Cuba: Agricultural Utopia
Before we march into Cuba and take back our colony, we might try learning from some of Castro’s achievements. How about that 97% literacy rate — something most countries (including this one) don’t even come close to.
Cuba has also achieved something that’s only talked about by natural-foods/back-to-the-land types and a few economists: a complete system of organic and self-sustaining agriculture. No other country has achieved this.
Cuba’s main crop used to be sugar cane. Most of it was exported to the Soviet Union, which paid five times the market price just to keep Cuba propped up. And Cuba imported most of its food from Russia. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, this arrangement collapsed overnight. Out of this desperation, they ended up creating an agricultural utopia.
With no more subsidies and very limited resources, Cuba had to do something other than exporting tropical crops and importing food. They had to maximize food production, and out of necessity this was done organically. They were no longer able to import oil from Russia; without this oil they couldn’t run their tractors or manufacture fertilizer or pesticides.
So they started using oxen instead of tractors. They started using natural compost instead of fertilizer. And they were able to control insect pests with natural pesticides and beneficial insects. Cuba has about 200 manufacturers of biopesticides. Their crops also thrive because of heavy use of crop rotation, intercropping and soil conservation.
One agricultural expert thinks Cuba may be the only country to have a completely organic and self-sustaining system of agriculture. He said “They had no choice. Their only choice was to look inwards, to the resources they had and say: ‘Can we make more of these resources?’”
Cuba has about 7,000 tiny plots of land in urban areas. Most of Havana’s produce comes from about 200 of these gardens.
For whatever it’s worth, Cubans have the same life expectancy as Americans, and a much lower infant mortality rate.
A sociologist at the University of California-Berkeley said: “What happened in Cuba was remarkable. It was remarkable that they decided to prioritize food production. Other countries in the region took the neo-liberal option and exported ‘what they were good at’ and imported food. The Cubans went for food security and part of that was prioritizing small farmers.”
It seems like other countries could benefit from this approach of organic non-intensive agriculture. Think there’s any chance of this system taking hold in Western countries?
Riiight. Over Monsanto’s dead body.
cross-posted at Bring It On!