Growing; a Woman who refuses to let TCI tradition rot in the field
By Shanieka Smith
#TurksandCaicos, April 5, 2022 – From Banking to Psychology to Farming, Mrs KacyDee Higgs, a forty-seven-year-old farmer from North Caicos resolutely confesses being a woman farmer has not been the easiest, but with equal determination, she tells the many challenges, I have grown to like you!
“My kitchen garden turned into my backyard garden and my backyard garden turned into a
farm,” she said as she chuckled and reminisced on the 10-years it took her to realise success as a farmer.
KacyDee Higgs started commercial farming in 2009. Higgs now has a thriving business patriotically called, Caicos Traditions, and her goal is to rejuvenate the staples of yesteryear.
Even as she balances her passion – farming, she currently works in the Mental Health Department for the Turks and Caicos Islands Government as a substance-dependence client counsellor.
“I get that question all the time [why farming?], especially from persons who know me and the jobs that I had before farming. I think they ask me that because, for years, we’ve been looking at agriculture as a demeaning job, so I get that question,” she admitted when we interviewed her following her recent awarding of a Government Agro-Grant.
Mrs Higgs was open and shared, one person asked why she would hang up a corporate jacket to do farming. “It came across pretty derogatory at first, but then I had to realize that they just didn’t see the vision that I had,” Higgs expressed.
Her vision for her Turks and Caicos Islands is to be a self-sufficient island nation, capable of feeding itself.
“A nation that cannot feed itself is not a growing nation,” Higgs expressed.
Her firm perspective is that food security is essential and agriculture should be the TCI’s top goal. In fact, the owner of Caicos Traditions said she believes farming should be taught from birth.
Though she acknowledged that farming is now being taken more seriously in the country, she emphasised that “food security is not only planting or giving a grant to plant food.” Higgs said, “for me, food security is making certain that should something strike this very moment, if you can give an account of 30 thousand people being in North Caicos, those 30 thousand people can be fed.”
The realisation of the significance of food security is the inspiration and motivation behind Caicos Traditions, where produce and herbs like corn, papaya, okra, sugar cane, sugar apples, sweet potatoes, cassava, basil, pepper, and a variety of peas like pigeon, cow, and dry beans bloom straight from the ground and are hanging off the trees.
She said she stuck with these foods, (staples of yesteryear) because they are more adaptable and conducive to the environment in the TCI, even with global warming and other existing environmental issues.
“The reason why Caicos Traditions has started this venture is to make certain that our heritage is carried on and our culture stays alive,” she added.
Higgs is married with four children and manages to be a star farmer. She also wears her jacket in the corporate space, and it would be remiss not to ask, “how do you do it all?”
“It is a work of art, I don’t have it all under control and sometimes I focus more on my job and my farm gets left behind but I try my best to keep my children on a good foot. She added, however, that most of her children are grown and are helpful in the farming department.”
When reflecting on how her children support agribusiness she drove home a profound point – farming is multifaceted. It is not just physical work on a farm; many other things are done behind and beyond the farm.
In all doings, there are challenges and successes. For Higgs, her series of challenges spiralled into her biggest success yet when it comes to her agribusiness.
“My biggest success for farming is seeing that my mills and my grits and corn flour are finally on the shelves of a grocer,” she expressed.
In a truly open exchange, revealing the length and breadth and depth of this Woman Farmer KacyDee said it was in a simple black and white composition book where she drafted her grand plans.
A cousin told her she is ten years ahead of her time – that was discouraging.
“…everywhere I twist and turn, I was getting knocked down. I had to move off the property that I was on, I had a three-year break from farming and I was like, if you want me to do this Lord, why are you making it so difficult?”
She lamented and she waited. In the waiting, throughout her three year break, KacyDee Higgs studied Psychology and had given up on farming or so she thought.
But as passion is a peculiar thing. It can go to sleep and be revived and so it was for her and the passion she has for farming and supporting the vision for national food security.
This champion businesswoman showed grit and picked it all back up.
Caicos Traditions would soon be outputting grits, corn flour and today, those products sit on shelves at Graceway IGA. The down home North Caicos product has also given birth to the idea and production of other traditional ingredients like grated coconut.
North Caicos is called the green island as the second largest in the TCI chain. It is home to farming and ingenuity. Though removed from the capital, Grand Turk and the main economic hub of Providenciales, it is not that far away.
A short ferry ride now does it, and perhaps soon a 12-minute flight will make the connections to key domestic markets more seamless. As farming undoubtedly turns a significant corner and mounts up as a dominant priority for smaller nations given the negative effects of geo-politics and the merciless health crisis, country leaders are now forced to pay proper attention to agriculture.
In the rich ‘brown gold’ of North Caicos, there grows the products island children were raised on and nourished with; there grows the value and offerings of KacyDee Higgs’ Caicos Traditions
Kamala Harris to meet with Caribbean leaders in The Bahamas
#USA, June 5, 2023 – Kamala Harris, United States Vice President will journey to Nassau Bahamas in June for a top level meeting with Caribbean leaders, marking the first time she will visit the region since occupying office in 2021.
According to the White House in a statement, the meeting will bring attention to a range of regional issues. Harris and the Caribbean leaders will continue talks on the shared efforts to address the climate crisis, such as promoting climate resilience and adaptation in the region and increasing energy security through clean energy.
Additionally, the statement informed that Harris’ trip “delivers on the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advance cooperation with the Caribbean in pursuit of shared prosperity and security, and in recognition of the common bonds and interests between our nations.”
