Found a really interesting article on Cuba in The Globalist. http://www.theglobalist.com/storyid.aspx?StoryId=6782 This is the kind of discussion we need to be having in this country. Everything I'm reading suggests stocking up on staples. Even the Wall Street Journal has published an article recommending people hoard food. http://rense.com/general81/pantry.htm
Folks have asked the purpose of this Team. My own answer is to learn a fuller realization of the New Paradigm, and PUT IT INTO PRACTICE. Nothing could be more vital than the way we obtain food.
Cuba: An Island in Time
By David R. Montgomery | Monday, March 10, 2008
agricultural techniques for export purposes require large amounts of
oil. And as oil prices rise, farmers around the world are feeling the
squeeze. In this Globalist Bookshelf selection from "Dirt," David R.
Montgomery highlights the case of Cuba — and examines the unique
methods that allowed it to become more self-sufficient in basic food
Haiti, the majority of peasants own their own small farms. So small
farms per se are not the answer to stopping erosion. When farms become
so small that it is hard to make a living from them, it becomes hard to
practice soil conservation. In Cuba, fifty miles from Haiti across the
Windward Passage, the collapse of the Soviet Union set up a unique
Before the 1959 Cuban revolution, the handful of people who
controlled four-fifths of the land operated large export-oriented
plantations, mostly growing sugar. Although small subsistence farms
were still common on the remaining fifth of the land, Cuba produced
less than half its own food.
After the revolution, in line with its vision of socialist progress, the new government continued sponsoring large-scale, It
is ironic that in retreating from the socialist agenda, this isolated
island became the first modern society to adopt widespread organic and
biologically intensive farming. industrial monoculture focused on export crops — primarily sugar, which
accounted for three-quarters of Cuba’s export income. Cuba’s sugar
plantations were the most mechanized agricultural operations in Latin
America, more closely resembling those in California’s Central Valley
than on Haiti’s hillsides.
Farm equipment, the oil to run them, fertilizers, pesticides,
and more than half of Cuba’s food were imported from the island’s
socialist trading partners. The end of Soviet support and an ongoing
U.S. trade embargo plunged Cuba into a food crisis.
Unable to import food or fertilizer, Cuba saw the calories and
protein in the average diet drop by almost a third, from 3,000 calories
a day to 1,900 calories between 1989 and 1994.
Loss of Soviet support
The Soviet collapse resulted in an almost 90% drop in Cuba’s
external trade. Fertilizer and pesticide imports fell by 80% and oil
imports fell by 50%. Parts to repair farm machinery were unobtainable.
The New York Times editorial page predicted the imminent collapse of
Formerly one of the best-fed nations in Latin America, Cuba was
not quite at the level of Haiti — but not much above it. Isolated and
facing the loss of a meal a day for everyone on the island, Cuban
agriculture needed to double food production using half the inputs
required by conventional agriculture.
Experiments in farming
Faced with this dilemma, Cuba began a remarkable agricultural experiment, the first nation-scale test of alternative Cuba’s
sugar plantations were the most mechanized agricultural operations in
Latin America, more closely resembling those in California’s Central
Valley than on Haiti’s hillsides. agriculture. In the mid-1980’s the Cuban government directed state-run
research institutions to begin investigating alternative methods to
reduce environmental impacts, improve soil fertility, and increase
Within six months of the Soviet collapse, Cuba began privatizing
industrialized state farms; state-run farms were divided among former
employees, creating a network of small farms. Government-sponsored
farmers’ markets brought peasant farmers higher profits by cutting out
Major government programs encouraged organic agriculture and
small-scale farming on vacant city lots. Lacking access to fertilizers
and pesticides, the food grown in the new small private farms and
thousands of tiny urban market gardens became organic not through
choice but through necessity.
Changing old systems
Charged with substituting knowledge-intensive agriculture for
the embargoed inputs needed for conventional agriculture, the country’s
research infrastructure built on experiments in alternative agriculture
that had languished under the Soviet system but were available for
widespread, and immediate, implementation under the new reality.
