Grenada is hoping to reap the benefits of a pilot project geared toward using solar energy in the processing of foods, in particular, the production of flour from root crops.
A joint project of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the initiative will cost US$69,000 and aligns with Grenada’s aim of addressing the impact of climate change on agriculture production.
With the project being at the pilot stage, both organisations are hoping that, following its implementation, they will be able to introduce the project on a wider scale.
According to CARDI Representative to Grenada Reginald Andall, “The idea, initially, was to promote cassava flour, but then we decided to promote sweet potato flour as the major one.”
“Sweet potato flour is not really anything that is practised in Grenada, as such. We have some degree of cassava flour but, nevertheless, the principle of solar drying in root crops for [the] making of flour and food preservation is the whole idea,” he continued.
Given food security concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic, Andall explained that there was an increase in interest for sweet potato materials. At the same time, the CARDI representative allayed concerns about the insufficiency of sweet potatoes to embark on the project.
“What we have seen here at CARDI is a massive, massive increase by farmers and home gardeners in sweet potato production, and this increase took place as a result of COVID-19. People [have] taken it into their own hands to try to increase their local food production and this is the first year in many, many years that we have seen such a great demand upon us for sweet potato planting material,” he commented.
“Sweet potato flour is not really anything that is practised in Grenada, as such. We have some degree of cassava flour but, nevertheless, the principle of solar drying in root crops for [the] making of flour and food preservation is the whole idea.”— Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute representative to Grenada Reginald Andall
Despite launching the project two weeks ago, the organisers are moving with haste to implement systems that will allow the project to get off the ground by October when work should begin. All things being equal, work should continue until December.
“We hope to have those things on the ground so that we can implement and thus have that on-the-ground demonstration to farmers and processors of food and the public,” Andall stated.
So far, CARDI plans to house two solar dryers with two of Grenada’s root crop farming groups.
However, Andall said that Grenada’s Ministry of Agriculture and Lands will have to weigh in on the decision as to which group will receive the solar dryers.
“For it (the project) to be very effective, we have to do a lot of promotion work, because the use of Cassava Flour; the use of Sweet Potato Flour is really at its infancy in Grenada,” the CARGI representative said.
“So, drying of root crops for use in food preservation, that has to be promoted in a much greater degree, but the spin-off in the use of the solar dryers in the seamoss and fish drying culture, I think we are going to have a better impact there.”