region, and with the bankruptcy of the Libyan state, weapons and terrorist groups spread. In addition, there were uncontrolled migrations, because Libya served as a migration barrier between Africa and Europe. The solution is to strengthen the defense and security institutions of countries and achieve stability in Libya. Within the framework of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations or the African Union, Cape Verde promotes peace and dialogue and works for countries to strengthen democracy and create strong institutions.

In Transparency International’s corruption index, Cape Verde ranks 30th out of 180 countries. Spain 36…

It is a positive fact that proves that Africa’s development is possible, and that comprehensive political and economic institutions can be created, as well as Africa’s resources put at the service of Africans if there is strict and transparent management of public resources.

You are the son of a single mother. How did growing up surrounded by strong women impact your personality and leadership?

It has given me greater sensitivity regarding the issue of gender equality and equity. I have always understood that men and women have the same rights and are equal. My mother is my hero, she was my mother and father; That was it. For me at home there was no Superman, there was a Superwoman.

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