Cuba adopted more labor-intensive methods to replace heavy
machinery and chemical inputs, but Cuba’s agricultural revolution was
not simply a return to traditional farming. Organic farming is not that
simple. You cannot just hand someone a hoe and order them to feed the
Adopting local methods
Cuba’s agricultural transformation was based as much on science as was the Soviet era’s high-input mechanized The
difference was that the conventional approach was based on applied
chemistry, whereas the new approach was based on applied biology — on
agroecology. farming. The difference was that the conventional approach was based on
applied chemistry, whereas the new approach was based on applied
biology — on agroecology.
In a move pretty much the opposite of the green revolution that
transformed global agriculture based on increased use of irrigation,
oil, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the Cuban government adapted
agriculture to local conditions and developed biological methods of
fertilization and pest control.
It created a network of more than two hundred local agricultural
extension offices around the country to advise farmers on low-input and
no-till farming methods, as well as biological pest control.
Cuba stopped exporting sugar and began to grow its own food
again. Within a decade, the Cuban diet rebounded to its former level
without food imports or the use of agrochemicals. The Cuban experience
shows that agroecology can form a viable basis for agriculture without
industrial methods or biotechnology. Unintentionally, the U.S. trade
embargo turned Cuba into a nation-scale experiment in alternative
Some look to the Cuban example as a model for employing locally
adapted ecological insight and knowledge instead of standardized
mechanization and agrochemistry to feed the world. They see the
solution not simply as producing cheap food, but keeping small farms —
and therefore farmers — on the land, and even in cities.
Thousands of commercial urban gardens grew up throughout the
island, hundreds in Havana alone. Land slated for development was
converted to acres of vegetable gardens that supplied markets where
local people bought tomatoes, Cuba
stopped exporting sugar and began to grow its own food again. Within a
decade, the Cuban diet rebounded to its former level without food
imports or the use of agrochemicals. lettuce, potatoes and other crops. By 2004 Havana’s formerly vacant lots produced nearly the city’s entire vegetable supply.
Cuba’s conversion from conventional agriculture to large-scale
semi-organic farming demonstrates that such a transformation is
possible — in a dictatorship isolated from global market forces. But
the results are not entirely enviable — after almost two decades of
this inadvertent experiment, meat and milk remain in short supply.
Cuba’s labor-intensive agriculture may not produce basic crops
as cheaply as American industrial farming, but the average Cuban diet
did recover that lost third meal. Still, it is ironic that in
retreating from the socialist agenda, this isolated island became the
first modern society to adopt widespread organic and biologically
Cuba’s necessity-driven move toward agricultural
self-sufficiency provides a preview of what may come on a larger scale
once we burn through the supply of cheap oil that presently drives
And it is somewhat comforting to know that on at least one
island the experiment has already been run without social collapse.
Less comforting is the question of whether something similar could be
pulled off in a society other than a one-party police state.
After Darwin’s famous sojourn Some
look to the Cuban example as a model for employing locally adapted
ecological insight and knowledge instead of standardized mechanization
and agrochemistry to feed the world. in the Galapagos, the isolated nature of islands strongly influenced
biological theory. But it is only in the last several decades that such
thinking reached the realm of anthropology. While people may someday
migrate into space to colonize other planets, the vast majority of us
remain trapped on our planet for the foreseeable future.
Although a global rerun of Haiti, Mangaia, or Easter Island is
by no means inevitable, the experiences of societies on islands around
the world remind us that Earth is the ultimate island, an oasis in
space rendered hospitable by a thin skin of soil that, once lost,
rebuilds only over geologic time.
Editor's Note: This excerpt is adapted from DIRT: THE EROSION
OF CIVILIZATIONS by David R. Montgomery. Copyright 2007 University of
California Press. Reprinted with the permission of the publisher.
This is the first excerpt of a two-part series. Read Part II here.