Research Trip: Sustainable Agriculture and Urban Gardens in Cuba

Global Exchange announces this year’s research trip on “Sustainable Agriculture and Urban Gardens in Cuba.” This organized trip will take place on March 31 – April 8, 2012. Focus is on both rural and urban efforts at sustainable farming in Cuba, visiting areas such as Havana, Alamar, Pinar del Río, Matanzas, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad.

Description/Background: In the early 1990’s, Cuba’s agricultural system and food supply were decimated by the collapse of the Soviet Union (which had supplied the majority of Cuba’s food imports (chemical fertilizers and pesticides, fuel for transportation, farm animal feed, and almost 60% of Cuba’s food. The U.S. exacerbated the situation by tightening the trade embargo of Cuba. Cuba’s economy fell by 80%. Food and other basic commodities were scarce.

Cuba was forced to begin to practice organic and locally-grown agriculture on a nationwide scale. There are currently tens of thousands of organic gardens in Havana alone and over a million across the country. In the late 1990’s, the Cuban Association for Organic Agriculture (ACAO) was granted the International Right Livelihood Award (the Alternative Nobel Prize) for its efforts.

There are many additional organizations and associations in Cuba, governmental and nongovernmental, promoting organic and sustainable agriculture, via permaculture (Antonio Nunez Jimenez Foundation for Nature and Humanity – FANJ); urban gardens (Cuban Association of Agricultural Technical and Forestry Workers – ACTAF); and rural organic cooperatives (Association of Small Farmers – ANAP), in Cuba. We work closely with all of them on our research tours.

Havana now grows well over half its fresh food organically and locally. Cuba hopes to be self-sufficient in the production of most of its basic foods within the next decade.

All Cuban young people are introduced to agriculture and food production as part of their education, spending at least one summer during their high school years, farming in the countryside. University graduates in agronomy are handsomely rewarded for contributing their knowledge of research, technology and administration in rural settings. This entices educated rural Cubans to return to the countryside by offering them stimulating and productive employment.

Global Exchange and the Institute for Food and Development Policy co-organized the first U.S. delegation to Cuba focused on sustainable agriculture in 1993, then co-authored the seminal book on the subject, The Greening of Cuba and collaborated on an award winning film of the same title. In 2004-05, Global Exchange arranged the travel and interviews for the filmmakers of the award winning film, The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.

Global Exchange organizes regular delegations of professionals, professors and practitioners of organic agriculture to Cuba, some of whom have then developed exchange programs through their communities, universities and businesses. These relationships and partnerships between U.S. and Cuban agricultural scientists and farmers have a great potential to flourish once the U.S. embargo is lifted.

For more information, see http://www.ecocubaexchange.org

For more resources (articles, blogs and videos) on sustainable agriculture in Cuba, see http://www.globalexchange.org/cuba/resources

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