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Mon Nov 20 21:02:48 MST 2000
David Welch wrote:
> On Mon, 20 Nov 2000, Louis Proyect wrote:
> > We certainly don't want to return to "subsistence" farming, but unless we
> > achieve organic farming we will perish.
> >Organic farming couldn't support even a tenth of the current world
> population. What do the supporters of ecosocialism plan to do with
> everyone else?
Not true. "According to official figures, in 1999 organic urban agriculture
produced 65% of Cubas rice, 46% of the fresh vegetables, 38% of the non-citrus
fruits, 13% of the roots, tubers and plantains, and 6% of the eggs".
Year 2000 No. 152, September 15, 2000
Workers Daily Internet Edition
***Cuba Feeds the People Organically
Cuba was forced into organic farming by the economic blockade, but has now
adopted it as policy, having discovered that it improves both the productivity
and the quality of the crops its farmers grow. Many of the foods people eat
every day are grown without synthetic fertilisers and toxic pesticides.
A report, Cultivating Havana: Urban Agriculture and Food Security in the Years
of Crisis, points out that Cubas organic food movement developed in response
to crisis. It explains that before the revolution that threw out dictator
Fulgencio Batista in 1959, and to some extent during the years of the links
with Cuba to the Soviet Union, the island followed a typical pattern of
colonial food production: it produced luxury export crops while importing food
for its own people. In 1990, more than 50% of Cubas food came from imports.
"In the Caribbean, food insecurity is a direct result of centuries of
colonialism that prioritised the production of sugar and other crash crops for
export, neglecting food crops for domestic consumption," the report says. In
spite of efforts by the revolutionary government to correct this situation,
Cuba continued in this mould until the break-up of the Soviet Union.
The break-up meant that 1,180,000 tonnes of chemical fertilisers, 15,400 tonnes
of herbicides, and 9,100 tonnes of pesticides, could no longer be imported,
according to the report.
One of Cubas responses to the shock was to develop "urban agriculture",
intensifying the previously established national food programme, which aimed at
taking thousands of poorly utilised areas, mainly around Havana, and turning
them into intensive vegetable gardens. Planting in the city instead of only in
the countryside reduced the need for transportation, refrigeration and other
scarce resources. By 1998 there were more than 8,000 urban farms and community
gardens run by more than 30,000 people in and around Havana.
Urban agriculture is now a "major element of the Havana cityscape", the Food
First report says, and the model is now being copied throughout the country,
with production growing at 250% to 350% per year. Today, food from the urban
farms is grown almost entirely with active organic methods, the report says.
Havana has outlawed the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture within city
Martin Bourque, Food Firsts programme director for sustainable agriculture,
said that at first sustainable agriculture was seen as a way to "suffer
through" the shock of Soviet withdrawal. "When they began this effort, most
policy makers could not imagine any significant amount of rice being grown in
Cuba without the full green revolution technical package (e.g., high off-farm
inputs). But by 1997, small-scale rice production had reached 127,000 tonnes,
65 per cent of national production. Today everyone agrees that sustainable
agriculture has played a major role in feeding the country and is saving Cuba
millions of dollars" that would otherwise go "to the international pesticide
cartel", Martin Bourque said.
According to official figures, in 1999 organic urban agriculture produced 65%
of Cubas rice, 46% of the fresh vegetables, 38% of the non-citrus fruits, 13%
of the roots, tubers and plantains, and 6% of the eggs.
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Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222
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