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happydreams Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 01:44 PM
Original message
Permaculture. How Cuba survived El Norte'.
Edited on Thu Sep-04-08 01:46 PM by happydreams
I was curious as to how the little country of Cuba has done so well under such intense hostility from the capitalists.
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989 Cuba was faced with serious economic decline. The average person lost 30 Ibs as food supplies were cut off from the Soviet Union and the US maintained its embargo. Not only did Cuba survive, but it actually grew stronger. With a mere fraction of the money per/capita it populations health and education eventually rivalled the US's. How it did this in the face of overwhelming odds is a succes story, a true story with far reaching implictions on what is possible.

In the early 1990's a group of Australian "Permaculturalists" went to Cuba and introduced a system a way of living that not only saved it from starvation but made the country nearly impervious to outside intimidation.
Neccesity after all is the mother of invention.

Below is some snips from the story of permaculture which is also now being employed in Venezuela. Given time this way of living could spread to many other countries and stand in stark contrast to the mess capitalism makes of things. What is not given enough attention is the role that socialism plays in its success. I don't believe it works very well on a large scale in a capitalistic system. Companies like Monsanto who try to eradicate farmers that don't use their products is one example of how hard it is to break the chokehold of capitalism. History is replete with examples of how alternatives (competitors) to monopoly industries are destroyed.

We know what oil is doing to the planet and now we are fighting wars over the very poison that will kill us. Here is an alternative.

A small group of Australians assisted in this grass-roots effort, coming to this Caribbean island nation in 1993 to teach permaculture, a system based on sustainable agriculture which uses far less energy.
This need to bring agriculture into the city began with the fall of the Soviet Union and the loss of more than 50 percent of Cuba's oil imports, much of its food and 85 percent of its trade economy. Transportation halted, people went hungry and the average Cuban lost 30 pounds.....
Health Care and Education - National Priorities
Even though Cuba is a poor country, with a per capita Gross Domestic Product of only $3,000 per year (putting them in the bottom third of all nations), life expectancy is the same as in the U.S., and infant mortality is below that in the U.S. The literacy rate in Cuba is 97 percent, the same as in the U.S. Cuba's education system, as well as its medical system is free.
When Cubans suffered through their version of a peak oil crisis, they maintained their free medical system, one of the major factors that helped them to survive. Cubans repeatedly emphasize how proud they are of their system.
Before the Cuban Revolution in 1959, there was one doctor for every 2000 people. Now there is a doctor for every 167 people. Cuba also has an international medical school and trains doctors to work in other poor countries. Each year there are 20,000 Cuban doctors abroad doing this kind of work.
With meat scarce and fresh local vegetables in abundance since 1995, Cubans now eat a healthy, low-fat, nearly vegetarian, diet. They also have a healthier outdoor lifestyle and walking and bicycling have become much more common. "Before, Cubans didn't eat that many vegetables. Rice and beans and pork meat was the basic diet," Sanchez from the Foundation for Nature and Humanity said. "At some point necessity taught them, and now they demand ."

The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil | Global Public ...
Feb 25, 2006 ... When the Australian permaculturists came to Cuba they set up the first permaculture demonstration project with a $26000 grant from the Cuban ... - 33k

............ ...............

The 'Era of Rectification ' which started in the mid 1980's saw the beginnings of diversification as the enthusiasm for monoculture waned. Some state farms were turned into workers co-operatives, large farms encouraged to put land down to mixed crops for local use. Unfortunately events elsewhere brought this era to a close. The collapse of the Soviet bloc threw Cuba's whole economic system into crisis. This process was cut short by the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1990/91 which precipitated a massive economic crisis. Within a year the country had lost over 80% of its foreign trade. Factories closed or reduced production through lack of raw materials and resources, sugar and other agricultural production was cut for the same reason. Hunger returned to the island.
A priority for the government was to increase food production. The enormous task facing them was to produce twice as much food with less than half of the chemical inputs. Cuban farming's previous dependency on mechanisation, artificial fertilisers and insecticides meant that the soils were in poor condition having been sterilised by agrochemical inputs and salinised by excessive irrigation.
Pushed by the loss of imported agrochemicals and pulled by a growing awareness of environmental damage caused by intensive agricultural techniques, the Cuban government looked to sustainable, organic methods of cultivation to resuscitate and develop domestic food production and make better use of the country's resources. A few agricultural scientists had long advocated sustainable methods, and it is to these people that the government turned for advice.
Large tracts of land were switched from export-oriented cash crops to food crops. Government incentives encouraged people in large urban centres to move back to work on the land. Oxen were reared in large numbers to replace tractors for ploughing and transporting crops. Organic methods such as integrated pest management, crop rotation, composting and soil conservation were implemented. Research institutes were set up to develop more sophisticated techniques such as worm composting, soil inoculants and biopesticides. Over 200 biopesticides production centres were set up, run by university graduates, children of the local farmers.....

