Geography and Population
Saint Vincent and its associated islands of the northern Grenadines form an independent republic within the Commonwealth. It is part of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, about 34 kilometers (km) southwest of Saint Lucia and 160 km west of Barbados. Saint Vincent is about 29 km long and has a maximum width of 17.5 km, with a total area of 390 square kilometers (km2). In 1997, the total cultivated area amounted to 11,000 hectares (ha), of which 7,000 ha are under permanent crops.
The island of Saint Vincent has thickly wooded volcanic mountains running north to south and producing many short, swift streams. The streams are numerous but small. The highest peak is the Volcano Soufrière (1,234 meters) in the north. The volcanic ash has produced a fertile soil that has given rise to a lush green vegetation. In 1997, the population of the country was estimated at 114,000 inhabitants, of which 49% were rural. There annual growth rate was 0.87% in the period 1990-97. Population density in 1997 was about 292 persons/km2 on average over the islands. The agriculture sector accounted for about 12.6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1996.
Climate and Water Resources
Saint Vincent lies in the path of the northeast trade winds and has a tropical climate. Rainfall and temperature vary with altitude. Average annual rainfall ranges from 1,500 millimeters (mm) on the coast to 3,800 mm in the central mountains. The temperature at Kingstown averages between 18 and 32 ° C. Hurricanes occasionally hit the island. The dry season is from January to May. The rains start in June and continue from that time to the end of the year.
Water Resources and Water Withdrawal
The total annual production from all currently used water resources is 9.95 million cubic meters (m3), with a storage capacity of about 5 million m3. All production is targeted for consumption, there being no water available from the system to support agricultural production. There is no official record of water use by sectors. Government institutions are estimated to use 1.6 million m3, unaccounted-for water is estimated at about 1.8 million m3, leakages 0.5 and domestic consumption at 5.3 million m3.
Irrigation and Drainage Development
There seems to be significant potential for recovery of water from groundwater sources in the Connery and Mesopotamia valleys where some 900 farms (resulting from the resettlement of seven larger states) exist. In the 1970 there were at least a dozen large farms units irrigating bananas, compared to 1 or 2 small-scale units in 1995. Until the 1993-94 growing season, irrigation was not considered but the drought of that period brought the requirement for irrigation sharply into focus.
There are approximately 3,650 ha of pure-stand bananas in St. Vincent, returning an average yield of 17 to 20 tonnes per hectare (t/ha). It is thought that an increase to 22 t/ha could be achieved by growing two crops per year, but that this would necessitate irrigation.
The Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWASA) is empowered by Act No. 17 of 1991 to "investigate the water resources of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and advise the Minister relating to the improvement, preservation, conservation, utilization and apportionment of those resources". This gives the CWASA, subject to the Minister's approval, the responsibility for management of the resources. It also indicates that the Authority will control the use of the resource for all other applications, including for irrigation, agriculture, industrial, and commercial purposes.
Apart from the CWASA, the other agencies involved in exercising some responsibility for water resources management are the St. Vincent Electricity Company, the Forestry Division, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Labour.
Trends in Water Resources Management
The National Farmers' Union has been attempting to persuade the Government to embark on a program of irrigation for both banana farmers and diversified farmer. Several farmers were anxious to change from bananas and pursue production of vegetable crops but have deferred their plans due to the lack of irrigation, the most limiting factor for both crops.
There is a significant shortfall in the supply of vegetables and selected fruits during the dry season. It is also stated that the fledgling vegetable export trade suffers from inconsistency of supply. Farmers see irrigation as being critical to development of a year-round supply capability and an improvement in the standard of the vegetables and fruit produced, particularly in the dry season.
- Harvey, W. 1997. Water resources management and water use in the agriculture sector of the windward islands. Main Report. Bridgetown. Barbados.
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