Home Stay, Sustainable Tourism

May 25, 2023

Author: Samory Araújo, Head of Solutions Mapping, UNDP Cabo Verde Accelerator Lab


Maio Island, The quieter side of the archipelago

Maio Island offers a serene and authentic experience for those seeking a peaceful and less crowded destination in Cape Verde. Its natural beauty, welcoming community, and traditional charm make it an attractive choice for travelers looking to explore the quieter side of the archipelago.

The economy of Maio Island is primarily based on agriculture, fishing, and tourism. The fertile soil supports agricultural activities, including the cultivation of crops such as maize, beans, and vegetables. Fishing is also an important industry, with local fishermen engaged in traditional fishing practices. In recent years, tourism has been growing on the island, with visitors attracted to its pristine beaches and relaxed atmosphere.

Maio Island is gaining popularity as a tourist destination due to its untouched natural landscape and its appeal as a peaceful and quiet getaway. Visitors can enjoy activities such as swimming, sunbathing, beach combing, and exploring the island's natural sites, including the Morro D'Areia (Sand Hill) and Praia Real (Royal Beach). The island also offers opportunities for eco-tourism, bird watching, and exploring traditional Cape Verdean culture.

A local environment NGO Maio Biodiversity Foundation has been defending a sustainable tourism model for the island, with a focus on ecotourism, and therefore supports the creation of projects aimed at social groups. And as part of the Sea Turtle Conservation Programme, the Foundation began supporting local families who host the patrol team leaders and the national and international volunteers who work in the field.

Homestay: Sustainable tourism, how did it all start?

It all started in 2013 with the need to accommodate who came to Maio who work in the field as part of the Sea Turtle Conservation Programme, the Maio Biodiversity Foundation began supporting local families who host the patrol team leaders and the national and international volunteers. The programme has benefited 20 local families, whose skills acquired through the training courses have enabled them to improve their hospitality services, expand their entrepreneurial potential and contribute to the sustainable development of the tourism sector on Maio Island. 

By investing in capacity building and empowerment of the participating families, the project not only generates income, but also creates opportunities for personal and professional growth, as well as some additional benefits and positive outcomes, such as:

  • Access to biodiversity and cultural experiences: The proximity of communities to protected areas allows volunteers to explore and appreciate the rich biodiversity that surrounds them. This gives them the opportunity to connect with nature, learn about local flora and fauna, and engage in ecotourism activities. In addition, living with local families allows volunteers to immerse themselves in the culture, customs, and traditions of the community, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of the local way of life.
  • Improved income for families: The project has had a positive impact on the incomes of participating families. The distribution of income among families helps to improve their financial well-being, contributing to poverty reduction and economic stability within the community.
  • Capacity building and support: The project goes beyond accommodation by investing in the development and training of participating families. The renovation and improvement of rooms for families demonstrates the commitment to improving the quality of the Home Stay experience. Families have also received training in a variety of areas, including language skills, cooking, small business management and first aid. This support equips them with the necessary skills and knowledge to provide excellent service and hospitality to international volunteers, ensuring a positive and rewarding experience for both hosts and guests.

Casa Cultura e Natureza 

During the Solutions Mapping visit to Maio Island, the Lab team, along with a representative from the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment responsible for sustainable tourism, visited the Home Stay establishment called Casa Cultura e Natureza, owned by Dulcelina. She is a working mother of two and a member of a batuku group, which is a traditional cultural expression on the archipelago. The purpose of the visit was to understand how the Home Stay experience is transforming her home and life. 

Casa Cultura e Natureza is recognised as one of the 13 official Home Stay on the island of Maio. These houses are spread across the 13 communities of the island, with some communities having more than one Home Stay. It's worth noting that there may be additional Home Stays in certain areas that have not yet completed the formalisation process.  The BIOTUR* project has supported the formalisation process of the Home Stays, as well as the training of these families in various areas so that they can offer quality services and experiences to guests. Dulcelina, the owner of Casa Cultura e Natureza, told us that she has been able to develop additional activities related to her Home Stay accommodation.

“By producing and selling traditional sweets and spices, I have found a way to diversify my income streams beyond the Home Stay programme. This not only provides me with an additional source of income, but also enhances the overall experience for tourists visiting my home. Selling these products to tourists as well as to local shops, restaurants and other customers expands my customer base and creates opportunities for business growth.” 

Overall, Dulcelina's story demonstrates the positive economic impact that can arise from Home Stay accommodations when combined with entrepreneurial initiatives. It exemplifies how these activities can improve the livelihoods of participating families, create economic opportunities, and contribute to the overall sustainable development of the local community


The people of Maio Island have a rich cultural heritage influenced by African, European and Cape Verdean traditions. The island hosts various cultural events and festivals, including music, dance, and traditional food festivals. Visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture by interacting with the friendly locals, tasting local cuisine, and learning about traditional crafts and music. The economic benefits of the Home Stay and related activities extend beyond Dulcelina's family, as the income generated by these activities contributes to the local economy. This is particularly important in a community-based tourism model, where the aim is to spread the economic benefits throughout the local community and promote inclusive growth.

*The BIODIVERSITY AND TOURISM PROJECT (BIO-TUR) was managed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment (MAA), through the National Directorate for the Environment (DNA), and is co-funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Cape Verde (GoCV) for the period 2017-2022.