The Greening of Cuba: Organic Farming Offers Hope

By Rosset, Peter | Canadian Dimension, June-July 1995 | Go to article overview

The Greening of Cuba: Organic Farming Offers Hope


Rosset, Peter, Canadian Dimension


Times are hard in Cuba. The collapse of the socialist bloc has led to an estimated 85 per cent drop in total external economic relations -- that is exports, imports and foreign aid. The US trade embargo has been strengthened through the passage of the Torricelli Act, making it impossible for the West to make up for the bulk of the loss in trade with the socialist bloc.

From less than 20 consumer items that were rationed in the mid-'80s, shortages have led to the rationing of everything. Food intake by the population may have dropped by as much as 30 per cent since 1989, moving Cuba from the top five Latin America countries for both average caloric and average protein intake, to the bottom five, though Bolivia and Haiti are still worse off. Prostitution and petty theft are at their highest point since the 1959 revolution.

Amidst the suffering, however, there have been some remarkable innovations that have not been widely reported outside of Cuba. One is the technological transformation of Cuban agriculture in response to a massive drop in pesticide and fertilizer imports. Cuba is presently in the third year of the largest conversion of any nation in history from conventional modern agriculture to large scale organic farming.

While this is a calculated risk for the Cuban people, it is also a critically important experiment for the rest of the world. We must all confront the declining productivity and environmental destructiveness of what passes for modern agriculture.

As soils are progressively eroded, compacted by heavy machinery, salinized by excessive irrigation and sterilized with methyl bromide, and as pests become ever more resistant to pesticides, crop yields are in decline, even as aquifers and estuaries are contaminated with agrochemical run-off.

Organic farming and other alternative technologies are intensively studied in laboratories and experimental plots worldwide, but examples of implementation by farmers remain scattered and isolated. Cuba offers us the very first large-scale test of these alternatives, perhaps our only chance before we are all forced to make this transformation, to see what works and what doesn't, what problems and which solutions will come up along the way.

From the Cuban revolution in 1959 through the end of the 1980s, Cuba's economic development was characterized by rapid modernization, a high degree of social equity and welfare and strong external dependency. While most quality of life indicators were in the high positive range, Cuba depended upon its socialist trading partners for petroleum, industrial equipment and supplies, agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides and food stuffs -- possibly as much as 57 per cent of the total calories consumed by the population.

Cuban agriculture was based on large-scale, capital-intensive monoculture. More than 90 per cent of fertilizers and pesticides, or the ingredients to make them, were imported from abroad. This demonstrates the degree of dependency exhibited by this style of farming, and the vulnerability of the island's economy to international market forces.

When trade relations with the socialist bloc collapsed in 1990, pesticide and fertilizer imports dropped by about 80 per cent, and the availability of petroleum for agriculture dropped by a half. Food imports also fell by more than a half. Suddenly, an agricultural system almost as modern and industrialized as that of California was faced with a dual challenge: the need to essentially double food production while more than halving inputs -- and at the same time maintaining export crop production so as not to further erode the country's desperate foreign exchange position.

In some ways Cuba was uniquely prepared to face this challenge. With only 2 per cent of Latin America's population but 11 per cent of its scientists and a well-developed research infrastructure, the government was able to call for 'knowledge-intensive' technological innovation to substitute for the now unavailable inputs.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Greening of Cuba: Organic Farming Offers Hope
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.