Located 20 miles southwest of St.Lucia and 100 miles west of Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is an island known for its mountainous terrain and a 3,864 feet volcano, La Soufriere which comprises its beaches black sand and fertile soil. The volcanic sediments impact the soil by enriching it with magnesium and potassium which make up natural fertilisers, consequently reaping quality produce.
Due to the land’s suitability for farming, its main source of income is generated from agriculture and tourism. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2021 was 6.46% while the world’s average for agriculture was 10.03%.
The agriculture industry is one of the most crucial economic sectors in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and is seen as a means of income for thousands of farmers and entrepreneurs. It contributes to employment, international investments, and foreign exchange.
According to pressroom.oecs.org, in 2019 SVG was the largest exporter of livestock in Eastern Caribbean States. In that same year, 500 pigs were exported to Grenada. And while you may think that 500 heads of pigs is a small number, for the families that benefit from the export, it is a significant revenue generator.
But the generator has run into problems caused by the effects of climate change such as hurricanes, earthquakes, prolonged droughts, floods, and volcanic eruptions. The effects of climate change have intensified and the frequency has increased to shocking levels. The Caribbean Region is taking the brunt of these effects though the region does not contribute to climate change.
Over the past 10 years, the Caribbean Region has experienced an increased number of hurricanes and in 2022, according to Crown Weather Services, the Caribbean had “16 named storms, 9 of those storms became hurricanes and 3 of those hurricanes became major hurricanes. The common argument brought forward by CARICOM leaders and citizens is that the region contributes to climate change the least but the region is being impacted the most. The effects of big industrial countries such as the United States of America, China, India, and the United Kingdom have far-reaching consequences, consequences that Small Island Developments States (SIDS) are dealing with. These developing countries continue to have challenges in mitigating the effects.
In April 2021, the island’s volcano La Soufriere eruption several times since 1979. It has affected every part of food security despite the public’s prediction that fruits would flourish from the ash fall. The series of volcanic activities have displaced many farmers from their homes and despite the public’s prediction that crops would flourish from the ash fall, it has done more damage than good in rural areas.
Owner of the Westfield Farm Hance John shared what he has been personally experiencing from the impacts of climate change on his farm in Mesopotamia. He shared the socio-economic and historical factors of climate change on his farm.
Q: Did you notice any change in weather patterns in the last 5-10 years?
A: “Where we have a shorter drought season it has now become a longer season. Where we used to have the rainy season going for a longer time, it is now shortened. Therefore, the crops are being affected because there is limited water in terms of the rain and harvesting the rain because the season has a longer drought season or dry season that makes it difficult for some plants to grow.”
Q: What are some of the effects of climate change?
A: “As a result of climate change it has affected the growth of plants as it relates to the weather patterns. There are some crops that can’t have too much water or rain. Case in point tomatoes. The rain would beat off the blossoms, they would make them rotten fast and so forth. Even cabbage cannot take too much rain. Then with the variations in weather patterns comes pests, which makes your plants or vegetables on your farm more susceptible to disease and pests would be prevalent around that time, case in point-white flies. Now white flies have their season but more in the dry season, they will be about. You’ll have a lot of white flies that will damage your crops, mainly cabbage. It would rain a lot too and you’ll have worms more of these insects come onstream because the climate is cooler. When the place is extremely hot, they would normally go into hiding but when the place is so cool that the soil is damp and stuff like that they would come about even with fungus. All these things equate to climate change not only in the Caribbean but globally.”
Q: How does climate change affect farmers?
A: “It is not profitable for farmers and that is the most critical constraint of climate change where you invest a lot in your farms but you’re unable to gain from whatever produces that you sow with the objective of getting a return.”
Q: Do the effects of climate change affect your health?
A: “With food security in terms of providing for your family and eating healthy because we have all this stuff happening in terms of the environment. There are fewer organic foods being produced because you have to combat pest diseases and weather patterns so now you are speeding up the growth by giving them a lot of chemicals to have a faster turnover in terms of harvest.”
Q: Does it affect the health of your community?
A: “We are importing a lot more food than producing. That is another economic impact of climate change. When we had the vo0lcanic eruption and hurricane, farmers were not going out into the field, so a lot of processed food was imported. Economic spin-off where the supermarket gets a lot more profit than farmers because they cannot get to sell their produce because there are tons of canned food. If your farm has been damaged by a natural disaster, how can you produce food or meet the demands of the population that needs food?”
Q: Do you think we need climate reparations?
A: “I strongly agree if you were to check the history. The Caribbean was the hub for plantations because of our tropical climate to grow sugar cane. Beet was the number one sweetener at the time and then beet grew out of demand because they found Sugar Cane. We need to be compensated as such across the board. We make up not only a fraction of those persons affected but an entire generation and generation will be affected by slavery. He even touched “we are still seeing at the low end of social development, we are seeing monuments of poverty, we are still seen as rebellious people.”
The importance of climate change
For a series of years, climate change has been affecting small islands causing diverse natural disasters that have been affecting the livelihood of citizens. Nations that are responsible for the destruction are walking around protected by capitalism. The Caribbean has numerous developing countries and they do not have the necessary resources to impede these natural disasters.
Isn’t it fair that nations should take responsibility for the degradation of our tourism industry, food production, loss of animals, risk to health and businesses or are we going to sink under underdevelopment and immobilize?
This story was originally published by One News St.Vincent, with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship, which is a joint venture of Climate Tracker and Open Society Foundations.