Grenada: Work & Life on the island

Working anyplace new is intimidating, interesting, integrating and always makes for good story. Grenada is no different. The island life is a good one, relaxed, always close to a beach and a drink of choice. That is unless you have work to do. Beach and drinks aren’t much of a distraction, ‘liming’ or hanging out happens all the time so there isn’t a prescribed time to do so, so it happens all the time. Making those who do it all the time looked down upon by those who don’t and ‘work’ (which I’ll discuss later)

Reflecting sun on Grand Anse beach in St. George’s

People here on the island are great. If you walk by and don’t want to be bothered they inherently know it and will leave you alone, most of the time. If you greet people as you walk by, as you should in most countries I have lived, they will greet you back politely, sometimes even ask ‘how is your day?’ If someone calls to you here, and it’s other than your name or a proper title. Proper being Miss, Mam, Lady, etc versus improper; babe, baby, honey, sexy. You can simply raise your hand, open palm at them to acknowledge their presence and they will stop. Most of the time. This simple acknowledgement is quite amazing, like a secret power that you may not notice unless someone tells you it and then you see how it works.

Same happens in the public transport, which are passenger vans that hold typically 18 people but can squeeze in 22. This sounds awful, but the most time spent in a bus is maybe an hour, with windows open (no spirits to make you sick here thankfully) and on curvy roads with slick seats the cramming of people make it impossible to move actually making the ride MORE comfortable. I found the same in Senegal, when wedged between two people you can sleep, relax and forget where you are.

Buses and traffic on Market Hill road in St. George’s

Conversation is optional again on the bus. You should greet the bus upon getting in and typically if you talk about anything else people may ask you more questions or converse depending their mood or personality. When you put in to the exchange they give back, but if you don’t neither will they. It’s quite interesting.

Blurry view of the fish market in Grenville

Work culture is even more complex. There are good jobs and not good jobs, there is also almost 50% unemployment, so you would think any job is a good job. Not the case. There seems to be a feeling of entitlement that people need a ‘good’ job, if they are capable of the job. Agriculture makes up most of the economy and you see plenty of vegetables, crops and fruits in the market, and I see farmers and know many of them for my work, but the labor force doesn’t seem to be proportional.

In Senegal, being subsistence farmer, everyone, man, women, children worked the land. In Grenada, you would think that this would be the easier work to have with the largest payout but yet people have a small garden or plot, but I hardly see it as an ‘everyone’ can do this approach. I hate to think what Grenada will be like if this continues as the people I do see working the land are older (40+).

I find the island to be very tolerating of other people, their ideas, religions, and customs. There are probably at least 8 religions on the island even though it’s predominately catholic. I’ve also heard of many other Caribbean people on the island along with Indians, Syrians, Germans, Brits, Belgians, and of course Americans. There are mixing of these groups at various times, but there are definitely segmentation of each group as well in the larger culture.

I very much enjoy this place, people and atmosphere, but there are definite underlying inter-personal and larger political issues at play here that makes this place difficult to get much done. I know I say this after posting what I have been able to do after 6-months, but I can easily see more that could be done or accomplished in the same amount of time if a few more things were in place.

“Some people hate change.  They don’t hate you. If you get confused
about that, it’s going to be difficult to make (needed, positive,
important) change in the future.”        
Seth Godin Blog November 4,
Futurist Cecily Sommers writes  “[t]he four forces of change are resources, technology, demographic and governance.” in Think Like a Futurist. 

Sommers, C. (2012). Think Like a Futurist: Know What Changes, What Doesn’t, and What’s Next. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.

Grenada: Six Month Work Review


Monthly reports are part of most Response volunteer’s life. Luckily I do not have to do the Peace Corps reporting that is now computerized matrix to input numbers based on objectives. Lots of monitoring and reporting. It’s great to understand whats going on, but it’s really difficult to understand what is really happening on the ground through those numbers. I understand needing the quantifying of our very undefinable jobs as Peace Corps volunteers. Here on Grenada, the 27-month volunteers have very specific roles as Teaching Assistants for primary schools for reading development skills.

In the Peace Corps St. Lucia office

The other Response volunteers work with children with learning and behavior challenges at a school and children’s home, respectfully, another at the national museum and me with the beekeeping association on the island.

As nice as it is having a defined job description, what is the likelihood you do any or all of them when you get to a developing country? It’s depends upon the expectations of the organization and their resources frankly. As most Response positions on the island, expectations were high and what we would be able to accomplish and semi-unrealistic. It’s hard to get someone to come down from a cloud. Even worse when they are unwilling to see what’s on the ground to work with or lend a hand.

