Nevis, along with St Kitts separated by a shallow 3.22 km channel known as “The Narrows”, forms the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis whose prime minister is the leader of the majority party of the federal House of Representatives in St Kitts, and his cabinet conducts the affairs of state. The 93 km2 Nevis is part of the inner arc of the Leeward Islands chain of the West Indies and the capital is Charlestown. Nevis is conical in shape, with a volcanic peak, Nevis Peak, at its centre. The island is fringed on its western and northern quadrants by sandy beaches that are composed of a mixture of white coral sand with brown and black sand, eroded and washed down from the volcanic rocks that make up the island. The gently-sloping coastal plain has natural fresh-water springs, as well as non-potable volcanic hot springs, especially along the western coast. The majority of the approximately 12,000 citizens of Nevis are of primarily African descent. English is the official language, and the literacy rate, 98 percent, is one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere. The vision, work and numerous initiatives of HOPE Nevis to help address some of the particular problems facing young people today on the island deserve special credit.
The island was named Oualie ("Land of Beautiful Waters") by the Caribs and Dulcina ("Sweet Island") by the early British settlers. The name, Nevis, is derived from the Spanish, Nuestra Señora de las Nieves (which means Our Lady of the Snows); the name first appears on maps in the 16th century. Nevis is also known by the sobriquet "Queen of the Caribees", which it earned in the 18th century, when its sugar plantations created much wealth for the British. Nevis is of particular historical significance to Americans because it was the birthplace and early childhood home of Alexander Hamilton who was the first U S Secretary of the Treasury. For the British, Nevis is the place where Horatio Nelson was stationed as a young sea captain, and is where he met and married a Nevisian, Frances Nisbet, the young widow of a plantation-owner.
The political structure for the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis is based on the Westminster Parliamentary system, but it is a unique structure in that Nevis has its own unicameral legislature, consisting of Her Majesty’s representative (the Deputy Governor General) and members of the Nevis Island Assembly. Nevis has considerable autonomy in its legislative branch. The constitution actually empowers the Nevis Island Legislature to make laws that cannot be abrogated by the National Assembly. In addition, Nevis has a constitutionally protected right to secede from the federation, should a two-third majority of the island’s population vote for independence in a local referendum. Nevis has its own premier and its own government, the Nevis Island Administration. It collects its own taxes and has a separate budget, with a current account surplus. The introduction of new legislation has made offshore financial services a rapidly growing economic sector in Nevis. Incorporation of companies, international insurance and reinsurance, as well as several international banks, trust companies, asset management firms, have created a boost in the economy.
Renewable Energy & Eco Housing
Electricity was introduced in Nevis in 1954, when two generators were shipped in to provide electricity to the area around Charlestown but it did not become available island-wide until 1971. Today, the Nevis Electricity Company generation department is charged with the responsibility of producing a reliable and cost effective supply of electricity for their customers. At present, the department operates two power plants with diesel generators ranging from 0.9MW to 2.7MW. The first Prospect Power Station, which was commissioned in 1983, houses six diesel generators with a combined output of 10.7MW. The second plant, situated next to the old plant, was commission in 2002 and currently has one generator with an output of 2.7MW, giving a total installed capacity of 13.4MW.
Nevis has recognized that it must reduce its dependency on diesel imports and move toward renewable energy. The island has long been known for its hot springs and a geothermal project operated by West Indies Power began exploration drilling in January 2008 and found three viable sites clustered around several faults. These wells confirmed the existence of a continuous 2.5 mile geothermal reservoir on Nevis and the possibility of several hundred MW of production capacity. The site furthest along in production is Spring Hill and the first power plant is expected to produce around 10MW in 2011 using two 5.8MW TurboMax 1,000 single flash condensing turbines and associated equipment. It is hoped the facility can be upgraded soon after to expand its capacity by an estimated 40MW. With a need of only 10MW, Nevis is poised to become one of the most carbon-neutral nations in the world. The company has also started geothermal exploration drilling in Dominica and Saba so when all the plants are fully up and running they will be interconnected by submarine electrical transmission cables to other islands in the Caribbean starting first with St. Kitts.
In August 2010 the Maddens Wind Farm, a development by WindWatt (Nevis Ltd) , a family owned and operated wind energy developer based in Canada, was officially opened. The eight turbines will provide 1.1 MW of renewable power to the Nevis Electricity Company.
