Guinea-Bissau: A nearly forgotten corner of the world

Even though you may have never heard of Guinea-Bissau before, chances are you’ve enjoyed some of it’s produce. The country is one of the world’s leading exporters of cashews – those tasty nuts that we eat by the handful. 

If you visit the country in May and June, don’t miss out on the freshly picked, hand-roasted cashews, as well as the cashew juice squeezed out of the fruits that grow attached to the nuts. Just don’t let the juice sit for a few days, unless you want to try another local favorite: cashew wine.

Despite the fertile land, Guinea-Bissau is critically under-developed. Only pockets of the capital city have electricity. The rest of the country is in the dark. Sewage seeps into the same ground where well-water is drawn from. It’s not surprising that the average life-expectancy age is 58.

And with only 1.9 million people living in a country the size of Maryland, it’s easy to overlook Guinea-Bissau. But we can’t afford to ignore this culturally-rich and vibrant country. It’s one of the poorest nations in the world and the average person here survives off $1.40 a day. Sometimes families can’t even afford to buy a sack of rice.

Guinea-Bissau also has another problem: the country has become a favorite of drug traffickers who smuggle cocaine between Latin America and Europe. They ship the drugs in bulk to Guinea-Bissau, stash it in dozens of unpatrolled islands off the coast, and then sneak it into Europe. The value of the drugs funneled through Guinea-Bissau each year is greater than the countries gross domestic product. Thanks to chronic corruption at the highest levels of government, the traffickers go unchecked. 

 

Guinea Bissau map

At a glance: guinea-bissau

Guinea-Bissau information

If you’d like to learn more, here’s some great resources for you to check out:

A great summary of the country from the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/country_profiles/1043287.stm

An in-depth and powerful feature from The New York Times Magazine: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/magazine/11Trade-t.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1310690824-eTf9bMtWx/qM55nBkpObzA