Monday, October 27, 2008

Independence Day

We weren't really aware of it: in fact we got in the car and drove down to the store after wondering why Veronica hadn't arrived. Of course when we got to the store it was closed and I remembered why. But it was a little more practice driving the car. We sold the little jeep to Conroy and bought the SUV that Penny and Philip had been using. They were transferred to a different island. It is a right hand drive model, but aside from putting on the wipers instead of the turn signal a few times I haven't driven it too badly. But we haven't done very much, either.

Aggie Week on SVG

27 OCTOBER 2008
The 8th Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) - Who has the hottest pepper?

I have just come back from the Caribbean where I attended the 8th Caribbean Week of Agriculture which took place in St Vincent and the Grenadines. I would like to start this post by sharing some interesting quotes with you: 

“Farmers should be given the respect that they deserve” 
“The agricultural sector is crying for investment”
The Hon. Dr. Jerrol Thompson, St Vincent 

“Commercial banks do not recognise agriculture as a viable business and insurance companies do not cover the risk that farmers have to accept”
The Hon Montgomery Daniel, St Vincent and the Grenadines

- "Eat what you produce and produce what you eat"

- "There is an urgent need for more and better leadership in order to stop “doing business as usual"
Dr Chelston Brathwait

- "It is necessary to facilitate trading of agricultural produce"

Prof Al Binger’s presentation on the “Implementation of the Caribbean Renewable Energy, energy Effficiency and Bioenergy Action Program (CREBAP) provided fantastic statistical evidence showing the potential role that agriculture and bio-energies could play in the Caribbean. He calculated that the production of sweeteners from sugarcane at current prices earns around one billion $ US/year. If instead the sugarcane was transformed into ethanol it would earn three billion $ US – three times more. 

According to him the region spends 16 billion $ US/year for importing energy, mainly fossil oils. Many of it is used for producing electricity which could easily be produced by various sources of bio-energies. However, most striking is the fact that roughly 60 % of the electricity is wasted amongst others by pumping water into a leaking water pipeline system resulting in a loss of around one gallon on two. Consequently, improving energy efficiency is of utmost importance to the region he said.

Al Binger warns that every year some 10 million tons of fertile top soils are washed away and gets on the Caribbean coral reeves. The solution to mitigate this soil erosion could be planting vetiver grass along the contour lines. 10 million tons means some 330.000 truck loads of 30 tons. How long will it probably take until all top soils will be washed away?

In conjunction with soil care the potential for producing organic fertilizer was raised. By simple composting the Caribbean region could replace important quantities of imported fertilizer where prices were also skyrocketing in the recent past. Before World War II the Caribbean grew organic products because of lack of fertilizer recalled Dr. Brathwait from IICA. Biogas plants using animal manure produce also very valuable organic fertilizer. 

Al Binger’s figures on wasted food are striking: in Caribbean hotels some 40 % of the food is not recovered, is not used as animal feed or converted into fertilizer. I think the region has a great brain here and hopefully listens carefully to his solutions. And finally he taught us that – astonishing enough - Iceland is Europe’s biggest banana producer thanks to geothermal energy. Hand on heart - would you have known that?

In parallel to the CWA, IICA, CARDI, the CARICOM Secretariat, CTA and the MoAFF St. Vincent organised a two days “Agriculture Round Table” (ART) with very interesting presentations and debates around the theme: “Caribbean Agriculture in Development Policy Agenda – Connecting, Communicating and Cooperating to secure our Caribbean Agri-Culture!”

During this ART session we were all fascinated by Dr. Gillian Doddard’s presentation from Trinidad Sun Eaters Organics. She spends her money first of all for quality food – organic of course. As she did not find it available in Trinidad shops she started the business herself and very, very successfully though. It is the first enterprise of this nature for fresh organic produce, organic meals, recycling and composted waste. 

On my way back from St. Vincent and the Grenadines I had to transit in Barbados and wanted to spend my remaining EC $ (East Caribbean Dollars) and do some shopping there. Well, I couldn’t as most shops would not accept EC $. While Barbados is geographically the Caribbean island located at the extreme east of the Caribbean, it is not part of the East Caribbean (EC) $ group, it has its own Barbados dollar. Finally, we found a bar that accepted EC $ for some local hop brew…. to soothe over the Caribbean diversity.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Here's a quote from "Modern Maturity:

"[N]ot so long ago US magazine Modern Maturity [now AARP The Magazine] sent teams of researchers out in search of exotic locales around the globe to determine the absolute best places to retire - a home away from home or as a retirement haven for North Americans."

