Bringing Growth and Health to the Grenadian Nutmeg Industry

nutmeg grenada
Nutmeg drying containers. Gouyave Grenada. Photo GEF

The nutmeg industry in Grenada is a large contributor to the local economy, serving directly and indirectly as a major source of employment and economic support for a significant portion of the local population. In September 2004, Grenada was devastated by Hurricane Ivan. Six parishes on the island including St. George, St. David, St. Andrew, and St. John, where the Gouyave Nutmeg production plant is located, were severely affected by the passage of the hurricane.  In total, Grenada lost 90% of their nutmeg trees as part of the destruction caused by Hurricane Ivan (Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) Research Institute Annual Report, 2004).

Highlights

  • A total of 40 acres of land, experiencing land degradation through the loss of top soil and vegetation, land slippage or a combination of both were replanted with over 1700 nutmeg trees. An additional 1500 fruit trees were also planted.
  • The trainees are now knowledgeable about the importance of health and safety in the workplace and the health hazards associated with nutmeg processing.
  • With funding from the Canadian Government, this project will continue Occupational Health and Safety training in the Nutmeg industry.

Nutmeg processing is a labour-intensive process that requires drying and refining of the various nutmeg products. Gouyave, the sole remaining processing plant, uses an old and ineffective technology that limits the economic benefits and increases the environmental and occupational health risks for workers. The drying portion of the nutmeg process uses natural ventilation, which requires a period of 8 weeks to complete. During this time, workers are involved in the constant manual turning of the nutmegs in narrow stalls. This process increases their exposure to dust, mold, humidity, and heat in the processing plant.

"With the implementation of the project, Implementing Renewable Energy and Preventing Land Degradation, it is expected to increase the interest and efforts to rebuilding the nutmeg industry as a whole starting from the plantations in the field to the processing process and for the health benefit of the workers", says Dr. Akpinar-Elci, project principal investigator.

In response to issues plaguing the Nutmeg Industry in Grenada, WINDREF in collaboration with St. George’s University, Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (SGU/DPHPM) proposed the re-planting of the nutmeg fields to stabilize the surface layers of soil, which would in turn prevent land degradation as well as stimulate the production of the nutmeg crops, thus creating economic revenue. Additionally, they sought to introduce renewable energy to aid in the drying of the nutmeg product, and to build the capacity among the nutmeg labourers.

"I planted the trees 30 feet apart on the slope that is sliding and circle weed the young trees to maintain their growth. I am happy for the bananas, cinnamon and citrus, and the stipend, as this is the only suport I have received in many years since the hurricane", notes a longtime farmer who participated in the project.

WINDREF was successful in acquiring funding from GEF SGP totaling US$50,000 to implement the project. On completion in February 2012, a total of 40 acres of land, experiencing land degradation through the loss of top soil and vegetation, land slippage or a combination of both were replanted with over 1700 nutmeg trees. Additional 1500 fruit trees were also planted, and there will be an evaluation of the replanting of trees noted growth and maintenance of the young trees in the fields.  

WINDREF’s and SGU/DPHPM efforts to introduce renewable energy technology into the Nutmeg Industry were also successful, through the development of a Solar Dehydrator. Preliminary results concluded that nutmeg dehydration utilizing a solar collector dehydrator is safe. Nutmeg industry employees are only involved in filling and empting the device hence they are not exposed to the pulmonary risks associated with the traditional drying method. The quality of nutmeg produced using the renewable energy technology was also assessed as identical to that produced using the conventional method.

Through the project, 60 persons (45 males & 15 females), all employees of the Gouyave Nutmeg Process Plant, were also trained in Occupational Health & Safety as it relates to the Nutmeg Industry. The trainees were assessed and have proven to be knowledgeable about the importance of health and safety in the workplace and the hazards associated with nutmeg processing and the resulting health issues. They are also now knowledgeable about precautionary measures to reduce hazard and prevent accident and injuries in the workplace. In addition, Occupational Health and Safety Train the Trainers Program was implemented and 5 workers (1 male & 4 females) received advanced and detailed training in Occupational Health and Safety to ensure a sustainable training program for all workers and the industry.