The front of the Sub office where my office is

This an edited summary report that I’ve submitted to my partnering association, Peace Corps, and other partners I have on the island.  There are sections for my recommendations to the partner organization and Peace Corps/Response as well a list of my major collaborators that I have left off but very valuable to document and share. Also I have added pictures where possible to help illustrate 🙂

History of Partnering
Formed in 1998, Grenada Beekeeping Association (GAB) was
formed from fourteen young persons that took a 2-week beekeeping course
organized by Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
Initial funding came from Agency for Rural Transformation (ART) and the
National Development Foundation (NDF). Until 2009, the Ministry of Agriculture
(MoA) also provided subvention and a technical officer from the Veterinary and
Livestock Division of the MoA had been assigned full time to assist GAB
members.  Their office at the Ministry of
Agriculture Extension office in Grenville.
“Over the period 2002 to 2008, the
number of registered beekeepers increased from twenty-seven to fifty-seven; the
number of hives in use increased from 810 to 1710 units; and honey production
increased from 13,324lb to 28,129lb. (These figures can be verified from
official statistics.) Present estimates indicate that the number of hives has
dropped to 1400, but the yield per colony has increased because of better
beekeeping practices. This is mainly due to the efforts of GAB to improve the
ability of beekeepers and to have beekeeping equipment and materials available
at most times, and at reasonable costs to beekeepers.”
Previously the association had been a co-host to the
Caribbean Beekeeping Congress (2011), participated in World Food Day Celebrations
(2009) and the week of Agriculture (2010) along with producing a GAB news
bulletin (2009) but has not been sustained. In the past the Association ordered
wood goods (hive & hive products) and equipment in mass, stored it in a
container and sold it to beekeepers as needed. A small profit was made from
resale of honey and goods. On April 1, 2011 became a registered incorporated
Currently and for the past 5 years GAB has faced many
challenges. First the lack of subvention from the Ministry of Agriculture and
the increase of tariffs on imports has made purchasing a bulk order of goods
nearly impossible. In this time many beekeepers have started to import goods
themselves (typically from Trinidad) or make them on the island.
Since 2010, there has been a change of policy on the import
of ‘breeder queens’ from outside of the island. This is still a challenge that
is a topic of conversation between GAB and MoA presently and as of October 2015
200+ queens have been purchased and brought in via GAB and MoA and purchased by
beekeepers on the island.
Peace Corps was contacted and the Association requested a
response volunteer to help specifically to develop the beekeeping industry in
Grenada and expand membership to maximize potential. Specifically by identifying
good genetic material, training 20 in an intro to beekeeping course, train 10
trainers in advance queen-rearing for Trainer of Trainer model, produce 500
queens for local beekeepers and region, develop a queen rearing manual specific
to Grenada.
Ministry of Agriculture, F.
and F. (2015). 2010-2011 Annual Agriculture Review Grenada W.I. St.
George’s Grenada: Ministry of Agriculture.

Grenada Association of Beekeepers logo
Focus of work
With financial and political challenges and lack of
resources faced by the association the volunteer has identified these potential
short term goals:
Collaborate with beekeepers on
best practices, challenges, solutions, goals and gaining feedback throughout
the process
Creating ongoing training
programming for beekeepers, public and partnering shareholders’ staff
Identifying good genetic stock for
queen rearing to increase honey production and training of trainers to do so as
Assist in increasing overall
knowledge of bees, nectar, propolis and pollen sources
Assist in developing beekeeping
industry in Grenada and assist in increasing public knowledge of the industry.
Major Accomplishments
From the time I have arrived on island April 16, 1st
day of work was April 20th until October 31st (6 months
of service) I have accomplished:
  • Met personally with 43
    beekeepers/interested people in beekeeping21 of those visited their
    apiary/bee yard

    15 of the visited apiaries we
    worked the bees that day

  • Met 12 extension officers,
    ministry officials, St. George University contacts, other individuals that work in the
    agriculture industry
  • Met the Grenada Association of Beekeepers
    Executive Board along with the Chief Veterinary Officer for the
    Ministry of Agriculture
  • Followed up with Ministry of Agriculture Chief Veterinary Office (via email) specifically for filling out paperwork on Grenada
    clearance for honey to be accepted into the U.K. for beekeepers to enter
    London Honey Show October 29-31st 2015.
  • Had check-in meeting
    with Peace Corps Associate Country Program Director, current and previous Grenada Association of Beekeepers’ President to put 2 months of planning in
  • Met with Peace Corps Associate Country Program Director, 2 Executive Board members and previous Association President to discuss and clarify overall plan
    with Response volunteer as it pertains to training. Volunteer is to take
    the lead and consult with Association as needed.
Group of attendees of the Queen Rearing Course at St. George’s University at the Bee College


