Fieldworks

Encountering Fogo volcano (Cape Verde)

An exploratory stay of ten days allowed us to take an anthropological look at the issues related to the cohabitation of humans with an active volcano – three eruptions in the 20th century (1951, 1995 and 2014). The investigation was conducted around Pico do Fogo, a 22-24 million year old stratovolcano that today rises to 2,829 m, in the villages of São Filipe, Chã das Caldeiras and Mosteiros (Ilha do Fogo). The last eruption of 2014-15 buried the village of Chã das Caldeiras but the entire population had time to flee to other regions.

The team's research was based on semi-structured interviews, both formal and informal, with different actors related to the volcano and the repercussions of the 1995 and 2014-15 eruptions: farmers, tourist actors and local residents (craftspeople). Additional surveys were conducted on the neighbouring island of Brava to measure the impact of the volcano and its ash on agriculture at a great distance. Numerous photographs and various recordings were taken to nurture an iconographic database.

Attention was paid to the mechanisms of resilience in the individual choice to rebuild living areas in the vicinity of the volcano when others decide to settle beyond the potential burial perimeter. Anticipatory mechanisms also received particular attention, especially those based on ecological knowledge: animal behaviour, meteorological signs, crop quality, water circulation. The research also documented the strategies that convert hardened lava flows into prolific wine fields or raw material for tourist crafts.

This exploratory trip has highlighted the contrasting and ambivalent character of the evocations supported by the Pico do Fogo. Both deadly and prodigal, the activity of the volcano leaves hovering the spectre of an upheaval, but also the vitality of lucrative tourism and agricultural activities. The team is currently writing an article that will provide more details on the study conducted and will be published in a special issue devoted to volcanoes under the direction of L. Simon, P. Delmelle and F. Laugrand. The study will also be used as a basis for several papers in specialized conferences.

volcanoes and vineyards

Volcano, vines and lava

Handicrafts Abandoned men

lava and vines

Volcano and buried house

Abandoned men, buried house, tourism

Frédéric Laugrand, Justine Masseaux, Lionel Simon