St. George’s University’s Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine has long been committed to building up and supporting Grenada’s nutmeg industry destroyed by Hurricane Ivan, and its efforts have now been joined by the High Commission of Canada, which announced a donation of CDN $20,000 – approximately EC $54,000 – through its Canada Fund for Local Initiatives at a press conference at the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station.
Speaking at the press conference on February 8, His Excellency, Richard Hanley, High Commissioner of Canada to Grenada, commented: “Canada is working alongside Grenada to build a stronger economy. Clearly, the health of nutmeg processing workers is important to the health of the Grenadian economy. This project will help to keep workers safe while they deal with harvests that – I believe we all hope – will grow steadily in size.”
This ongoing project has the potential to revitalize Grenada’s nutmeg industry. Prior to Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Grenada was the second largest exporter of nutmegs following Indonesia. Dr. Omur Cinar Elci, director of the DPHPM, stated that a primary goal of the project is helping the industry meet and exceed its pre-2004 levels of production.
“This is a unique opportunity for Grenada’s economy, which is why St. George’s is so supportive of it,” Dr. Elci said of the project, which is a collaborative effort by the DPHPM, the World Health Organization Collaborating Center in Environmental and Occupational Health, the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), the Grenada Cooperative Nutmeg Association (GCNA) and Grenada’s Ministry of Agriculture.
In addition to the research and training conducted, 2,000 nutmeg trees were planted to replace those destroyed by the hurricane in 2004 and a solar dehydrating system developed by SGU faculty member Dr. Dirk Burkhardt was successfully piloted. The new solar dehydrating process cuts drying time in half without compromising quality and eliminates the need for chemicals. This significantly reduces exposure to dust affording improved health and safety of workers. Future plans also include collaborating with the University of Maryland to develop trees resistant to the fungus implicated in killing off many of Grenada’s nutmeg trees.
The long-term aim is to convert the entire industry to using solar dehydration.
“The method of processing nutmegs had barely changed since Grenada’s colonial days,” Dr. Elci said. “Switching to solar drying will mean better, faster production, improved safety and workflow processes that will open opportunities to increase the workforce within the industry.”