Waste Minimisation & Recycling
For many years a dump site was operated on Nevis by the then Sanitation Department, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health. However, in 2001 the OECS mobilized the conversion from dump sites to landfills in member states. Construction of the landfill on Nevis was completed in 2002 and the Nevis Solid Waste Management Authority was also created. Today the Authority has grown to a staff of 26 persons providing services like bin rentals, daily household waste and bulky items collection as well as beach and village clean-up support. The Authority has sought to increase the $5 per month garbage collection fee in order to provide more services. It has already worked in partnership with a St. Maarten based company to collect, compress and ship out over 250 derelict vehicles and other scrap metal to a recycling plant in New Orleans, purchased a tyre bailer and plans the diversion of glass and plastic material all in an effort to prolong the lifespan of the Long Point landfill by minimising the demand for space to bury household waste.
Water Management & Security
The major source of potable water in Nevis is groundwater, obtained from some 14 active wells around the island. Water is pumped from the wells, stored and allowed to flow by gravity to various locations. Notwithstanding the proximity of the marine environment, no saltwater intrusion has been detected in the wells. However, in some wells, the water is naturally brackish and is used to facilitate irrigation for agriculture and landscaping. The high calcium content produces ‘hard water’ leading to scale formation on the cast iron distribution pipes and corrosion of the pipes is increasingly becoming a problem. The introduction of PVC pipes into one of the main distribution pipe systems is reported to be very effective and may be extended island-wide over time. In the last few years due to increasing drought-like conditions, two new water wells were drilled producing an extra 1 million gallons of water per day. The high water requirements of exclusive tourist resorts and the golf course on the island had placed pressure on the resource. Similarly, the transformation of agriculture from a seasonal, to a year-round activity has added to the demand. In 2010 the Caribbean Development Bank agreed to fund a water development project, which will enable the Nevis Island Administration to complete the upgrade of their water distribution lines and pumping system as well as the provision of new reservoirs.
Extensive Agriculture & Organic Food Production
During the 17th and 18th centuries, massive deforestation was undertaken by the planters as the land was initially cleared for sugar cultivation. During times of maximum cultivation, sugar cane fields stretched from the coastline of Nevis up to an altitude at which the mountain slopes were too steep and rocky to farm. This intense land exploitation by the sugar and cotton industry lasted almost 300 years, and greatly changed the island’s ecosystem.
Prior to 1990, individual smallholders simply harvested their crops hoping to get them sold and were not growing them for a specific market. This approach to production changed in 1990 when completion of the Four Seasons Resort provided an opportunity to revise the marketing approach in Nevis. This five star hotel offered 400 beds and employed about 575 people after opening. It created a large single client and developed to form a multi-faceted marketing strategy for agricultural products known as the ‘Nevis Model’ that encouraged local farmers to become more oriented towards commercialising agriculture. Even though the hotel closed back in October 2008 after Hurricane Omar tore through the island and did not reopen until December 2010, its importance to the agricultural sector was immense as reported in this article. The island went on to successfully develop an agricultural diversification programme that included creating new farms and expanding existing ones to twice the amount of acreage under constant production; providing incentives and generous subsidies on water to facilitate irrigation, animal feeds and seeds, new equipment, extension and veterinary services; improving breeds of small ruminants; growing new varieties of vegetables like sweet potato, planting fruit trees, and accessing new resistant coconut germ plants; supporting the beekeepers co-operative to increase their yields of honey and add value to the product; doubling the cold storage capacity at the marketing depot to reduce post-harvest losses by over 80% with a commensurate increase of money in the pockets of farmers; upgrading manual equipment at the abattoir to fully automatic and establishing a smoke house; the continuation and expansion of the green vervet monkey control programme; and the opening of a new centralized agro processing centre in 2010 to produce jams, jellies, pepper sauce and other local delicacies for the export market.
Nevis can present certain transport difficulties due to the small size of their airport runway. From the U.S., Canada and Europe, there are four primary gateways to the island. The most common route from the U.S. and Canada is through San Juan, Puerto Rico. It's now possible to fly non-stop from San Juan to Nevis on direct flights provided by American Eagle. Other connection points include Antigua, St. Maarten and St. Kitts. Upon arrival in St. Kitts, you have the option of taking a scenic 45-minute ferry ride to Nevis using one of the four companies who run daily services. Privately owned mini-buses, the island's version of public transportation, run around the island main road during the day and less often in the evenings.