  • Attended the 4 day St.
    George’s University Bee College in St. George’s
  • Attended GAB membership
    meetings (3 total) and The Goat Dairy board meeting &
    On-Farm Workshop
  • Discussed, researched and
    wrote Response Counterpart Workshop proposal with assistance of my Associate Country Program Director fellow Response volunteers and 27-month volunteer
The Goat Dairy Project at Belmont Estate


Training and Courses:
  • Met, followed up and wrote
    proposal with 4-H Extension liaison for St. Andrew’s, on
    term-long project for 12-16 year olds on pollinators, habitat and
    Emailed Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture
    (IICA) and
    National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) or Caribbean
    Vocational Qualifications (CVQ) certification about current and past
    trainings held in regard to beekeeping (none as of lately nor in the near
  • Followed up on status of
    reply from T.A. Marryshow Community College on access to Mirabeau farm
    school and course syllabus for Apiculture they teach
  • Created overarching
    syllabus with 10 courses that I thought would be beneficial to beekeepers
    and potential beekeepers in Grenada and shared it with the membership
  • Followed up with past
    teachers of beekeeping courses on the island
  • Drafted “Introduction to
    Successful Beekeeping: What you need to get started” outline, wrote
    PowerPoint with overview of GAB membership
  • Finalized power point
    presentation and needed resources for Intro class, further reviewed and
    added classes to overall syllabus for beekeeping classes
  • Identified interested
    people that would be interested in the beekeeping class and make record of
    their contact information. Collaborated to identify potential stakeholders
    and community partners to communicate via posted letters in the next week
    or two about the details on the classes being held
  • Met and planned additional
    meetings, trainings and brainstormed agenda with the
    Ministry of Agriculture Extension Agent for Beekeeping; presented
    Introduction to Beekeeping course and additional course syllabus to
    membership meeting
  • Met with  Ministry of Agriculture Extension Agent for Beekeeping and Chief Veterinary Officer  to discuss ideas planned for moving forward with
    trainings. Letter was drafted and sent to Principal at T.A.
    Marryshow Community College for access and use of Mirabeau Farm School
  • Set time, dates and place
    for Introduction to Beekeeping class, sent letters to potential
    stakeholders and community partners about details of class with assistance
    of Ministry of Agricultural Extension Agent and Office in Grenville.
Flyer for ‘Introduction to Successful Beekeeping: Getting Started in Beekeeping”
  • Contacted 20 interested
    people that expressed interest in the beekeeping class via phone, email
    and in persn
  • Emailed or whatapps’ed
    another 20 partnering individuals, 16 Peace Corps volunteers & staff,
    16 NGO’s and partnering institutions, 25 attendees of the Bee College to
    alert and invite them to the class.
  • Taught class to 7 people
    and have another 14 signed up for another class held in October for total
    of 21 for 2 classes.
Flyer for “Pest, Disease and Pest Management: Identification and Understanding”
  • Planned 2nd class
    on Pest, Disease and Pest Management with Beekeeping Extension Agent and
    SGU Lab Researcher to be held in October
  • Taught Pest, Disease and
    Pest Management class to 3 beekeepers, hope to offer this again in late
    November and late January.
Additional Community Partners:
  • Attended GRENED meeting to
    better understand community need and how organization assists youths in
    the community
  • Partnered with Belmont
    Estate to create simple business and action plan for bees to be
    established on the estate, including training of trainer for estate to
    also train staff on better understanding and best practices (ongoing 2 pg
    word document emailed)
  • Attended Saint Andrews
    Development Organization (SADO) planning meeting for Rainbow City event in
    Grenville happening before Carnival to assist beekeepers in preparing for
    possibly exhibiting
  • Met with Grand Bras Farms
    to discuss pollination benefits to the farm and best practices having bees
    on the property
Grand Bras Farm, a historic estate that is now being used for short crop and vegetable production
Research, Networking and Organizing
  • Drafted project plan for
    self-started projects, events, and notable dates
  • Continued researching and
    compiling world honey, pollen, and propolis plant sources to create
    Caribbean and Grenada specific plant lists
  • Wrote, applied and my abstract was accepted
    for Apimondia, an international beekeeping
    conference being held in Seoul, Korea September 15-20, 2015
  • Networked with many people
    on the island along with inquiring about resources on the island for
    beekeepers and the association
Potential Projects
for Rest of Service
  • Plan and draft “Nectar,
    Pollen and Propolis Plant Sources’ outline, write PowerPoint, layout and
    create plant identification manual for Grenada specific plants
    (PowerPoint, list of resources, images and people; small ¼ page booklet
    identification manual on plants) Tentatively set for late January and
    start mentioning it to potential attendees mid-late December
  • Offer ‘Intro to Successful
    Beekeeping’ and ‘Pest, Disease and Integrated Pest Management’ courses on
    ad-hoc basis in January-March.
  • Plan and draft “Beekeeping
    Basics:1st year of Beekeeping in Grenada’ outline, write
    PowerPoint, layout and source apiary for hands on examples for class
    (PowerPoint, list of resources, images and people; apiary; protective gear
    for attendees) Tentatively set for February and start mentioning it to
    potential attendees January
  • Plan and draft “Bee and
    Hive Anatomy’ outline, write PowerPoint, source needed items for bee
    dissection-pinning boards, microscopes, tweezers (PowerPoint, list of
    resources, images and people; apiary; protective gear for attendees)
    Tentatively set for March and start mentioning it to potential attendees
  • Continue attending GAB
    membership meetings as needed; following up and assisting beekeepers with
    questions and work alongside with them when possible in their apiaries.
  • Continue communicating
    with GAB membership, Grenada MoA & extension officers, beekeepers and
    interested people, partnering organizations who have shown interest in
    beekeeping (i.e. 4-H, Belmont Estate, Grand Bras) and any others who ask
    assistance of information.
  • Continue to network and
    research potential contacts on and outside of Grenada for information,
    best practices and further information on techniques, plants, and
  • Continue to offer support,
    solicit feedback and constructive criticism from work partners, class
    attendees and Peace Corps staff and volunteers.