The June 8th meeting builds on and strengthens the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis 2030, which was launched by the Vice President and Caribbean leaders in Los Angeles at the Summit of the Americas as further mentioned by White House Statement.
CARPHA Observes World No Tobacco Day
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, June 5, 2023 – Tobacco use remains a major public health concern in the Caribbean Region. There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. The use of tobacco products in any form harms nearly every organ of the body, irrespective of whether it is smoked, smokeless, or electronic. Of all the forms of tobacco use, most common in the Caribbean region is cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. Using other tobacco products such as cigars or pipes also increases the risk for this disease.
Second-hand smoke exposure causes stroke, lung cancer, and coronary heart disease in adults; and acute respiratory infections and severe asthma in children. It is a preventable risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which are the leading cause of death, disease and disability among Caribbean people.
This year, World No Tobacco Day focuses on Grow Food, Not Tobacco. This campaign advocates for ending tobacco cultivation and switching to more sustainable crops that improve food security and nutrition. The campaign observed annually on 31 May, also informs the public on the dangers of direct use, and exposure to tobacco.
In the Caribbean Region, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death and disability – 76.8% of the total deaths (non-Latin Caribbean, excluding Haiti) were due to NCDs in 2016. Cardiovascular diseases 30.8% and cancer 17.2% are the leading causes of death due to NCD, both linked to tobacco use. Many of these persons die in the prime of their lives before the age of 70 years old. The prevalence of smokers for overall tobacco products ranged from 57.2% prevalence (95%CI 48.4 to 65.4%) to 16.2% (95%CI 11.2 to 23.0%). According to the Report on Tobacco Control in the Region of the Americas (2018) Caribbean countries have the highest levels of tobacco experimentation before the age of 10.
Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) “Smokeless does not mean harmless. Nicotine in e-cigarettes is a highly addictive drug and can damage children’s developing brains. Children and adolescents who use e-cigarettes at least double their chance of smoking cigarettes later in life. Preventing tobacco product use among youth is therefore critical. It is important that we educate children and adolescents about the harms of nicotine and tobacco product use. We must work to prevent future generations from seeing such products as “normal”.”
In 2008, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) endorsed the recommendation to ban smoking in public spaces. Later, in 2012, CARICOM regulated a standard for labelling retail packages of tobacco products with health warnings. Caribbean civil society organisations (CSOs), working in collaboration with local governments and international partners, have led the charge in fighting for significant gains in tobacco control in the Caribbean region.
Dr Heather Armstrong, Head, Chronic Disease and Injury: “At CARPHA, we believe that reducing the harm caused by tobacco use requires a collective approach, where government, civil society, and the individual play a critical role. CARPHA promotes the prevention of tobacco use in all forms and commitment to the WHO FCTC. The focus on tobacco control deals with the youth of the Region. Children and adolescents who use e-cigarettes at least double their chance of smoking cigarettes later in life.”
The Chronic Diseases and Injury Department of CARPHA provides leadership, strategic direction, coordinates and implements technical cooperation activities directed towards the prevention and control of NCDs in CARPHA Member States. CARPHA’s message for prevention of tobacco product use has spread across its Member States.
In 2018, CARPHA in partnership with the University of the West Indies (UWI), Global Health Diplomacy Program at the University of Toronto, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the Healthy Caribbean Coalition evaluated the Port of Spain Declaration to learn which mandates helped to prevent and control NCDs. Taxation, smoke-free public places mandate, and mandatory labelling of tobacco products are some of the leading policies making the biggest impact on reduction of tobacco use in the Caribbean regions.
CARPHA urges Member States to work together to prevent and reduce the use of all forms of tobacco products, and scale-up efforts to implement their commitments under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). By doing so, the negative impact of smoking and its consequences on the health of our people, especially the younger generation, and the tremendous burden on the economies of the countries in our Region, will greatly be reduced.
Hunger rates rise in Latin America and the Caribbean
June 5, 2023 – It’s an unfortunate reality for Latin America and the Caribbean as the number of people suffering from hunger surged by 30 percent; 56 million people now facing hunger, a large increase from 43 million in 2019.
It was revealed by Mario Lubetkin, Deputy Director General and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), where he further informed that the war in Ukraine, COVID-19, and the ongoing climate crisis are to blame for the surge.
Regarding the climate crisis, he emphasized that climate related challenges are on the rise as the region experiences combinations of droughts and floods; and to combat this, he expressed that proactive measures should be put in place to prepare farmers for potential severe impacts.
To help mitigate the surge in hunger rate, he put forth a three fold approach.
The first is the importance of effectively managing the current situation by whatever means necessary; for the second, he fingered the need for the creation of sufficient funds to mitigate the impact on farmers, for the third, he highlighted the need for collaboration among Governments, public sectors, and private sectors in order to mollify the burden of rising prices on consumers.
These highlighted efforts are in line with the aspirations and duties of the FAO which is devoted to supporting family farming, which makes up 80 percent of the workforce in the Agriculture sector.
Additionally, Lubetkin spoke of FAO’s commitment to quality products and brought attention to the United Nations Decade of Family Farming, which is geared towards eradicating hunger, ensuring food security, and promoting sustainable development in rural areas.
The organization also aims to enhance food security, a needed element in the regions, through innovation and digitization processes for example “1,000 digital villages,” one of their projects aids countries in using digital tools in agri-food systems and rural territories.
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