Sustainable Tourism & Niche Marketing
The discovery of hot water springs on Nevis in the 18th century led to the opening of the Bath Hotel, the first of its kind in the Caribbean, that attracted English royalty as well as the rich and famous from Europe. Whilst this once lavish hotel is now dilapidated and sadly in need of restoration, Nevis has been quite successful in maintaining itself as an upscale tourism destination. The five star Four Seasons resort with its golf course and a number of restored plantation inns like the Montpellier and Nisbet have managed to maintain patronage and feed into the ambience of exclusivity. In fact, the current policy trend is away from the construction of new hotels, in favour of villa and cottage-style accommodation in an effort to maintain the low volume-high yield pattern of tourism.
The Nevis Tourism Authority and other guides provide detailed information on sites of interest to be found on the island. These include the botanical gardens, two museums, going to the Turf and Jockey Club or just wandering around the colonial architecture and markets of Charlestown. The annual cultural festival celebrated during the Emancipation Day weekend, the first week of August, is not to be missed and includes many traditional folk dances, drama performances, arts and crafts exhibitions. There are also numerous leisure activities ranging from self-guided rainforest hikes from the Golden Rock Inn, nature tours, horse riding at The Hermitage, cycling, walking, scuba diving, wind surfing, sailing, and game fishing.
Biodiversity & Protected Areas
The Nevis Historical and Conservation Society (NHCS) was established in 1980 to promote effective management of the historical, cultural and natural resources of the island and her surrounding sea for the benefit of its people. It began the Nevis Biodiversity Project in October 2007 to identify and catalogue all existing flora and fauna on the island starting with endemic and endangered species. This site aims to update the 1999 Biodiversity Profile and Vegetation Classification documents compiled by the Island Resources Foundation that explicitly identified areas of further work particularly a conservation assessment of the reefs, sea grass beds and mangroves since these resources are well exploited by local and regional fisheries and dive tourism. The NHCS Biodiversity Committee has already embarked upon an ambitious rehabilitation plan to bring the red mangrove back from the brink of local extinction and revitalize the wetlands.
At the present time, the NHCS is also engaged with a variety of different initiatives that include being a partner in the Strabon multilingual and multimedia information system for Caribbean cultural heritage and tourism project, an oral history and verbal patrimony project with video channel and maritime heritage project following their recent discovery of the British frigate HMS Solebay wreck site that was lost in 1782 in waters around the island. The Nevis Turtle Group brings together a number of concerned volunteers to help monitor the three species of sea turtle nesting on the shores of Nevis.
In 1999, the NHCS proudly received ‘Islands’ magazine Eco-Tourism award for the Upper Round Road Trail, a multi-user heritage and recreational facility. Originally constructed during the late 1600's, the road was a vital link between the estates, sugar cane fields and communities that once surrounded Nevis Peak. Today, the trail circumnavigates 2/3rds of the island from Golden Rock in the east to the Nisbet Plantation Beach Inn on the northern tip. In 2007, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) secured funding from USAID for a project to conserve biodiversity in OECS countries by improving their legislation, management and conservation. Seven sites were identified for support including the Nevis Peak area. The Island Resources Foundation worked on the ground with the Nevis Island Administration and the NHCS to produce a literature review, biodiversity inventory and status assessment, boundary recommendations and a management plan for the proposed Nevis Peak National Park, Camps River Watershed and the Marine Reef Structure in “The Narrows”. The site is approximately 2,300 ha (around 25% of the total land area of Nevis ~ 9,320 ha) in size consisting of volcanic formations and encompassing rainforest and the island’s major watersheds, springs and freshwater lagoon, which feeds into the largest living reef system around Nevis. The proposed protected area consists of 1000 ft contour ascending to the 3232 ft Nevis Peak and also includes the watershed and springs on the NNE of the national park and descends via Camps Ghaut and wetlands into the reef system. Although earmarked under the draft Nevis Physical Development Plan as a protected area, it is yet to be implemented.
Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation Measures
The UNESCO Small Islands Voice initiative and Sandwatch project have also been active on St Kitts & Nevis for several years working with youth groups. Indeed, the Senior Technical Officer and Webmaster for the Sandwatch Foundation, is based at the Nevis Historical & Conservation Society. In 2010 a new version of the Sandwatch Manual: Adapting to Climate Change and Educating for Sustainable Development was published providing comprehensive information on new activities for enhancing beach resilience to climate change. The Caribbean Natural Resources Institute has also published a straightforward and easy-to-follow guide, which is designed to enhance the effectiveness of Caribbean community organisations in telling their climate change stories and making their voices heard in lobbying and advocating for the policies, laws and other actions needed to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The toolbox provides a range of low-cost, practical tools and approaches and includes case studies of their application in a Caribbean context including those of NHCS and Sandwatch.