Cuba's organic revolution
By 1995, supported by the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Melbourne based Permaculture Global Assistance Network (PGAN) was working with a Cuban NGO ... - 15k

.......... ...................

No wonder the fascisti hate Fidel so much.
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Cleita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 01:53 PM
Response to Original message
1. Thanks for posting this very interesting article.
I'm old enough to remember the Cuban revolution and my parents knew American expats who were caught up in it.
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happydreams Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 01:57 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. It's funny. I started reseaching permaculture after I read about the "permabus"
being impounded near the RNC a few days ago and this is what I found.

Glad you like it. :hi:
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malaise Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 01:56 PM
Response to Original message
2. Cubans can survive better than most people in the
West. What's more, their carbon footprint is tiny.
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happydreams Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 01:59 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. The more I read about permaculture and the Cuban experience with it I
am becoming convinced that permaculture combined with socialism will be the thing that saves the planet.
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Selatius Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 05:02 PM
Response to Reply #2
12. They can do that because they learned to do more with less, thanks to the American embargo.
When the USSR stopped exporting them oil and artificial pesticides and fertilizers to run their industrial farms, they had to switch over to permaculture and oxen to replace farming machines. Otherwise, their country might look like Haiti today with mass starvation and a lot of extremely unhappy people.

Haiti, unlike Cuba, adopted the American way. They stripped their forests and blighted their farmlands with industrial farming in accordance with the International Monetary Fund's policies towards privatization and commoditization of a nation's resources.
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L. Coyote Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 02:59 PM
Response to Original message
5. I've heard about some interesting permaculture work in Nicaragua, on Ometepe Island.
Permaculture Design Course, the Bona Fide Institute for Regenerative Agriculture
Ometepe Island, Nicaragua /

Check out the lenticular volcano cloud photo!!! WOW!
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happydreams Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-05-08 01:53 PM
Response to Reply #5
21. Do you know what happened in this regard under Chamorro? My
interest is in how permaculture is related to the capitalism vs. socialism systems. It seems capitalism is a big hindrance to permaculture on a large scale due to the "competitor" problem.
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Uncle Joe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 03:19 PM
Response to Original message
6. Permaculture seems to be the answer to several major problems.
1. Improved human health via better nutrition and more exercise, I imagine the Cubans now have a lower rate of cancer and heart disease.

2. Regarding global warming climate change, I believe should gardens take over the cities, this will have a cooling effect on these heat islands along with reducing the demand for fuel.

3. I believe this will also have a positive effect on reducing inflation as more people get their food closer to home, less transport cost.

4. This might even have psychological benefits for some people feeling trapped in the concrete jungles.

Thanks for the thread, happydreams.
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happydreams Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-05-08 01:47 PM
Response to Reply #6
19. Your welcome. That is a real good point on inflation. I want to study
this subject extensively.

If the US really wanted to help democratize other countries IMO assisting them in developing permaculture would be the way to go. Cuba actually got healthier than before "The Special Period" because permaculture produced more fruits and vegetables where before they had a mostly just rice and beans.
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-05-08 04:45 PM
Response to Reply #6
24. I agree.
And ya know, look at all the unused space on the roofs of buildings. I wonder if hydroponic gardens could be supported on those roofs. In suburbia I can see those huge yards becoming little veggie farms and orchards
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democrat2thecore Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 03:57 PM
Response to Original message
7. Very interesting
Adaptation to circumstances can bring so many changes that something like this could - literally - change the world.

I think the example of Cuba, in so many ways, has inspired movements all over the world to stand up to corporate globalization and American imperialism in particular. There is much to criticize about Cuba - as there is in every country on the planet - but the people of that island have proven that they can withstand being 90 miles away from Goliath and David still breathes.

