A couple of weeks ago, the La Soufriѐre volcano in St. Vincent erupted, adding distress to the people of St. Vincent and Grenadines, on top of the ongoing global pandemic.
The Caribbean islands have been stepping into the global cannabis industry, capitalizing on the inherent characteristics of the soil over there. The majority of these unique characteristics are given by the volcano, which enriches the soil with a number of rare and peculiar nutrients.
“Historically, there have been five explosive eruptions,” says Jessica Gagne, Farms Operation Manager at Medicinal, a St. Vincent and the Grenadines-based cannabis company. “The current volcanic activity we have seen here started with an effusive eruption in December 2020. Leading to a dome growing inside the volcano’s crater, and volcanic materials started leaking. That eventually led to an explosive eruption. We are still in the midst of ongoing activity.”
Prior to the eruption, there was a massive national announcement for the people living in the Red Zone to evacuate the premises. “Our team tirelessly put in the effort to protect the plants,” Jessica continues. “Since we got informed about the imminent eruption, up until the aftermath, the team has protected our plants, which has allowed us to continue to operate.”
Medicinal’s cultivation was luckily located in the Green Zone, so they were not much affected by the ashes and materials coming from the eruption. “Yet, there were some farms in the Red Zone, and those got majorly impacted,” Jessica continues. “Unfortunately, they won’t be able to plant again anytime soon. Since our Home Farm is located in the Green Zone we could plan ahead, and make sure that the cultivation was guarded from any harm.”
But Medicinal’s effort did not end with protecting their plants only. “The team here has assisted the VSPCA and the Rotary Club with volunteer hours, storage locations, management, transportation and distribution,” Francesca Ferdinand with Medicinal says.
“A lot of people in the Red Zone had to evacuate their houses, they didn’t have any food or water – everything happened so fast. So, on top of our volunteering, we have also set up a BBQ along with some TVs here with a movie schedule for kids and adults in shelters, which we called Feel Good Friday.”
While the whole of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is getting back to its feet after this dreadful event, the relationship of the islands with the volcano is at the core of every person in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, ingrained in the culture of the inhabitants. This is especially reflected in the farming tradition, which has always capitalized on the added value that the volcanic soil provides to plants.
“Especially local farmers, they have a very in-depth track of oral records that after previous volcanic events, plant materials have been fed by volcanic materials, making plants more vibrant. As a farming community, we can then look forward to an increased access to minerals and nutrients, once the shock has stopped and these become more available to plants. If these nutrients are settled into the soil, and the plants are able to take them up, we look to be able to reduce dependency on fertilizers, as they would be naturally available to plants. It will take a little time, the environment and the community have to cope together with the eruption, to then flourish again as a team once everything is settled down.”