Nationalization Of The Roças
Nationalization of the Roças is a public holiday in São Tomé and Príncipe that is observed annually on September 30th. Also known as Agricultural Reform Day (Dia de Reforma Agrária), it is a holiday that highlights the nationalization of the Roças, the fields of land that have been cleared for cultivation by slashing and/or burning.
Roças means “cut scrub,” and that is why it is used to refer to the swidden of the country. This holiday has been observed since the mid-1970s and is a day that is backed by quite a few events. It is also a public holiday for the general public, and many public institutions are closed on this day.
The History of the Nationalization of the Roças
At the time when São Tomé and Príncipe were ready to be liberated from Portugal in 1975, almost 9 acres out of 10 acres of cultivated land were owned by the Portuguese. To ensure that the land was used in the most effective way possible, swidden agriculture was used. This is when the forest is cleared and then burned before the rainy season begins. Once the swidden is cleared, the land can be planted with crops.
Soil fertility occurs when the secondary forest regenerates. The advantage of using this method is that the tools required to do it are simple, and the only investment that is really needed is the labor to clear the land. On September 30th, 1975, the Nationalization of the Roças was announced to the public. This proved to be a turning point in the country, and this day is now used to promote agriculture across the country.
Observing the Nationalization of the Roças
This holiday is observed with a government-led education program that promotes agriculture in the country. People also use the holiday as a general day off to spend time with loved ones. Many businesses, schools, and non-essential government offices are also closed on this day.