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Cape Verde, Land and Resources

The islands are volcanic in origin, and all but three—Sal, Boa Vista, and Maio—are mountainous. The highest point, Pico do Cano (2,829 m/9,281 ft) on Fogo, is also the group’s only active volcano. The climate is tropical and dry, showing little variation throughout the year. The average temperature in Praia, the capital, ranges from 20° to 25°C (68° to 77°F) in January and 24° to 28°C (75° to 83°F) in July. Winds are frequent, occasionally carrying clouds of sand from the Sahara Desert in Africa to the east. Precipitation is slight and irregular. Average precipitation in Praia is 260 mm (10 in), nearly all of which falls from August through September. Vegetation is sparse and consists of various shrubs, aloes, and other drought-resistant species. Wildlife is also limited and includes lizards, monkeys, wild goats, and a variety of birdlife. Mineral resources are meager and primarily include pozzolana (a volcanic rock used in making cement) and salt.

Prolonged droughts are an increasing problem for the small, rocky archipelago, which has no renewable sources of fresh water. Only 74 percent (2000) of Cape Verde residents have access to safe water, and only 71 percent (2000) have access to sanitation. Overgrazing of livestock, improper land use, and high demand for fuelwood are added concerns. Reforestation projects are being initiated to retain runoff, but additional outside aid may be necessary to implement these projects effectively. Only 10.2 percent (1999) of Cape Verde’s total land area is arable, and 21.1 percent (2000) is forested. None of Cape Verde’s land is classified as protected. Environmental damage threatens several indigenous species of birds and reptiles. Cape Verde is a party to international agreements regarding biodiversity, climate change, desertification, environmental modification, law of the sea, and marine dumping.

 
 

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