Developing livestock farming in Grenada

8 February 2010

Commonwealth expert focuses on reducing the Caribbean country's reliance on meat imports

When Hurricane Ivan swept through Grenada in 2004, it left the Caribbean country in ruins. Some 90 per cent of homes on the largest island, also called Grenada, were destroyed; the damage totalled more than US$800 million. As the small island state, which is made up of seven islands, struggled to recover, Hurricane Emily arrived (in July 2005) causing severe flooding. The country's economy was devastated.

As part of its recovery, the Government of Grenada requested that a livestock specialist be sent to help revitalise its farming industry. Peniel Mwasha, from United Republic of Tanzania, was posted to Grenada by the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CFTC) in March 2007 for three years. Mr Mwasha hopes he can not only restore the farming sector, but also help it to reach new levels of growth.

"There is great potential for livestock development here in Grenada, and much of that potential has yet to be tapped," he says.

Mr Mwasha's task is to create a livestock development programme for the islands of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, and to help implement the scheme. His focus is on poultry, pigs and sheep, with the aim of increasing domestic production so the country can rely less on imports.

Working closely with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, such as the chief veterinary officer and chief crop officer, Mr Mwasha trains farmers and livestock officers on animal husbandry techniques, so they can share their knowledge with others in the field. Mr Mwasha also organises farmers' groups, develops training manuals, and helps to make radio and television programmes informing the farming community about livestock issues, such as breeding, nutrition, processing of animal products and marketing.

"Most livestock programmes in developing countries have failed in the past, because the farmers were not involved in the day-to-day running of their farms, which would have given them a broad overview of issues," he explains.

Mr Mwasha has been working with the Ministry of Agriculture to set up dairy goat farmers' co-operatives, which will collect and process milk from members and then sell it, some as cheese. He has passed on to farmers skills such as hay bale-making using a wooden box, and artificial insemination of cattle, a technology now used by several farms.

The livestock specialist, who has previously worked with Tanzania's Ministry of Agriculture, has also shared traditional African farming techniques with Grenadian farmers, by introducing the practice of cutting grass with a sickle rather than a cutlass, which is commonly used in the Caribbean.

"There is a real opportunity for exchange of views on farming. I am always very satisfied when I relay useful information to farmers. And when they use it, it can help them escape from poverty," says Mr Mwasha. "Here in Grenada, I expect to see even more evidence of changes to people's lives, because the farming community here is small."

Mr Mwasha is glad that he is making a positive contribution to the Grenadian farming community, which is "hungry for technical knowledge" and eager to learn new skills.