Whether it be Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay and others; the world is seeing an alternative to business as usual - that governments can structure themselves so that people do come before profits and those who would use their nation to plunder away the natural resources for private gain.

I'll watch this permaculture with great interest. The possibilities!
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happydreams Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-05-08 01:49 PM
Response to Reply #7
20. I would like to hear more from the anti-Castro people on what they think. They are
strangely missing from this thread.
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 04:20 PM
Response to Original message
8. My neighborhood's environmental group showed a video about this project
I talked to one of the women who went on last year's trip to Cuba from my church, and she said that they stayed one night in a town that produced almost all its own food.
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democrat2thecore Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 04:37 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. Your *neighborhood* has an environmental group? Wow!
Edited on Thu Sep-04-08 04:37 PM by democrat2thecore
That's great to hear. Where do you live?

That took some c o m m u n i t y o r g a n i z i n g.

edit: Up yours, Rudy & Sarah.
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 05:15 PM
Response to Reply #9
13. One of the traditional neighborhoods of Minneapolis
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democrat2thecore Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 05:34 PM
Response to Reply #13
15. Good on 'ya! Love your city, btw -- in the summer :) -nt
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happydreams Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-05-08 01:56 PM
Response to Reply #8
22. I want to get this video if at all possible. The OP corroborates your
Edited on Fri Sep-05-08 01:58 PM by happydreams
friend claims.

I want to spread this info far and wide.
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glitch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 04:45 PM
Response to Original message
10. So that's why they pulled over the permibus. Cuba! I thought they figured they'd find weed
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Selatius Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 04:56 PM
Response to Original message
11. Which is why Cuba is such a threat to America. It's important that their system is wholly destroyed.
Unless we can get in there and eliminate everything that is a threat to American corporate interests, Cuba will always be the counter-example to the American example. That's not tolerable. There must only be one way: Our way.

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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 05:24 PM
Response to Reply #11
14. That was part of the motivation for the invasion of Grenada
The Bishop government looked at Grenada's economic situation and noted that a tropical island that exported citrus fruits had no processing plants and had to buy its orange, grapefruit, and lemon products from multinational corporations.

The Bishop government encouraged the formation of cooperatives to process a portion of each fruit crop into juice, candy, and marmalade for local consumption.

One of the first things the U.S. military did after it conquered the island in 1983 was shut down the fruit processing cooperatives. The plants were summarily padlocked, and the members of the coops were not even allowed to go in and salvage the fruit that was already inside.

Another thing was that American contractors went in and finished the "suspicious" airport that the Cubans had been working on. Foreign hotel and resort companies bought up coastal land and for the first time, long stretches of beach were off limits to local residents.
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democrat2thecore Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 05:40 PM
Response to Reply #14
16. Bishop was an inspiration
I still pick up his "Maurice Bishop Speaks" book every now and again.

Of course, you are completely right about Grenada. The whole airport thing was ridiculous.

I still wonder, to this day, about Bernard Coard and Austin Hudson. I always thought one - or both - were infiltrators.
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happydreams Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-05-08 01:41 PM
Response to Reply #14
18. This is very interesting though infuriating. I wonder what United Fruit/Chiquita's role in
Edited on Fri Sep-05-08 01:59 PM by happydreams
this was?

It appears that there has been a conspiracy by the capitalists to eradicate sustainable agriculture. Monsanto's going after those who don't buy their seeds is another example.

Thanks for sharing this Lydia.
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-05-08 04:49 PM
Response to Reply #14
25. OMG, THAT I didn't know!!!
Greedy corporate bastards! :grr:
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-06-08 08:29 AM
Response to Reply #14
27. Thanks for this background. Really never knew about post invasion Grenada. Big help. Thanks. n/t
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-06-08 08:49 AM
Response to Reply #27
30. I learned this from an American who had done academic research in Grenada
years before the invasion and had frequently visited friends there since.

He also told of his first visit after the invasion, when he saw graffiti all over saying, "Thank you, President Reagan. God bless America." (Photos of these graffiti were published widely in the U.S. press.) Since almost everyone he knew resented the invasion, he wondered who had written them, so he asked around. No one knew. Finally, he found a man who had gotten up in the middle of the night to pee and had seen a van stop in front of a nearby wall. The man said that a bunch of white men jumped out of the van, spray-painted the slogan on the wall, and drove off.

