Cuba’s Other Revolution, by Carmelo Ruiz
WEEKEND EDITION JUNE 7-9, 2013
Food is Freedom
Cuba’s Other Revolution
Cuba is the one country in the world that has made the furthest strides, and in the shortest time, in moving from industrial conventional agricultural production to organic farming. This achievement has been celebrated and documented by numerous experts and observers, including land reform scholar Peter Rosset and agroecologist Miguel Altieri, academic bodies like the Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology (SOCLA), and NGO’s such as Food First and the Worldwatch Institute, and have been the subject of a 2006 documentary, titled The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (2).
The country was in a very unusual and critical situation at the beginning of the 1990’s. With the implosion of the Soviet block, the subsidies that Cuba received in the form of food and farm inputs ceased overnight, causing an unprecedented crisis. With the Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts, passed in 1992 and 1996 respectively, the American embargo tightened its noose around Cuba’s economy, further worsening an already dire scenario. But the Caribbean island nation pulled through by way of a successful transformation of its agricultural model, moving it towards agroecological production largely based on small family farms.
Back in March in the Colombian city of Medellín I had the great pleasure of spending time with Cuban professors Fernando Funes and Luis Vásquez, both of them scientists of international renown and faculty members of SOCLA’s doctoral program (3). Between long walks through the city center and over beers in the Pilarica neighborhood, we talked at length about the challenges of agriculture, ecology and socialism.