Summary of Beekeeping & 3rd Year Proposal

Like most things in my life recently (past 3 years) the small thought that stirred softly strangely and easily made its way into a larger, possible, plan. My 3rd year position with Peace Corps was the same.

See the queen in the middle of the picture, my first queen bee in Senegal.

Before I came I knew that beekeeping was a bygone area of work for Senegal. Primary work was in agriculture but with crop seed extension and making tree nurseries. Sadly beekeeping is a secondary, maybe ‘other’ project in Senegal’s Peace Corps world. While in Gambia, the small country inside of Senegal, every volunteer, all sectors, are trained on bees as beekeeping is a national commodity and is well known for it. Yes I did ask myself why I didn’t get sent to Gambia, but after visiting and hearing more and more about their president, I understood my personality would be better suited in more forgiving Senegal.

PROFILS, near Mboro, Senegal a wonderful NGO that works in the Fatick region

 Okay back to how this all happened. In my community based training
village (also known as CBT) the first 3 months of my service I was in
Mboro, a sprawling gardening hotbed who’s vegetables feed most of the
nation. It also had a beekeeping NGO based from Belgium. The volunteer
we had living in the village knew them and arranged a meeting with the 4
trainees so I could pester them with my broken wolof trying to make it
known that I too, understood bees.

Mamadou pointing at his hives in a cashew orchard

Next thing I know I’m in my village, maybe a month or two in, and I need
to charge my phone as my I started having problems with my solar
charger. So I go to the next village 2 km/1 mi away as they have solar
and I was introduced to a few households over there so I could hang out
while my phone was charging. One of the kids in the house notices my bee
tattoo on my wrist and asks about it. Soon someone mentions they have
bees and honey. I asked for them to show me. Mamadou, a lovely older
man, brings me a small cup with honey and comb in it. I asked where it
was from, he said it was his. He was the first of many beekeepers I met
similarly to this. Waiting and making conversation as I’m doing my
thing, and something brings up honey, bees, or beekeepers. 

Beginning of comb at the Master Farm in Same

 I knew that the NGO I met in Mboro, trained many villages in my
sub-region (maybe around a dozen). I kept finding there beekeepers and
many who wanted me to help, work, train, learn alongside of them.
Beekeeping is very different than in the states due to the heat, bees,
amount of times you can work a hive (maybe monthly compared to the
weekly as I did in the States)

Honey house in Sangako
Ibrah, Salif  and Casey (former volunteer) introducing me to beekeeping brothers
One night of harvesting honey in Sankago

 Taking photos, notes, making calendars, asking plant names, researching
scientific nomenclature, having tools made, getting estimates on
extractors, sourcing other materials and prices were the things I did in
between my other work, when I had time or the conversation presented

Local honey being sold in a juice shop in Kafferine
Store shelves of honey in Dakar

