Vincentians impacted by the eruption of the La Soufriere Volcano will be getting over US$135,000 in assistance for relief supplies, volcano monitoring and early warning equipment under the Volcano Ready Project funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB)
Supplies including 500 mattresses, 1500 cases of bottled water and fifty (50) 800-gallon water tanks were delivered to the country on April 29, while the equipment is being procured. The equipment includes Seismic Stations (Seismometers, recorders, digitiser, power supply and case), 20 Wireless Ethernet Radios, one Remote monitoring camera, three GPS Antennas and receivers, one SO2 Spectrometer for gas measurement and a Mavic 300 drone.
“We remain truly grateful for CDB’s support as we have seen where the work we have been implementing over the last three years to increase public education, community readiness and improve the volcano early warning system has contributed to reducing the loss of lives in response to the eruption,” said Monique Johnson, Project Manager of the Volcano-Ready Communities in St. Vincent and the Grenadines Project.
“Many initially would have thought that the volcano readiness was a far-off concept but we have now seen how all the preparation we have been doing has helped. It is also critical that we boost the monitoring of the volcano at a time like this so we are not caught off guard in the future.”
The Project was started in 2017 under the Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (CDRRF) administered by CDB with finances from Canada and the European Union.
Johnson noted that emphasis was placed on sharing best practices and lessons learnt through online education while working with local project partners, the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross Society, to disseminate close to 500 community readiness kits. She also credited CDB for its ongoing role in helping the project team to convert one seismic station to seven when the focus shifted to volcano monitoring and early warning in December 2020.
“Our Belmont Observatory where scientists currently sit and do the monitoring has been resourced with remote monitoring equipment through the support from the CDB. We are currently keen on using the extension period to invest in a drone which will improve remote monitoring and damage assessment while keeping the seismic team at a safe distance and allowing us to capture data to better understand the volcanic hazard and exposure,” she added.
CDB’s Project Manager of the CDRRF, George Yearwood explained the community engagement approach employed in their support of the project.
“Much has been done under the project to equip some of the island’s most vulnerable in the 12 communities closest to La Soufriere to secure their livelihoods and be prepared for evacuation. Once the volcano erupted, we knew that we had to offer more support,” stated Yearwood.
Staying true to its community engagement model, CDB’s Community Development Specialist Richardo Aiken reaffirmed the importance of keeping the community engaged and involved through all project stages. Aiken noted that from the early project stages community engagement surveys were utilised to get feedback from the community. He added that this process has continued in such a way that the community is involved in assessments of livelihoods risks and threats, community profiles, livelihood inventories, stakeholder maps and seasonal calendars. This level of engagement also helped the project to determine effective ways to engage different segments of the community.
“At this phase the lessons from this project will also be important for CDB’s/CDRRF’s Knowledge Management efforts in terms of how we capture best practices and have those replicated in other spaces. The sustainability component is equally important even after the project has pivoted and we can continue to build on these things at the community and national level. Already, we are pleased to see that lessons from the project are being used to improve resilience in other areas of the Grenadines” he said.
He added that the livelihood baseline assessments (LBA) done with the communities had enabled some of the vulnerable communities near to the volcano to assess potential recovery scenarios prior to the volcano’s eruption.
“The communities have a fair amount of knowledge that they can draw on from the vulnerability studies and livelihood assessments that were done under the project. This knowledge will be very helpful in the rebuilding process,” said Aiken.
La Soufriere volcano erupted explosively on April 9, 2021 and resulted in the evacuation of persons living in the red zone, which demarks communities closest to the volcano. Upwards of 13,000 persons have since been displaced. The island has been struggling to cope with the aftermath as well as the possibility of further eruptions.
“We will continue to look at how to provide support to St. Vincent and the Grenadines even after the Volcano Ready Project comes to an end,” said Yearwood.