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Geography, climate and population
Saint Lucia is a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) at latitude 13°59’N and longitude 60°59’W within the Lesser Antillean Arc of the Caribbean Archipelago. With a total area of 620 km2, it is the second largest of the Windward Islands after Dominica. The island is about 42 km long and 22 km wide. Saint Lucia is politically divided into 10 districts. The capital is Castries.
The island boasts very fertile volcanic soils but due mainly to topographic constraints only 28 percent of the total land area, or 17 360 ha, has been classified as suitable for agriculture. In 2012, the total physical cultivated area was estimated at 10 000 ha, of which 70 percent (7 000 ha) consisted of permanent crops and 30 percent (3 000 ha) of temporary crops. Permanent meadows and pasture cover 600 ha, which brings to total agricultural area to 10 600 ha (Table 1).
Saint Lucia is situated on a volcanic ridge connecting to Martinique in the north and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the south. The island has a very steep, rugged landscape, characterized by a centrally located north-south oriented mountain range, deep valleys and fast flowing rivers. The highest point on the island is Mount Gimie, which stands 950 m above sea level, while the most spectacular landmarks are the Pitons, which were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2004. These two volcanic spires rise side by side from the sea to heights of 770 m and 743 m respectively, and are the focal points of the Pitons Management Area.
Saint Lucia lies within the northeast Trade Wind belt and is normally under an easterly flow of moist, warm air. Under normal circumstances, the island’s weather is influenced by synoptic weather systems such as the Atlantic High Pressure system (Bermuda Azores), surface, mid and upper level low pressure systems, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, tropical waves and cyclones, and the occasional frontal system.
Saint Lucia has a tropical maritime climate characterized by warm air temperature, averaging approximately 28°C. This temperature rarely rises above 33°C or falls below 20°C. Temperatures are lowest in the months of December to March and highest around June to September. Temperature decreases with altitude.
The country has one wet season from June to November and one dry season from December to May. The amount of rainfall in the wet season is determined mainly by the frequency and intensity of tropical disturbances, such as waves, depressions, storms and hurricanes. There is also some rainfall in the dry season, originating from mid-latitude systems intruding into the region, such as troughs, frontal troughs and jet streams. The intrusion of the dry season rain-producing systems is randomly distributed temporally, thus highly variable over time. The tropical disturbances in the wet season tend to occur with a predictable frequency of roughly one day in every four days. The geographic influence of rainfall is quite pronounced, varying from about 1 265 mm/year in the relatively flat coastal regions to about 3 420 mm/year in the elevated interior region. The western side of the island experiences higher rainfall. Average long-term annual rainfall at country-level is estimated at 2 300 mm.
In 2013, the total population was about 182 000 inhabitants, of whom around 84 percent was rural (Table 1). Population density is 294 inhabitants/km2. The average annual population growth rate during 2003-2013 has been estimated at 1.2 percent. The population is concentrated along the coastal regions, where lowland agriculture, coastal resources, reefs, fisheries and tourism are the main sources of livelihood. Approximately 60 percent of the population resides along the north-west corridor, where also the capital is located.
In 2012, 94 percent of the total population had access to improved water sources (99 and 93 percent in urban and rural areas respectively). In 2011, 65 percent of the total population had access to improved sanitation (70 and 64 percent in urban and rural areas respectively).