ISSN 1710-6931 May 19, 2006 Issue 73

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Grasscutter Project

The Grasscutter Project was created after RESPECT Ghana decided it wanted to implement more activities to teach certain agricultural techniques to young refugees at the Buduburam Refugee Camp. It proved to be the perfect scenario for this case, since it would not only teach valuable lessons to the youngsters, but also had the potential to become a small income generating activity.

The grasscutter farm could be incorporated into the existing Sustainable Agriculture Project developed by RESPECT Ghana, complementing this larger effort and helping create financial returns that could later be used to support the students involved in the project.

Grasscutter

The grasscutter has a short tail, small ears, and a stocky body. They are more closely related to porcupines than to common rats or mice, weighing around 9 kg (about 19.8 pounds) and measuring up to 60 cm (about 2 feet).

The grasscutter is a small wild animal, cheaper to produce than most other traditional livestock and whose meat is more valuable and appreciated by the local population.

People in the region have traditionally captured wild grasscutters and raised them at home for personal consumption. Aware of the potential of a more widespread domestic creation of the animal, some countries are already encouraging farmers to raise grasscutters as backyard livestock.

The demand for grasscutter meat is large in the region, and it is not currently being met. Markets for it already exist over much of Africa, and it often sells for more than chicken, beef, pork or lamb. It is the preferred choice in many countries such as Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Benin, Togo, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

With the financial help of Joel Johnson, a contributor in California, United States of America (USA), RESPECT Ghana was able to build a cage and obtain two animals to start the farm. Made of wires and planks, the cage can host about twelve animals. The involved parties had to overcome a series of initial challenges to implement the project.

"We had enough knowledge about the theoretical aspects of this initiative, but very limited knowledge of the practical aspects," explains Mr. Anthony Macedo Barlee, Programs Coordinator for RESPECT Ghana.

Mr. Barlee and his team have learned new things in implementing the project, from assembling the materials needed for constructing the animal's cage to transporting the animals from the Animal Research Station in Pokuase-Amansama to Buduburam - a three-hour drive.

The project is managed by the Farm Manager of RESPECT Ghana, Mr. Alfred Kayee, and supervised by Mr.Barlee. Volunteers and students also contribute daily to the project, learning about the animals and what it takes to keep them well and ready to reproduce. Once the animals start to reproduce, in a few months, more people will likely get involved with the farm.

So far, the project is moving smoothly, and is being considered as one of the potential productive initiatives of RESPECT Ghana. As soon as more animals are born and the production is well established, the meat products from the farm will start being sold to the camp residents. Ultimately, RESPECT Ghana hopes to be able to extend the project to other farms, thus being able to include more people and even other regions in the initiative.

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