Dominica was the first state in the Americas to have a female prime minister. Dame Eugenia Charles served from 1980 to 1995. At his appointment in 2004 the current prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, was the youngest head of government in the world, aged 31.
The Commonwealth of Dominica is one of the Windward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, lying between Guadeloupe to the north and Martinique to the south.
Roseau (capital, pop. 13,400 in 2010), Canefield (3,400), Portsmouth (3,300), Marigot (2,700), Salisbury (2,600), Atkinson (2,200), Berekua (2,000), St Joseph (1,900), Castle Bruce (1,900), Wesley (1,600) and Mahaut (1,200).
There are 780km of roads, 50% paved. Round-island network was completed in the late 1980s, despite the technical difficulties presented by Dominica’s mountainous terrain and friable volcanic rock.
Banana boats and tourist cruiseships call at Roseau, at the deepwater harbour in Woodbridge Bay, and in Prince Rupert’s Bay, Portsmouth.
The airports at Melville Hall, 64km north-east of Roseau, and Canefield, 5km north of Roseau, can accommodate only turboprop passenger aircraft. Tourists flying into Dominica must therefore generally come via the nearby island of Antigua.
Dominica is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization.
A volcanic island 46km in length, Dominica has a central mountain ridge running from Cape Melville in the north to the cliffs in the south. Morne Diablotin rises to 1,447m. There are numerous mountain streams and rivers, none of them navigable. The scenery is outstandingly beautiful, with waterfalls and luxuriantly wooded mountains. Most beaches are of black volcanic sand, with some of golden sand.
The climate is subtropical and hot, but cooled by sea breezes, with a rainy season in June-October, when hurricanes may occur. Rainfall is heavy, especially in mountain areas
The most significant environmental issues are shortage of drinking water; deforestation; soil erosion; pollution of the coastal zone by chemicals used in farming and factories, and untreated sewage.
Dominica is known as the nature island of the Caribbean. Dense forest and woodland cover 60% of the land area, with subtropical vegetation and orchids in the valleys. Tree ferns are indigenous to the island. Arable and cropped land extends to some 23% of the total land area. The island has a fertile volcanic soil
The forests have a wide range of bird species (some of them rare and endangered), including the brilliant Dominica parrot, or Sisserou, which is depicted on the national flag, various species of doves and the mountain whistler. There are three distinct vegetation and habitat zones determined by rainfall and elevation at defined levels around the mountains. The country has two marine reserves and several hectares of forest reserve.