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Living in lava in Cape Verde
Despite regular eruptions, people of a village in Cape Verde continue to rebuild their homes at the foot of a volcano.
Children’s clothes hang to dry at the foot of the volcano. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]
By Annika Hammerschlag
13 Oct 2021
Fogo, Cape Verde – When the volcano on Fogo, one of the 10 islands that comprise the West African nation of Cape Verde, last erupted in 2014, the lava buried homes and flooded roads. It also swallowed schools and tore through precious fields of grapes and figs.
Instead of moving, the residents of Cha das Caldeiras, a village that sits inside a crater and at the foot of the active volcano, counted down the days until they could return and rebuild – just as they always do.
Though the volcano has erupted six times over the past 200 years, the crater is their home, they say. They do not know any other way of life, nor do they want to.
Cha, as the village is known locally, is ripe for farming a variety of crops, which residents export to other islands. Locals also make good money from catering to the thousands of tourists who visit each year to ascend the 2,900-metre (9,514 feet) peak – so good that it is worth the time and money it costs to rebuild every couple of decades.
“I was born here. My land is here. My village is here,” said Ramiro Montrond, who has run a wine tasting bar in Cha for more than 40 years. “My whole life is here.”
The last eruption seven years ago destroyed hundreds of structures, but in others, including Ramiro Montrond’s bar, the lava poured through windows and doors, and then stopped. Residents chipped away as much lava as they could, but many have built around it. Montrond incorporated the lava, which broke through his front door, into his terrace. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]
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The crater from one eruption casts a shadow onto the volcano. The village is covered in rivers of lava, hardened over time into varying shades of black. Locals can distinguish which layer belongs to which eruption. The lava from the last eruption is still warm. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]
Djennifer Barbosa waters plants on her terrace, which is partially engulfed by hardened lava, while her daughter Thelma looks on. The lava spilled inside the home, too. Living there after the eruption has not been easy, she said. 'At first, it felt like I had a shadow in my heart,' she said. 'But I had no other option. Day by day it became normal.' [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]
Chindu Mendes and Djeisson Montrond harvest grapes on the steep slopes of one of Cha's old craters. Some grapes are exported to neighbouring islands while others are turned into wine. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]
Djeisson Montrond carries a load of freshly picked grapes down the crater. He makes a living exporting the grapes to Cape Verde’s main island of Santiago and by working as a tour guide. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]
Villagers harvest grapes beneath one of the old craters. The local population makes use of nearly every square metre inside the crater to grow crops. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]
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Djeisson Montrond peers through his bedroom window, which is obstructed by a block of lava. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]
A home that was overtaken by lava now sits abandoned. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]
Mario Silva Montrond, a grape and goat farmer, cooks in his brother’s kitchen, which features a giant wall of lava. His home was destroyed in the last eruption and he has lived in his brother’s house ever since. He is not worried about another eruption, he said, because he will just leave and come back when it is safe. 'There’s no life outside Cha for us Cha people,' he said. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]
What is left of a truck sits in the village of Cha das Caldeiras, which is still covered in rubble from the 2014 eruption. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]
Roads have been rebuilt since the last eruption in 2014, but much work remains to be done, such as reconstructing the primary school. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]
Construction workers dig through hardened lava to build a water pipe for their village. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]
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