Cuba is home to thousands of organic farms
October 14, 2007
When most people hear the word "revolution" about either Cuba or Venezuela,
images of the Cuban revolution of the 1950s with Fidel Castro at the forefront, or of Hugo Chavez giving a scathing speech
attacking U.S. imperialism are brought to mind. However, both countries are today experiencing a revolution in the way their
After the Soviet Union dropped Cuba like a hot potato, the island
country found itself without finances. At that time, Cuba imported much of its food, so it had to change its methods to feed
its citizens. The Independent daily newspaper of Great Britain ran a story on August 8, 2006, titled, "The Good Life
in Havana: Cuba’s Green Revolution." According to the article:
Twenty years ago, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Fidel
Castro’s small island faced a food crisis. Today, its networks of small urban farmers is thriving, an organic success
story that is feeding the nation …
… Mr. Salcines and his small urban farm at Alamar, an eastern
suburb of the capital, Havana, are at the center of a social transformation that may turn out to be as important as anything
else that has been achieved during Castro’s 47 years in power.
Spurred into action by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disastrous
impact on its subsidized economy, the government of Cuba was forced to take radical steps to feed its people. The solution
it chose — essentially unprecedented both within the developed and underdeveloped world — was to establish a self-sustaining
system of agriculture that by necessity was essentially organic.
Laura Enriquez, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley,
who has written extensively on the subject of Latin American agriculture, 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."
Today, there are more than 7,000 plots occupying more than 81,000
acres on which organic food is farmed in Cuba. Many of these are located in urban areas as well as rural venues. In Havana,
there are more than 200 gardens, some in small spaces between tower block estates, that supply the city’s population
with more than 90% of their fruit and vegetables. The farmers are obligated to farm a certain amount of products for the Cuban
government. The surplus then belongs to the farmers who sell it for profit, which is divided among them.
This method of producing food has supplied work for thousands of Cubans.
Their employment is not dependent upon the whims of international finance.
Currently, the Cuban system of organic farming and distribution, is
being implemented in Caracas, Venezuela.
April M. Howard wrote an article called "Feeding Ourselves: Organic
Urban Gardens in Caracas, Venezuela" that appeared on www.venezuelanalysis.com on August 10, 2006. According to Howard:
In the middle of the modern, concrete city of Caracas, Venezuela,
Norali Venezuela is standing in a garden dressed in jeans and work boots. She is the director of the Organoponico Boliver,
the first urban organic garden to show its green face in the heart of the city of Caracas …
… To Venezuelans, the garden represents a shift in the ways
that Venezuelans get their food. "People are waking up," she (Venezuela) told the press. We’ve been dependent on McDonald’s
and Wendy’s for so long. Now people are learning to eat what we can produce ourselves" …
… The Oganoponicos are inspired by similar projects that sprung
up in Cuba after the fall of the Soviet bloc, this means that Venezuelans would buy and consume food grown in Venezuela, as
opposed to the current situation in which, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Venezuela
imports about 80 percent of the food that it consumes.
Currently, Cuba is entirely independent from the outside world for
its food needs. Venezuela is moving toward a similar autonomy.
There could be a monkey wrench in the future for Cuba’s astute
program, however. Lately, with Fidel Castro recuperating from an operation, much speculation has been spoken about Cuba’s
future. The U.S. government (Republicans and Democrats alike) are speaking about bringing "freedom" to the Cuban people.
If such an unfortunate occurrence comes forth, we have Iraq to look
at as an example of some of the "freedoms" brought about by U.S. interference. In Iraq, Paul Bremer, the U.S. viceroy who
set up the regulations for a "free" Iraq, posted 100 edicts before he left his post: edicts that can not be broken by successive
Iraqi governments. Edict #81 forbids Iraqi farmers from using seeds of their previous crops, a farming method had been in
existence for 5,000 years in Iraq. Iraqi farmers now must purchase genetically-modified seeds from Monsanto for their crops.
This is a rule that is tightly regulated. Inspectors frequently visit farmers in Iraq to ensure acquiescence. If a farmer
uses his own seeds, he is heavily fined.
How can this happen? It’s quite simple. Monsanto takes a seed
of a crop, copies it and manufactures the seeds. Once the seed is copied, Monsanto then acquires a patent for the seed design.
In other words, any natural seeds with the same patented design become illegal to use.
If Cuba is "freed" by the U.S., there will be an immediate end to
Cuban farmers using their own seeds. Then, Cubans will no longer be able to purchase readily-available organic foods at a
In reading about the Cuban and Venezuelan programs, the merit of self-sufficiency
and economics play a major factor. However, one point is missing from most of the reports: the health component.
If more than 90% of Cubans, and a growing number of Venezuelans, eat
a diet consisting of organic foods, they will become much healthier than the people of industrialized societies whose diets
consist mostly of processed, artificial, sugar-laden foods that are slowly poisoning them to death.
Obesity and diabetes are at all-time highs in the U.S. More than 50%
of the population are considered overweight. Currently, there are 21 million U.S. citizens who suffer from diabetes. Health
experts predict that within 10 years, that figure will be a staggering 45 million. This is an easy prediction because experts
follow the degradation of the U.S. diet and can accurately predict the results for a 10-year period.
Before I wrote this article, I performed a little research on diabetes
in the U.S. and Cuba. In Cuba, there are about 300,000 people with diabetes. The country has an active educational program
on diabetes that begins with school kids.
The Cuban rate of diabetes is about 1/7 of that in the U.S. Of the
top at-risk populations for diabetes in the U.S., Cuban-Americans come in at third place, a very high-risk figure.
One does not have to be Einstein to figure out why Cuban-Americans
are at such a high risk for diabetes. Their gene pools are similar to those on the island 90 miles off the coast of Florida,
so it is not genetic. They are at risk because they have succumbed to the U.S. diet of fast food and junk food.
Possibly, opponents of U.S. imperialism and hegemony should consider
patience as a countering force for standing up to Uncle Sam. Within a couple of decades, the U.S. citizenry just may eat itself