So from very early on I knew there would be a chance of working with this NGO in a larger broader perspective. The list I made of what I wanted to do looked something like this:

-Working in the region of Fatick (possibly Casamance & Thies as needed) doing hands-on training with established and new beekeepers/farmers to improve technical beekeeping knowledge.
-Improve honey harvesting techniques and selection to improve quality and price through hands-on training and public and private honey tastings.
-Creating plant bee fodder list in local languages and identification manual to improve understanding, conservation and creation of bee habitat through seed saving and tree nurseries.
-Documenting local best practices to be shared with local, regional, country and international partners through conferences proceedings, journal articles, blog postings and other various forms of media to extend teaching to others.
-Further and strengthen partnerships with NGO’s, countries, and Universities through pollination, research and training possibilities.

In February I had a meeting in Theis and so I made my way back to Mboro to talk and lay out my proposal to the NGO. They agreed and said they would look forward closer to November in hearing more from Peace Corps.

Fellow Senegal PCV Jessica, Gambia PCV Darrin, BeeCause DoDo, Myself and Beekeeper Saikou Nyassi. The banner is in Jola and says, “More frowning when you are working, and more smiling when you are eating!”

Also in February I was able to attend a West African Trainer of Trainers Conference in Gambia to share, learn, and meet with other volunteers from 5 West African countries. (Facebook photo album here) Then in May, the volunteer that went with me to the Gambia conference arranged a tourney on teaching beeswax and honey based soap, hand crème and lip balm down in the Kolda region, where is known for honey and boarders Guinea who personally has some of the best tasting honey (tastes like apples and is sold quite often in Dakar) (Facebook

So after all that I had applied in May to Peace Corps Senegal with this outline. And they made decisions soon after that. Some of the positions they posted were not filled and I received a response that saying it was not approved. Sadly I was not happy with this but later found out it had to do with tightening up the programming that we have for Peace Corps in Senegal. I was very sad to hear this I will be moving on to bigger and better things.

Feel free to to check out my Facebook photo albums I linked to above as I it easier to load many photos there than here. I will also be writing and linking to the more detailed blog posts about my experiences in Gambia and with the tourney training in Kolda.

"If you do anything, you will die"

So a common phase in my village is ‘If you do “blank”, you will die’ said by many of the younger children in the village. For example, if you don’t take a shower right now, you will die. Or if you if you don’t stop playing with the knife you will get a cut and you will die. These are usually said by children to other children, but also from adults to children to scare them in to doing what they should know might hurt them. Might being the operative word here. But it is true in this land of many people and little resources. Something small can turn into a larger problem that you don’t know how to fix and can be detrimental to your life in cases.

So much easier said than done and trying to convince others…ha!

The same apprehension is taken with foreigners (aka toubobs) and their work near, around or in villages. They think we are here for a short time (which usually we/they are), do work that looks good to us, but maybe not to them (it’s true we do things differently for different reasons), and all in all there is a cultural, language barriers, and invasion of their lives that we can not even to begin to fathom in fullest scope.

I bring this up due to a recent NPR money podcast I listened to (before my ipod died) and it brought to light some obvious truths about being a foreigner in a foreign land trying to do work. Its difficult.




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“The language barrier was the most obvious
problem, but the most important. The biggest problem was the cultural
barrier…The Hmong simply didn’t have same concepts that I did. For instance,
you can’t tell them that somebody is diabetic because there pancreas doesn’t
work. They don’t have a word for pancreas. They don’t have an idea for
pancreas. Most of them had no concept that the organs they saw in animals were
the same as in humans, because they didn’t open people up when they died, they
buried them intact.”  –
The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down: An
Hmong Child, Her Doctors, and The Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman

Pg. 69

The questions of not of what could be done to improve peoples lives but the if they want it, will use it and will continue to maintain it should be the biggest factor in doing work in an unfamiliar land. And even in the land we think we know for that matter. Sustainability is a huge buzz word these days but show me any company, NGO or group that integrates it into every step of their work. I’m not saying its even possible, it’s difficult. But sometimes as much as you can talk about something, the easier thing to do is simply lead by example. Let your actions show your intentions, because when it’s all said and done, what will matter more. How loudly you tried to make yourself heard or simply you lead and lived by example?

Explaining a honey bee capture hive to a group of women farmers at a Master Farmer Field Day

So I that I do not die, become discouraged, a bad volunteer or simply someone I don’t recognize before coming here, I vow to lead by example rather than trying to tell my counterparts, work partners and others what they coulda, shoulda, woulda, do to have better whatever. I will show them what I can with what I have and be patient as I can.

“There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take
the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition
there.” – Indira Gandhi