GODWIN AUGUSTUS OLIVER, a veteran Calypsonian better known as “GAO”, initially reported to have perished when the Soufriére volcano exploded violently on April 9, is alive and well.
However, the 73-year-old farmer told Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves that the continuous volcanic explosions have destroyed his farm and killed some of his livestock, while marauding dogs abandoned by their owners, have also wreaked havoc on his animals.
Oliver spoke to the PM and members of the regional and international media on April 17, 2021 as the group was touring the Windward designated red zone.
Despite the situation, GAO performed his classic “Dis ya meat hard to boil” for the cameras, while he also explained why he has chosen not to leave the prohibited area.
“Life hard eh…,” he sang, as he told persons that one of his sheep was killed by ash-fall while one, “Zera Sutherland dog bite it up. Third one, Zera dog and some other dogs get together and bite them up so me got them ah boil for me dogs them on me farm.”
His explanation about the dogs, brought another aspect of worry during the eruptions to the fore, that of dogs, pack animals by nature, (having been unwillingly abandoned by their owners) gathering and hunting to satisfy their hunger, putting not only animals, but the lives of persons in danger.
The farmer said all his beans and short crops- ochro, pigeon peas, tomato as well as banana, plantain were destroyed. He added that the saffron will sprout again.
“So you see this ashes, it going make us now produce more and greener and better vegetables,” he said while painting a picture of a phoenix rising from the ashes.
He said he does not think it will take a year for the agricultural sector to rebound as he anticipate the rains to start as usual ahead of the hurricane season which begins on June 1.
“So we got rain to come just now”.
GAO shared that he has been a farmer since a boy digging arrowroot with an iron hoe.
He declared that he will remain in the red zone and is not afraid of doing so.
This is because during the 1979 eruption, as a young man he took shelter at the North Union walking from his home at Basin Hole, but there were persons from his village who remained behind.
“…And when we come back we meet them up here and them live out them life until father God say ‘aye, no more for all yuh, aryo go under earth’ so I have that experience,” GAO explained.
He said the volcano has to be spouting lava or pyroclastic flows, into the villages for him to remove.
“But when I dey lie down in the night sleeping and thing, between sleep and wake, me ah hear like little stone and sand ah drop on top the roof…,” GAO said adding that he is not frightened because the government has built him what he considers a “weather house.”
He said he also listens to his radio constantly for updates and will eventually write a song on the eruption.
“They say I dead, all over the world they done post it pon Internet and face space (meaning Facebook) and say GAO dead, but when I watch my house what my Comrade and my minister of housing Montgomery Daniel build for me…,” GAO said it is structurally sound.
He said the police also check on him to make sure he is safe and told him not to come outside when things are bad.
PM Gonsalves told GAO that he is worried about him being in the red zone.
“I believe in God,” was GAO’s reply.