Farming has long been a mainstay of St Lucia’s economy but for one grower living in the hills of Soufrière there’s no telling how long it can be a source of income. Climate change is altering the environmental balance, tipping life on the land into even greater uncertainty.
“You don’t know when to plant and when to not plant. When you’re waiting for rain, you’re not getting rain. When you’re waiting for sun, you’re not getting sun,” the farmer says.
Townspeople are also still struggling with the fallout from environmental disasters years after severe storms have made their deadly sweeps through the region.
“For me, around here it’s not safe anymore. When it’s raining I leave. For me, it hasn’t stopped,” a survivor of 2010’s Hurricane Tomas says.
But the residents of Soufrière are not alone. Half a world away, islanders in communities across the Indian Ocean are facing similar environmental upheavals and working out ways to cope with them. Each community has much to learn from the others and GIVRAPD – the Global Islands’ Vulnerability Research Adaptation Policy Development research project – makes that sharing possible. GIVRAPD is a unique project that overcomes great physical distances to tie together the experience of four small island communities – two in the Caribbean (St Lucia and Jamaica) and two in the Indian Ocean (Mauritius and Seychelles).
It’s just one more way that INTASAVE is helping developing countries access resources and knowledge elsewhere in the global South.
Over two years, researchers will catalogue the vast range of socioeconomic, governance and environmental conditions that make island towns and villages particularly vulnerable to climate change. Through dozens of interviews with residents, the team will define the risks ahead and what stands in the way of adaptation. Whether its agriculture, fishing or tourism, researchers will look for the specific factors that determine whether those economies have a future.
The team will also chart the likely changes in the environment and, together with a cross-section of community representatives, map ways residents can continue to earn a living in the long term. The broader goal is to give townspeople the information they need to make their own decisions.
In addition, the team will investigate the viability of weather-related micro-insurance as a safeguard for low-income residents against disastrous losses.
The project, funded by the Climate Development Knowledge Network, is being led by INTASAVE in partnership with the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University. Contributions will also come from four other universities, including the University of Mauritius and the African Climate and Development Initiative based at the University of Cape Town.