Agriculture under the shadow of La Soufrière

A CIJN Special Report

On April 9, 2021, at exactly 8.41 a.m., St Vincent and the Grenadines entered a period in its history its population had hoped would never again occur – almost 42 years to the day since an April 13, 1979 event of similar magnitude, and over 100 years after the 1902 eruption of La Soufrière volcano that killed close to 1,700 people. La Soufrière is a conical volcano forming the highest peak in the northern third of the main island of St Vincent which covers 133 square miles with a population of around 110,000. The volcano has had five significant eruptions in 1718, 1812, 1902, 1979, and 2021. At the time of the most recent explosive events, the country had established itself as a sub-regional leader in the production of root crops and tubers, fruits, and vegetables, supplying nearby territories with regular shipments that earned significant national revenue. It had also considered a vibrant future in the cannabis industry with the establishment of a Medicinal Cannabis Authority.

Agriculture’s Unstable Future

 KINGSTOWN, St Vincent 

Leaning against the concrete wash sink in his yard, still wearing his farm attire, Lloyd Ballantyne considers the head of cabbage in his hand. “The crop wasn’t bad, but the Soufrière bad up the crop,” he mutters as he peels away the outer, ash-stained leaves to reveal the greenish white vegetable. “I just have to wash off that,” he continues as he places the vegetable under the tap and scrubs it gently with his hands. “Right. You see, this is ready to market now,” he says as he cuts off the stem with a deft move of his knife, his smile broadening, revealing a golden tooth.