Who Hijacked Our Country

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

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!


Blogger frstlymil said...

Agricultural Utopia is right. And I bet our current culture would never go for it. You know if we have a major disaster there's not a hell of a lot that we're actually capable of doing on our own in terms of basics, like growing our food, sewing our own clothes, making our own stuff. We like buying stuff, and the stuff we buy is disposable so it can make room for new stuff. If what happened in Cuba happened to us - we'd simply kill each other, "Lord of the Flies" style. Sad. Yes, I know - I'm gloomy on the U.S. today. the Shrub's approval rating went up (albeit slightly) and I just can't understand the U.S. mentality that would even consider giving the idiot a thumbs up.

August 23, 2006 at 6:49 AM  
Blogger BaxterWatch said...

wow. I didn't know that. That is FACINATING.

And as a chemical engineer, I agree. Monsanto would NEVER allow that to happen. Why go natural, when we can patent a synthetic and charge you more money to save you some 10 minutes or so?

I've often had that problem with companies - for example - hormones - instead of giving women (and men) natural estrogen, testosterone, etc... we take it, add a little extra methyl group or HCl so we can patent it. Can't patent the natural version. So we've all been taking stuff that is bastardized natural chemicals. Is it any wonder we're all fat, sick, and loosing our memories?


August 23, 2006 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

Very interesting. Can you see the USA doing anything like that? Can you see the USA doing anything , period.

August 23, 2006 at 10:06 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Frstlymil: I’m afraid you’re right; we wouldn’t adapt to a crisis the way the Cubans did. It would either be a Lord of the Flies type of thing, and/or a few crime bosses preying on everybody else.

Yeah, that sucks about Bush getting a slight uptick in the polls after the London bombing plot. But the public has a short attention span. Rove will have to rig up something else in late October in order to get another boost in the polls.

Baxterwatch: Yup, Monsanto (and a few similar companies) has an iron grip on almost every country. A few corporations are gaining control of the world’s food supply. This is the kind of problem that isn’t noticeable until it’s too late to do anything about it. Same with drugs and medications, like you’re talking about.

Jill: Nope, I’m afraid that won’t be happening here. We have organic farming on a very small scale, but it’ll always be dwarfed by the agribusiness conglomerates.

August 23, 2006 at 12:39 PM  
Blogger Mike V. said...

I was wondering why their cigars have been so tasty the last few years.. :)

August 23, 2006 at 2:32 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mike: What, you've been smoking them Communist cigars?? Off to Gitmo with you :)

August 23, 2006 at 3:18 PM  
Blogger David Schantz said...

I'd love to have a true Cuban cigar. Baxterwatch is right, Monsanto and other large corp. would neverallow This to happen here.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

August 23, 2006 at 4:09 PM  

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