Feature Story

Staunching the flow: St. Kitts and Nevis' fight to keep its soil

September 21, 2020

Beach on a St. Kitts island with black sand
Photo: Sergey Kelin/Shutterstock

St. Kitts and Nevis’ mountainous terrain is largely made up of sandy loam, cut through with ‘ghauts’ – narrow, deep gullies that deliver rainwater down the slopes. While the ghauts play a key role in maintaining the islands’ forest ecosystems, they are also ideal channels for eroding soil – and shifting land use, coupled with a lack of soil conservation measures, has resulted in acute erosion around the Federation.

Led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with the backing of the GEF, the Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystems Management in the Caribbean Small Island Developing States (IWEco) project is working to arrest the ghaut’s degradation. With diagnostic assessments of the ghaut completed in mid-2019, soil conservation measures are now underway. Gabion baskets (mesh cages filled with stone) are being used to manage water flow and fortify the channel, while deep-rooted vetiver grass is being planted along the ghaut’s banks to stabilize the soil and minimize erosion.