In this, the fifth article in our series focusing on our work in Ghana, Rainforest Alliance communications team member, Marcus Schaefer, who recently visited the Juabeso/Bia region, takes a look at how grass cutter husbandry protects forests and creates a potential new source of income.
The grass cutter, also known as the cane rat, (Thryonomyidae) lives in sub Sahara Africa. The seven-kilo, 60-centimetre big rodent can at a first glance seem like an animal with little or no impact on conservation. But looks can be deceiving.
The grass cutter is a pest and is prevalent in Ghana. It has a great appetite, creating problems when breaking loose in the village kitchen gardens. But its meat is also considered a delicacy.
“There is a culture to hunt the grass cutter by setting fire to their burrows,” says Anthony Adom, group leader for Rainforest Alliance operations in Juabeso/Bia. “The villagers hunt the rats in the adjacent national park. It is a practice that puts additional pressure on the forest.”
Anthony Adom and his colleagues saw an opportunity that grass cutter husbandry could reduce the hunting in the national park, at the same time as sales of grass cutters could create much welcomed new source of income during the low season in the cocoa farm.
“The grass cutters provide two to three litters a year with up to eight kids. A full grown grass cutter can be sold for about 40 USD”, says Antony Adom. “By comparison, a cocoa farmer recieves about $100 per bag of cocoa, an average crop in the region is about 15 sacks per year. So there is the potential to create an additional source of income, says Anthony Adom.
Twenty families have participated in the project and have been given assistance to start the breeding. The villagers have also formed an organisation that will work on joint marketing and sales.
“We have trained the participants in grass cutter husbandry, we have provided local carpenters with building materials for the cages. All participants have been given three females and one male to start the breeding”, says Anthony Adom.
Christiana Adusei in the village New Agogo was among the first to start breeding grass cutters: “They are easy to manage and I will help other farmers to set up their own breeding”, says Christiana Adusei. “The toughest part of the job is to collect their feed. They have great appetite and eat two large bunches of grass every day”.