Interestingly enough, similar graffiti appeared in Panama after the invasion there, only they said, "Thank you, President Bush. God bless America." These were also widely shown in the U.S. press.
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Raksha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-04-08 06:17 PM
Response to Original message
17. Permaculture is a true alternative to factory farming,
much more desirable on many levels. Of course it would mean many more people would have to be involved in farming, but is that a bad thing? With urban gardening such as they have in Havana it would be a part-time occupation for most of them.

That makes it a very real threat to agribusiness. After all, taking control of your own food supply is empowerment like nothing else in the world. I thought about this more than once after the permaculture bus was impounded in Minneapolis.
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Karenina Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-05-08 04:17 PM
Response to Reply #17
23. Is Babykins back home yet?
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JohnyCanuck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-05-08 05:20 PM
Response to Original message
26. Another article on Cuban agriculture

Organic Cuba without Fossil Fuels

Cubas experience has opened our eyes to agriculture without fossil fuels, a possibility rapidly turning into a necessity for mitigating climate change as world production of petroleum has also peaked. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Cuba 1989

Cuba is where agriculture without fossil fuels has been put to its greatest test, and it has passed with flying colours. The year 1989 ushered in the Special Period <1> a scenario that will hit some countries in the not too distant future unless they prepare for it right now.

Before 1989, Cuba was a model Green Revolution farm economy, based on huge production units of state-owned farms, and dependent on vast quantities of imported oil, chemicals and machinery to produce export crops. Under agreements with the former Soviet Union, Cuba had been an oil-driven country, and 98 percent of all its petroleum had come from the Soviet bloc. In 1988, 12-13 million tons of Soviet oil were imported and of this, Cubans re-exported two million tons. In 1989, Cuba was forced to cut the re-export in half and in 1990, oil exports were cut entirely as only 10 of 13m tons promised by the Soviet had been received. At the end of 1991, only 6 of the promised 13 m tons was received, and the short fall in oil began to severely affect the nations economy.


The urban agricultural miracle

Today, Vivero Alamar (Alamar Gardens) is an oasis amid the monotonous array of perfectly rectangular apartment blocks of Soviet-style housing in the Alamar district of eastern Havana. It is a 27-acre organic farm set in the middle of a city of two million people. Founded in 1994 on a small 9-acre parcel of land, it has become a 140-person business <6> producing a steady harvest of a wide range of fruits and vegetables: lettuces, carrots, tomatoes, avocadoes, culinary and medicinal herbs, chard and cucumbers. After harvest the crops are sold directly to neighbours at a colourful farm stand. Vivero Alamar also sells a range of organic composts and mulches and a selection of patio plants. In 2005, this neighbourhood-managed worker-owned cooperative earned approximately $180 000. After capital improvements and operating expenses, it pays each worker about $500 a year; compared to the Cuban minimum wage of $10 a month. Vivero Alamar is just one example of the revolution in food production that has swept Cuba in the early 1990s and continues today. From Santiago de Cuba in the east to Pinar del Rio in the west, thousands of urban gardens are blossoming. Some 300 000 Cubans are busy growing their own fruits and vegetables and selling the surplus to their neighbours.

Although urban agriculture is totally organic, the country as a whole is not. But the amount of chemical inputs has been drastically reduced. Before the crisis hit in 1989, Cuba used more than 1 million tons of synthetic fertilizers a year. Today, it uses about 90 000 tons. During the Soviet period, Cuba applied up to 35 000 tons of herbicides and pesticids a year, today, it is about 1 000 tons

Like many small poor countries, Cuba remains reliant on export agriculture to earn hard currency. It is a robust exporter of tobacco, sugar, coffee, and citrues, and is selling a significant amount of the last three as certified organic <7>. Foreign investment in such ventures is on the rise. But when it comes to sustainable agriculure, Cubas most impressive innovation is its network of urban farms and gardens.

Continued here:

Scientists Find Organic Agriculture Can Feed the World & More

Comprehensive study gives the lie to claims that organic agriculture cannot feed the world because it gives low yields and there is insufficient organic fertilizer.

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Scientists refute common misconceptions about organic agriculture

Two usual objections are levelled against the proposal that organic agriculture can feed the world. Organic agriculture, opponents claim, gives low yields, and there isnt enough organic fertilizer to boost yields substantially.

