Cuba: What’s Going to Happen?

Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson April 20, 2015 15:31 Updated


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Mainland Cuba’s total land area at 42,426 square miles is about the size of Tennessee, and its population makes up about .16% of the total world population with about 265 people per square mile.  Most of its geographic features are flat to rolling plains with the exception of the Sierra Maestra Mountains located in the southeastern portion of the country.  Cuba has for a long time applied Agroecology in its farming, a practice that quite admirably includes the following principles:

1. Use Renewable Resources

2. Minimize Toxics

3. Conserve Resources: Soil, Water, Energy, Genetic Resources, Capital

4. Manage Ecological Relationships

5. Adjust to Local Environments

6.  Diversify: Landscapes, Biota (The biotic factors in an environment include the organisms themselves as well as such items as predation, competition for food resources, and symbiotic relationships.), and Economics

7. Empower People

8. Manage Whole Systems

9.  Maximize Long-Term Benefits

10. Value Health

But these agricultural methods weren’t adapted because of Cuba’s environmental concerns.  They came as a result of losing their primary source of trade – the Soviet Union – when it was dissolved in late 1991.  Because of Cuba’s narrow economic basis which focused on only a few products with a just a few buyers, they were left paralyzed.  During this “Special Period” the country experienced cutbacks on transport, electricity and even food rationing.  A Canadian Medical Association Journal  paper states that when Cuba’s authoritarian regime denied regular people the food they were entitled to (priority was given to the elite classes and military) many Cubans were forced to eat anything they could find.  Peacocks, buffalo and rhea disappeared from the Havana zoo, and even cats were reportedly eaten.

Becoming a world leader in ecological or organic agriculture through Agroecology (by decades of farming without petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides) doesn’t lessen for Cuba because of the above circumstances.  They rose above politics and beliefs and fed themselves.  But what’s going to happen now that they’re opening up to American commerce for the first time in 50-plus years?  Greg Watson writes in the Boston Globe:

There are many farming interests with designs on Cuba, waiting for it to open up to US markets and considering ways to dramatically increase production by re-introducing widespread industrial agribusiness and “modern” biotechnology practices.  …a beacon pointing the way to healthy, sustainable farming systems could be swallowed up and lost in the process.

People promoting tourism are urging folks to experience Cuba’s country and culture before it becomes “Americanized”.  With economic sanctions lifted, it could change forever.  What change(s) do you expect to see in the coming years, and how do you think they’ll affect agriculture?  Would Cuba be taking a step back if they abandoned agroecology?  Time will tell…

-Terry Olson, Titan Outlet Store Team







Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson April 20, 2015 15:31 Updated
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1 Comment

  1. Walt April 23, 12:05

    If Cuba is smart, the people in charge will keep companies like Monsanto OUT to prevent the poisoning of the land, the food supply and the people.

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