My Quiet Life My Quiet Life

sustainable agriculture

Via Kevin Carson, an interesting take on Cuba’s agriculture:

“But with the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989 and of the USSR itself in 1991, and the cutoff of their “fraternal assistance,” the Cuban economy was deprived of the inputs necessary for a Soviet-style agricultural model. There were drastic cutbacks in electric power and transportation, in the fuel and spare parts for those big gee-whizzy combines, and the oil necessary for chemical inputs. Left with an economy largely geared toward cash crops of sugar, and deprived of the Soviet-bloc markets for that sugar at subsidized prices, Cuba suffered something like a one-third reduction in average daily caloric intake. Many people lost considerable weight. But more than a decade later, McKibben notices a difference:

  • Now, just by looking across the table, I saw that Fernando Funes had since gained the twenty pounds back. In fact, he had a little paunch, as do many Cuban men of a certain age. What happened was simple, if unexpected. Cuba had learned to stop exporting sugar and instead started growing its own food again, growing it on small private farms and thousands of pocket-sized urban market gardens—and, lacking chemicals and fertilizers, much of that food became de facto organic. Somehow, the combination worked. Cubans have as much food as they did before the Soviet Union collapsed. They’re still short of meat, and the milk supply remains a real problem, but their caloric intake has returned to normal—they’ve gotten that meal back.”</p>

“In so doing they have created what may be the world’s largest working model of a semi-sustainable agriculture, one that doesn’t rely nearly as heavily as the rest of the world does on oil, on chemicals, on shipping vast quantities of food back and forth.”
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