"Modern Maturity graded each destination using 12 categories, ranging from weather, the cost of living, cultural programs, housing, public utility, communication, public health, medical facilities, environment, safety and security, and political stability. According to the magazine, the top 15 best places to retire were: 1. Costa Del Sol, Spain; 2. The Cinque Terra, Italy; 3. Provence, France; 4. Boquete, Panama; 5. St Vincent & the Grenadines, Caribbean; 6. County Lare, Ireland; 7. NONG KHAI, Thailand; 8. Crete, Greece; 9. Ambergris Caye, Belize; 19.Tunis, Tunisia; 11. Algarve, Portugal; 12. Cayman Islands, Caribbean; 13. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; 14. Paphos, Cyprus; and 15. Ubud, Bali, Indonesia."

The Costa Del Sol was, the last time I was there, cheaper than the Costa Brava, but more aimed at Germans than English. The Cinque Terra, five communities built on cliffs with a single road and railroad, is a delightful place to visit, but not where I'd like to live. Provence is also lovely, but not inexpensive any more. We have not been to Panama.

But we think, having lived here for 14 years, that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the BEST place in the world to retire.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hurricane Omar

Meanwhile, Omar's effects were being felt in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Abeni wrote - almost incredulously - about the storm's impact:
It didn't rain last night-well not in a manner that was noticeable. Yet, this morning we awoke to the news that the sea had wreaked havoc in coastal areas and town. Would you believe we got surges from Omar? On my way into Kingstown, I looked towards the harbour and the Grenadines and saw some angry looking waves and realised that peacefulness had not yet returned.
She continued:
It underlies how really vulnerable we are to natural disasters. In the twinkling of an eye everything can literally fall down around us and we are powerless to stop it. Mother Nature, when not showing her softer side can be one deadly woman that we would be well advised to steer far from. I guess the events of last night are a reminder that we really should shed our lackadaiscal attitudes to disaster preparedeness.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines
The western coast of St.Vincent and the Grenadines was severely impacted by storm surge from Hurricane Omar. Preliminary assessment has indicated wide spread flooding, significant erosion and destruction and damage to coastal property and businesses in the Kingstown areas, Central Leeward, East St. George and the Northern and Southern Grenadines. Damage assessment is continuing.
The Cruise Ship terminal building received significant damage and the businesses housed in the terminal were evacuated. Approximately 20 shops housed in the Bus Terminal in the area of Little Tokyo were destroyed from Storm Surge and several others were damaged from the flood waters.
Several vehicles were damaged as a result of a collapsed retaining wall
In Central Leeward, there was wide spread flooding of several houses and one school was under water. There was also significant damage to the jetties in the Grenadines with several being completely destroyed.
Approximately ten fishing boats were destroyed and several reportedly received significant damage.

I didn't notice anything particularly striking: it had been raining off and on since we got here (i.e., most of October) but not enough to be more than an inconvenience. But we do get a storm surge on the leeward side when there's a hurricane in the Caribbean.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Grenadines Sail

has a log of a sail out of Sunsail in the Blue Lagoon (Caliaqua) and around the Grenadines

Friday, October 10, 2008


We got to St Vincent, finally, after taking two days and three airplanes to get from San Juan PR to SVG.

We arrived in San Juan in late morning after leaving the house at 3:30AM. The American Airlines flight from Boston to San Juan was crowded but functional.

We waited around in the San Juan terminal for the 3:30PM "direct" flight (which now includes a stop in St. Lucia) and watched a whole bunch of LIAT employees walk around the plane. Finally the Captain arrived and decided the fuel pump was busted. We were given food and hotel vouchers (in terminal fast food & hotel). Even the McDonalds is clearly in PR.

On friday we went to the terminal again and watched everyone walk around the plane, including an FAA official, for greater assurance. Finally a Captain came in and they boarded the plane that was supposed to leave before ours. Then our captain came and we went on board.

About an hour into the flight the captain spoke saying there was somthing wrong with the ventilation system and we were going to land in Antigua--LIAT headquarters -- so they could fix it. We had to go through the x-ray dance (Sally's cane, two carry-ons, two laptops and my shoes, all in seperate trays) to get into the departure lounge. But we had waited only minutes before they bundled us on a new plane along with the Antigua-SVG passengers. Packed full. We got here after dark, i.e. after 6pm.

Two days, three planes for what should be a 3 hour trip.

Hooray for LIAT