The Government of Bahamas is on the move to sustainably expand the production of Cascarilla (Croton eluteria) and grow new businesses around this valuable shrub. The oil and other aromatic compounds produced by the plant are highly valuable in the nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, food and perfume industries. The essential oil extracted from the Cascarilla bark is a key ingredient in the production of the popular aperitif Campari. The Bahamas exports the Cascarilla bark to Europe.
CARDI is one of the agencies providing technical support to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded Pine Islands Pilot Project, “Multi-purpose conservation by enabling coastal communities: Native Palm and Cascarilla cultivation.”
One of the first activities the Institute facilitated was the identification of an internationally acclaimed botanist to work with the Forestry Division, to conduct a Cascarilla resource assessment on Acklins, Crooked Island, Planna and Samana Cays. Understanding the natural habitat and growth habit of the plant is critical to sustainably boosting its production.
The industry has been recognised as an important contributor to rural development and livelihoods in the Bahamas. In 2019, two steam distillation units were established at the Acklin Islanders Cooperative and five persons trained in oil extraction by chemists identified by CARDI. An important result of this initiative was the realisation that oil can be extracted from non-traditional plant parts –fresh and dried leaves, stems and barks. Originally oil was only extracted from the bark.
Together with The Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI), CARDI has assisted in the establishment of a nursery at Acklins, where plants have been propagated using seeds, cuttings and air layering. BAMSI agronomists facilitated the training and were also instrumental in conducting seed germination trials. The project plans to get Cascarilla harvesters to begin collecting seeds to meet the targeted 10 000 plants, necessary for the plantation implementation phase.