Op-ed by Chelston Brathwaite, Director General Emeritus of The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA); and Manuel Otero, Director General of The IICA
Tuesday, May 4, 2021 — The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the vulnerabilities of the economies of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Saint Lucia and other small, tourism-dependent Caribbean countries. These economies typically must contend with a limited availability of arable land, small and often scattered populations, fragile natural environments, an energy import dependency, extreme vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters, as well as high rates of diet-related illnesses. In recent years, these countries have also experienced high levels of external and internal debt.
The grave situation for these small economies was further heightened with the recent eruption of La Soufrière volcano in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The eruption on April 9 at 8:41 in the morning released a column of ashfall that drifted towards the Atlantic Ocean. Since then, subsequent eruptions continued to aggravate the situation. Approximately 20,000 people in St. Vincent had to be evacuated and will not be able to return to their homes for at least three or four months. There has been a disruption in the drinking water supply to most of the island and the presence of smoke and ash has forced the closure of the airspace.
This disaster has multiple implications for St. Vincent, from an economic, health, social and safety perspective. The natural phenomenon is having a particularly detrimental effect on agriculture, as farmers in the affected