St Vincent & the Grenadines: Impacts of volcanic eruption on COLEACP members and on the country’s agriculture

The La Soufrière volcano, which had seen a low-level eruption since December, experienced the first of several major explosions on Friday 9 April, and volcanologists say activity could continue for weeks. A further explosion was reported on the morning of Tuesday 13 April, sending another massive plume of ash into the air.

COLEACP members, partners and friends are sharing news and images with us. Jethro Greene, Chief Coordinator of the Eastern Caribbean Trading Agriculture and Development Organisation (ECTAD CARIBBEAN), which is based in St Vincent, told us on 12 April that:

“We are ok and those in the danger zones are evacuated. We are now trying to boost production in the safe zone as it could be weeks or months before those in the main affected areas are able to return.”

And in an earlier statement:

“Thanks for your expression of concern: many farm families in the red zones are being evacuated but even in the safe zones, we have to stay indoors to avoid the ash.
We are hoping to do some quick export from the safe zones of dasheen as soon as the ash fall allows us.
With the help of God, our friends, partners, neighbors, our nation, and our small farm families will emerge stronger.”

Mr Nazim Gitters of VinEX Services in St Vincent & the Grenadines, a horticultural export company active in local, regional and international markets, reports that:

“We have 100% devastation to all our farms. All of our farmers are now in shelters because we operate in the red zone.

At present the farmers are focused on their families and surviving in the shelters. Basic needs like access to water and food are a challenge. I know when they are able to return and see the devastation the reality of our calamity will sink in.

I do not know where we will begin after this. Yesterday we had our first pyroclastic flow, so the ash stopped and we could have seen the sun again. Today the volcano blew up again! This means even more ash. The immediate devastation is comprehensive. On the bright side the soils will be fertile after this, but I do not know how we can begin again. We will need every form of assistance conceivable.
All the plantains are gone, coconut trees, breadfruit trees, root crops (we do not know how deep the ash is as yet).

All of that being said, we are a resilient people. We will overcome and we shall thrive.”

Montgomery Daniel, Deputy Prime Minister of St Vincent & the Grenadines, visited the area on Sunday 11th and reported via NBC Radio that the agriculture sector is now non-existent on the eastern side of the volcano (Fresh Plaza, 13 April). “The primary forest area close to the La Soufrière volcano is all gone,” he said. “The farms are basically gone. The tree crops have been denuded. It is only the stems that are standing in some cases. Breadfruit, coconuts, mangoes, soursop, all of those tree crops are basically gone. Things such as plantains and bananas, all of those are gone.”

He added: “With the root crops, the ashfall in some areas would have been so deep that all of the vegetation would have been covered. Whether it is arrowroot, yams, dasheen, ginger, you name it, all have been lost and not a single blade of grass can be seen on these farms. There is not going to be very much food available from that area for quite a long time.”

COLEACP expresses its deep sympathy with our partners in the affected areas and offers its support for reboosting the horticultural sector to overcome this natural catastrophe.

Click here for latest update – 27 April

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