A cure for cancer? Gail Defoe holds up what looks like a simple green weed. In the production area inside, a woman carefully seals a small packet of tea leaves carrying the name “Nature Fresh”.
SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, NEW EQUIPMENT, STAFF TRAINING
Gail is part of the husband and wife team behind the Caribbean Agro Producers Corporation. Patrick “Bunty” Defoe was inspired to start the business. “My husband is an extremely committed Dominican. We lived abroad for many years and he returned when Dominica was having challenges. He was amazed at what we could do with the natural resources we have. Nine years later, we produce 12 herbal teas, fresh coconut water and other products. All of our teas have great medicinal value. This is guinea hen weed, also known as garlic weed or anamu. It is being used to treat five of the toughest forms of cancer. Because of Dominica’s rainy, more overcast conditions, it grows extremely well here. Dominica is blessed to grow herbs in volume that other islands can’t.”
“In a past life, I was a cancer research scientist. So I have a great interest in medicinal herbs.” And interest in guinea hen weed has spread worldwide. Research in Jamaica, Germany, the United States, Cuba and other countries, has found this herb to not only be a powerful anti-cancer treatment, but an immuno-stimulant, pain reliever and anti-inflammatory, effective against numerous strains of bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeast. This comes as no surprise to herbalists and traditional healers.
Gail, originally from Jamaica, now shares Bunty’s commitment to his home community in Dominica. “Wesley is a very rural area. People used to produce a lot of bananas before the decline of the industry and now we’re hoping to get people into producing herbs and other natural products.”
CDB funding went toward new equipment to make the processing line more efficient. Gail and Bunty also value the support for training their workers. From a basic workspace and small operation, they are creating employment and generating income for Dominicans in the factory, the field, and through export. “We supply all of the local supermarkets, but we also export most of our products. The activity you see around you is an export for St. Croix. We supply about 60 supermarkets in Jamaica and we’ll be in Barbados in 2012.”
Bunty is passionate, ready to introduce a new line of products. “I think that we can get the farmers back on track and introduce a new market, new concept for them – vacuum-packing the extra produce they have left on the field: bananas, dasheen, breadfruit, yam. We also have a lot of waste mango here. Instead, we can dry and preserve the fruit and create opportunities for export in this area. We can create employment for the young people who are hopeless, searching for jobs. This is a way to cut down on crime. This is a way to encourage farmers to stay on the field and build their community.”