Like much of the Caribbean, the island nation of Grenada has suffered an unprecedented blow to its economy this year as tourism disappears. Grenada is almost entirely reliant on tourism, with the sector accounting for almost 50% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). In the first half of 2020 alone, the drop in tourism directly caused a 5.5% drop in GDP.
Grenada also struggles with a weak business environment and labor market, as much of the local population lacks access to education. In recent years, unemployment reached nearly 25%—before the onset of COVID-19. As the climate shifts, the country also faces rapidly fluctuating weather conditions, affecting agriculture as well as tourism. Extreme weather, including hurricanes, has taken a major toll on the economy in recent years. In 2004, the damage from Hurricane Ivan was equal to twice Grenada’s GDP.
Grenada has struggled to cope with economic shocks, from COVID-19 to hurricanes, because of problems with sustaining investment. The country has already taken on emergency support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) equal to nearly half of its GDP losses this year. Grenada’s prime minister, Keith Mitchell, recently asked for a moratorium on debt payments from the country’s private creditors to avoid a repeat of 2013, when the government defaulted on its debt payments for the second time in 10 years. The pandemic has made it clear that Grenada is in dire need of responsible, innovative investors and entrepreneurs seeking to help transform the society and economy.
But Grenada has managed to attract a few key supporters who see the country’s potential and are committed to giving local communities the tools to enhance their livelihoods. Among them is the team behind Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture, led by sustainability entrepreneur Soren Dawody. The initiative is a public-private joint venture under Grenada’s Citizenship by Investment program, which facilitates large foreign investments to boost local economies and grants citizenship to investors in exchange.
Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture’s primary project is a sustainable shrimp farming initiative that aims to equip local communities with sustainable livelihoods based on a valuable industry that is ripe for export. The initiative partners with Grenada’s government as well as local communities to focus on sustainability, both for the economy and the natural environment.
Not only is the project predicted to be profitable, but its low footprint also means local residents are not displaced or adversely affected—which is often the case with large-scale development projects in contexts like Grenada. The island nation’s government has already placed an emphasis on this model of development, through plans to become a “blue innovation” hub by building an economy around its ocean and coastal ecosystems.
The aquaculture project, in particular, exemplifies the type of sustainable development needed in Grenada because of its leadership. Dawody is an experienced entrepreneur operating at the intersection of social impact and environmental sustainability. Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture, his latest project, reflects charitable and impact-focused leadership, as well as a philanthropic approach to responsible investment.
The company strives to improve food security and protect the environment, through its sustainable commercial shrimp farming for export. The initiative’s innovative approach goes beyond common problems with industrial shrimp farming such as environmental pollution and economic instability, putting the focus on the needs and capacities of local economies.
While tourism and real estate are the primary drivers of the country’s economy, Dawody believes that aquaculture is the key to diversifying the country’s sources of income and support, while enhancing Grenada’s reputation as a safe and sustainable food exporter. To achieve stability and advance the prospects for its local economy, Grenada also needs to invest in innovation and capacity building. Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture’s model, for example, eliminates the need for manual labor. Instead, it incorporates key roles for local workers in biology, technology, and operations. Investments like Dawody’s shrimp farming initiative will create jobs and raise the average salary in Grenada, while also ensuring its investors are committed to their local partners by granting them citizenship.
Grenada’s government estimates that the country’s GDP could contract by as much as 10% over the course of 2020. As the local economy struggles to whether the impacts of the pandemic, sustainable investment, and strategic partnerships are increasingly crucial. Regardless of how long the pandemic lasts, the country can no longer depend on tourism for revenue and job opportunities. To ensure the country’s future, Grenada needs supporters and private sector leaders, like Soren Dawody, who are dedicated to building solutions that work for local economies and the environment.
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