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Growing cassava in Grenada: Bernadette's story

April 24, 2015

The Caribbean Network of Rural Women Producers (CANROP) is a network of women processors/producers working together to improve the economic, social and environmental status of women farmers, their families, communities and the Caribbean region. GRENROP is the Grenada chapter of CANROP, representing rural women there. One of GRENROP's members is Bernadette, whose story is an inspirational example of the way certain traditional crops are helping to secure an adequate nutrition today in the Caribbean.

farine2A long-time love for cassava

Bernadette is a retired teacher from Saint Georges, the capital of Grenada. She is a community leader and a member of CANROP. She has always worked with cassava. For as long as she can remember, she has been peeling, washing, sifting and cooking this popular root vegetable. As a child, her grandmother introduced her to the long processes involved in preparing the local, bitter cassava.

When a new, sweeter variety of cassava was introduced to Bernadette she jumped at the chance to grow it. She planted the new non-poisonous variety immediately. Bernadette knew from her childhood exactly what to do with it. She remembered the processes her grandmother first taught her.

The tuber is part of Grenadians' daily lives

Cassava is an important part of everyday life in Grenada. The time-consuming and labour- intensive processes that are required to prepare the local staple, cassava flour (farine), mean that often, whole villages are involved in processing of some kind. Many women get a livelihood simply from cassava processing. They are often just actors taking on one element in the value chain.

The nutritional and health benefits of cassava are becoming better understood. In Grenada, people eat cassava because they like its taste, because it grows well and because it is a traditional food crop prepared and consumed by their grandmothers. Cassava is commonly grown in Grenada. It provides twice the calories than that of potatoes and is perhaps one of the highest value calorie food of any tropical starch-rich tubers and roots. It is gluten-free and provides a rich source of key minerals.

Bernadette: a source of inspiration and knowledge

Bernadette teaches women in her community, just like her grandmother taught her. They all come to her kitchen and learn about the steps needed to prepare cassava properly. Now that Bernadette knows how healthy and nutritious cassava is, she is desperate to teach others.

Jero, for example, had always had a farm. She was from the same village as Bernadette, but was not trained in cassava processing like Bernadette was. Jero grew many different crops on her farm, but had never grown cassava. When she was first introduced to Bernadette she was a housewife. She tended to her backyard garden, growing things for her family. When Jero tried Bernadette's sweet cassava she had to find out how she made it. She wanted to know what magic Bernadette did to create such a special cassava dish.

Whenever Bernadette gets a batch of cassava to prepare, Jero comes over to her house. Some days she peels. Some days she cleans. Some days she grates. Some days she has to stir the cassava over a low fire for an hour and a half until it has lost its moisture, is crunchy, but not burnt. She now knows how to prepare cassava just like Bernadette although she still prefers to prepare it together with Bernadette.

Towards more efficient production and processing

This year in Grenada there is a 'zero hunger' campaign being run. It takes 10 lbs of cassava to create 1 lb of farine. Bernadette has seen cassava used in other ways elsewhere more efficiently. Bernadette learned of more ways and more efficient ways to use cassava and she organised a cassava fair.

At the fair they produced nutritious cassava flour (farine), cassava rotis (local flatbread), cassava chips, cassava fries, cassava bread, cassava bakes and even cassava ice cream. She found better production processes that create 6 lbs of farine from 10 lbs of cassava.

The large wastage in producing farine means that there is little money to be made in farming and producing cassava for use in farine. At the fair, Bernadette, Jero and their friends who they work with made large profits making fries and rotis from cassava. They sold out of fries half-way through the fair. After that, a member of GRENROP started selling cassava chips as a nutritious snack to schools. Bernadette, in turn, is negotiating with fast food restaurants to see whether they would be willing to sell cassava products as a local alternative to potato.

Despite new machines and technology, the women of GRENROP and CANROP still produce cassava together. As a community. As their families used to.


workshop2Bernadette attended a workshop held in April 2015 in Trinidad and Tobago, together with an eager group of representatives from CANROP's Chapters and Clusters. The activity helped Bernadette and fellow GRENROP members to learn more about innovative communication for creating awareness and opportunities. The workshop was lead by Danaqa Ltd and supported by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and CTA. 

 

Find out more about the women of CANROP on Facebook and follow the twitter conversation with the hashtag #weareCANROP.