From an influx of sargassum in near-shore waters, to fish venturing further out to sea to find cooler, more oxygenated water, fishers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are battling the vagaries of climate change. The country is doing what it can to respond.
In the tiny eastern Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, proverbs relating to the weather are very common.
Everyone knows that “Who has cocoa outside must look out for rain”, has nothing to do with the drying of the bean from which chocolate is made or the sudden downpours common in this tropical nation.
As a child growing up in Mayreau four decades ago, Filius “Philman” Ollivierre remembers a 70-foot-wide span of land, with the sea on either side that made the rest of the 1.5-square mile island one with Mount Carbuit.
With Antigua and Barbuda joining St. Kitts and Nevis as the two eastern Caribbean nations to attain middle-income country status, a senior diplomat has identified climate change as a major factor preventing other nations in the grouping from taking the same step forward.
In the 1980s, an institution for troubled Danish youth and a vocational school for Vincentians was built in Richmond Vale, an agricultural district on the northwestern tip of St. Vincent.
Caribbean leaders worry that with climate change sceptic Donald Trump in the White House, it will be more difficult for small island developing states facing the brunt of climate change to secure the financing necessary to adapt to and mitigate against it.
Fifteen years ago, Stephanie Browne, a former Member of Parliament in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, needed only to look at the beach outside her house to know why her community in Union Island was called “Big Sand”.
For decades, the fertile slopes of La Soufriere volcano, which occupies the northern third of this 344-kilometre-square island, has produced illegally grown marijuana that fuels the local underground economy, and the trade in that illicit drug across the eastern Caribbean.
Glenda Williams has lived in the Pastures community in eastern St. Vincent all her life. She's seen the area flooded by storms on multiple occasions.
In the last three years, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been forced to spend more than 600 million dollars to rebuild its battered infrastructure. Landslides in April 2011, followed by December 2013 floods that also affected Dominica and St. Lucia and left 13 people dead, may be just the beginning, as climate change brings more extreme weather events to the Caribbean.
As the costs of climate change continue to mount, officials with the Commonwealth grouping say it is vital that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) stick together on issues such as per capita income classification.
A freak storm, followed by heavy floods in December 2013, will go down in history as the most destructive natural disaster to have hit the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with reported total damages and losses of at least 103 million dollars.
Last Fall, I witnessed the Grenada Council of Churches insert themselves into negotiations between their government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) around the island’s debt restructuring and presumed austerity policies. Religious leaders called from pulpits across the tiny island for a “Jubilee” or national debt cancellation.
Christmas 2013 was the most “dreary and depressing” Don Corriette can remember in a very long time.
Allan Williams, 32, is an agriculture extension officer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. But as a trained apiculturist, he has also been involved in beekeeping as a hobby for the past seven years.
Ralph Gonsalves fought to hold back tears as he shared how his cousin was killed the night before Christmas.