by Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe
Like many other nations positioned outside of the economic centres of the world, Grenada is exploited for its nutrient-rich raw materials while production takes place elsewhere. This means we import the majority of our food after it has been processed and pumped full of preservatives, dyes and other chemicals. The Goat Dairy (TGD) seeks to break this cycle of dependence, which impacts the environment, and health of our people and costs the country millions of dollars each year.
According to the annual agriculture review conducted by Grenada’s agriculture ministry, with assistance from the FAO and EU in 2009, the existing agro-processing and livestock sectors have major weaknesses: inconsistent quality, insufficient data collection and no long-term plan. The TGD aims to address some of these.
At Belmont Estate in Hermitage, St Patrick, we run a breeding programme which provides goats from good milking stock affordably available for farmers and families. We also consult, provide education opportunities and advocate for further support for rural small farmers and youth, who are our main stakeholders.
Our herd of 35 goats provides us with the opportunity to conduct research on the effectiveness of a range of fresh locally grown feed, such as Gliricidia, Moringa and other grasses, which we are growing in larger plots. The milk from our herd along with milk purchased from other local farmers is processed into a variety of pre-seasoned blends of chevre cheese and chocolate delights made with cocoa from the Grenada Chocolate Company. The proceeds from the sale of these dairy products along with our rich compost covers roughly 70% cost of our project.
Once we can meet our current demand we plan to diversify into other products such as yogurt. Our goal is to become a model of self-sustainability and break away from the cycle of aid. Our new auxiliary facility, TGD’s St Patrick Anglican school will open in September 2013, a year after our successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, the largest crowd-funding website.
It appealed to TGD not only as a fundraising resource but also as a way to tell our story to a wider community of people globally.
In early 2012 we made awareness-building a priority. Kickstarter was a way to take our social media engagement to the next level. It was a fun and interactive way to involve a range of people from local students to entrepreneurs in the diaspora.
During the funding period, 14 August to 28 September 2012, we exceeded our $55,000 (£36,000) target and raised $63,160, an additional $2,249 collected offline. We also gained hundreds of supporters. We began to build connections with new individuals and organisations that had a wealth of knowledge and passion.
Kickstarter at first may seem like an easy way to raise funds quickly, but it takes an incredible amount of work from the moment you conceptualise the campaign through staying accountable to backers as the project gets underway. Since we were not sure at first which one of our pressing needs the campaign would focus on we set about recording hours of footage, which does come in handy as an archive, but burdened us with a lot of material to edit into a short video for the campaign.
We knew the video and the campaign itself needed to be clear and succinct so despite having a number of needs, we focused on the seed money to begin the school project. At the time our campaign ended, we were the seventh most funded project in the food category on Kickstarter.
When we first launched the campaign, there was an influx of pledges but then things started to plateau. To get through slow periods, we launched ‘matching funds challenges.’ We asked donors who had promised us larger donations to hold off on submitting on the website. Instead we put out challenges: “Donate within the next 48 hours and this backer will match your donation up to $5,000.” So instead of $5,000 donation we were able to get $10,000.
We created supporting graphics to share progress, matching funds challenges and ways to highlight the importance of the project. We also engaged the local media in Grenada and sent letters to similar initiatives internationally, to our consulates, and diaspora organisations.
Since the campaign ended we have been committed to remaining transparent about progress. Kickstarter allows you to continue sending updates after the project is successfully funded and archives updates campaign page.
We also used Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share fresh information about our projects and other inspirational projects locally, regionally and internationally. We want to show people how their money is being spent and also counter the invisibility around agriculture and education initiatives that are striving for innovative sustainability.
(Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe is the director of public relations with the Goat Dairy Project)