St. Vincent

On April 9, 2021, La Soufrière volcano erupted for the first time in 40 years. An estimated 23,4004 people were displaced to the southern end of St Vincent and the Grenadine and some neighboring countries in early 2021.

Many low- and moderate-income families do not have the ability to fully recover on their own. A total of 18,927 people stayed in 85 government-run formal collective shelters, informal collective shelters like hotels, and rented residences. As of August 2022, more than 3,000 of those homes are still in need of repairs.

Andy Stofleth, Executive Director of SBP's Bahamas operation, considered how SBP could best assist in the reconstruction and recovery efforts. Volcanic ash blanketed most of the island, the weight causing structural damage to many homes. He asked a brilliant question: what if the problem could be part of the solution? Could upcycling volcanic ash like the ancient Romans produce concrete blocks help to rebuild homes in St. Vincent, reducing the total cost of reconstruction?

In June 2021, SBP met with the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Roads, Buildings, and General Services Authority to discuss this concept. The government authority was open to the idea because of the high demand for affordable building materials on the island. Their engineers began testing the volcanic ash in various mix designs to determine what ash ratio they could include without compromising the compressive strength of the blocks. In July of 2021, we had established a prototype block and began working to fund a pilot program that could prove the concept and support the rebuilding. With 1,300 active volcanoes around the world, this pilot could serve as a replicable program that could help other governments and humanitarian agencies to maximize volcanic ash to rebuild more affordably.

SBP received funding for a four-month pilot program to produce 160,000 blocks in partnership with the government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Together we began working to collect volcanic ash cleaned from roads and infrastructure nearby the impacted northern communities. To date, 100,000 cubic yards of volcanic ash have been cleared, collected, and piled through this initiative.