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Blog Post

Reflections on Cuba: Sustainability and Agriculture

Jun. 30, 2011

Linda Slezak (Slow Food East End treasurer) and I recently visited Cuba on a food sovereignty study trip with Food First. A piece I wrote about Cuba’s approach to thrift and re-use was posted yesterday on Civil Eats. Linda shared her observations in the Slow Food East End newsletter, and we have reprinted them below. Food First offers Food Sovereignty tours to many other places-- including Mali, Bolivia, Mexico and Spain--throughout the year.

Linda provided the following observations about her experiences in Cuba.


Cuba is a case in point about the unsustainability of monoculture farming.During Colonial times, Cuba was a plantation island providing export crops such as sugar cane, tobacco and coffee. Food crops were largely imported and during the years between 1963 and 1989, chemical fertilizers and pesticides were heavily relied upon for agriculture. It was only due to the losses sustained by not having access to imported food and chemicals to grow their own, that Cuba "went green."

Going green is another way of saying that Cuba’s agriculture underwent a major overhaul. Land has been redistributed and crops are being cultivated using natural and organic methods with sustainability as the goal. The farmers that we met at both large and small farms (urban and suburban plots are the newest form of community based agriculture) were so proud of their farms and their organic methods. Most of these farmers have developed their own innovative solutions to their climate and terrain challenges. Raised-bed farming, digging wells for water, terracing and covering fragile crops with black, overhead netting to provide shade are just some of the many solutions the farmers have devised. Farming cooperatives are another model that helps farmers to share equipment and help each other.

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