The World Bank says nutmeg is heading up an “economic revolution” in Grenada as the island bets on agriculture to become an additional engine for an economy looking to diversify away from the usual sun and sand.
With Grenada being the world’s second largest exporter of nutmeg, holding 20 percent of the market, the Washington-based financial institution said in a statement on Dec. 2 that the Keith Mitchell-led administration is also counting on nutmeg to help “shore up food security for its inhabitants.”
“While Latin America as a region is rich in water and arable lands (the region play’s home to around a third of the planet’s reserves), the small island nations of the Caribbean, such as Grenada and its neighbors, have to deal with the added challenge of a highly hostile climate, including hurricanes, severely limited freshwater supplies – which worsen further during the dry season – and a rising sea level,” the World Bank said.
“Now, small hold farmers on this island paradise, situated some 200km off the Venezuelan coast, are leading an initiative to refocus Grenada’s economic profile with a project which has also caught the attention of other governments within the region,” it added.
The World Bank about 1,500 farmers in Grenada are taking part in a pilot project in which farmers receive technical assistance and financial support from the Japanese Social Development Fund and the World Bank to buy seeds, fertilizer, pesticides and tools.
The bank said the crux of the project is, however, the possibility of protecting farmers from climate and economic shocks, and to better coordinate their production, especially after two consecutive hurricanes.
While there is little farmers in Grenada can do against inclement weather in a region extremely exposed to natural phenomena, the World Bank said the project “aims to alleviate potential economic, and also planning, havoc.”
For example, it noted that, in 2004, Hurricane Ivan swept through Grenada, felling huge swathes of jungle along with many of the country’s valuable nutmeg, banana and cocoa plantations.
A year later, the World Bank said Hurricane Emily took much the same path, hampering efforts to rebuild the devastated farmlands and, above all, “pushing the smallholders to respond, in desperation, with planting fruits and vegetables in an improvised manner.
“Consequently, the market has unwittingly been oversaturated by certain products while others suffer from a lack of supply, as the country experiences what experts call a cycle of over- and under-production,” it said.
Alongside limited water supplies and the impact of climate change, the World Bank said various Caribbean islands also suffer additional problems, adding that “it is hoped that they can find a common solution.”
“I think it’s going to be interesting to have a dialogue among all the OECS (sub-regional Organization of Eastern Caribbean States0 countries on this subject and see if we can do something in the future,” said Eli Weiss, a rural development specialist for the World Bank.
The World Bank referred to Earnest Mitchell as “just one of this next generation of local farmers.”
“I’m thinking of doubling my production next year,” he told bank officials with pride, while showing his small farm perched high in Grenada’s fertile mountain region.
The World Bank said Mitchell is among the farmers who have taken part in the pilot project, “which stands out thanks to its work to identify our biggest challenges.”
“This is no small feat on an island with a population of around 110 000, 70 percent of whom are considered to be rural,” the Bank said.
“What’s more, the scheme is also opening the door to job creation on the island, where 40 percent of the active population is unemployed,” it added.
For small-hold farmers like Mitchell, and the wider island community, the World Bank said it will be “vital to protect themselves both from natural disasters and the damage they cause to their economies.”