A team of scientists led by Catherine Badgley at the University of Michgan Ann Arbor in the United States has now refuted those common misconceptions about organic agriculture. Organic agriculture gives yields roughly comparable to conventional agriculture in developed countries and much higher yields in developing countries; and more than enough nitrogen can be fixed in the soil by using green manure alone <1>.

The research team compared yields of organic and conventional agriculture (including low-intensive food production) in 293 examples, and estimated the average yield ratio (organic versus non-organic) of different food categories for the developed and the developing world. With the average yield ratios, they modelled the global food supply that could be grown organically in the current agricultural land base. The results indicate that organic methods could produce enough food to sustain the current human population, and potentially an even larger population, without increasing the agricultural land base.

They also estimated the amount of nitrogen potentially available from nitrogen fixation by legumes as cover crops. Data from temperate and tropical agroecosystmes suggest that they could fix enough nitrogen to replace all of the synthetic fertilizer currently in use.

The report concluded: These results indicate that organic agriculture has the potential to contribute quite substantially to the global food supply, while reducing the detrimental environmental impacts of conventional agriculture.

Continued here:

More interesting articles on organic and sustainable agriculture here.
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happydreams Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-06-08 02:29 PM
Response to Reply #26
35. Thanks Johny. I can't get enough of this.
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SoCalDem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-06-08 08:38 AM
Response to Original message
28. Sustainable, environmentally friendly agriculture used to be the norm
we did not always have Monsanto..We used to do it too.. Some of us remember the times when we only had certain fruits & veggies at certain times of the year, and we all managed just fine.. Who knows, maybe nature intended it that way, and maybe our gut was designed to handle the season varieties better than what we have now.. We used to gorge ourselves on peaches & cherries & strawberries & watermelon, and then say bye bye until next summer..we only appreciated the all the more when they reappeared :)
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Billy Burnett Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-06-08 08:44 AM
Response to Original message
Edited on Sat Sep-06-08 08:47 AM by Billy Burnett
A thread about Cuba and no one has been called a "Castro apologist" or a "commie" (yet)?

:wow: :wtf: :wow:

(edit: maybe it's because Mika, who has lived in Cuba and knows more about Cuba than most DUers, hasn't posted on this thread yet.) :shrug:

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happydreams Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-06-08 02:12 PM
Response to Reply #29
33. Before I posted, I gotta be honest, I asked myself:
Edited on Sat Sep-06-08 02:14 PM by happydreams
"How can the Righties argue with this?". I really don't see how, and if they can't is this not a very good way to argue the case for Socialism?
Fidel has been demonized to such an extent that I think many US citizens have such powerful negative emotions that they could not bring themselves to acknowlege the truth about Cuba. It's gonna take time for people to absorb this.
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-06-08 04:48 PM
Response to Reply #33
37. As long as they keep Cuba off limits to ordinary American travel, administrations can use it for any
old boogeyman purpose in the world, and there will be a lot of clueless Americans who haven't taken the time to look into the facts who will buy it, unfortunately. Gullibility and ignorance are the means of keeping people pliable, politically: they swallow anything if they know nothing else. What a damned pity!
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happydreams Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-09-08 03:13 PM
Response to Reply #37
39. That reminds me. Noam Chomsky is the one, I'm almost certain, ...
who wrote about Cuba and "the threat of a good example" of alternatives to the IMF and economic slavery. I'm just putting this here as a note when I get back to this topic.

Hopefully with the Internets (((thanks Al Gore for inventing them!))) the truth about Cuba will eventually become more common knowledge.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-09-08 04:24 PM
Response to Reply #39
41. Did you ever see comments made by James Wolfensohn at the World Bank?
Not so shabby, actually!

World Bank heaps praise on Cuba

May 02, 2001
foreign desk

CUBA was praised yesterday by the president of the World Bank in recognition of the Caribbean island's achievement in providing some of Latin America's highest standards of health care and education without a penny of foreign funding.
"Cuba has done a great job on education and health and if you judge the country by education and health they've done a terrific job," the bank's chief, James Wolfensohn, said at a press conference in Washington.

"So I have no hesitation in acknowledging that they've done a good job, and it does not embarrass me to do it. They should be congratulated for what they have done," he added.

Statistics in the bank's World Development Indicators report, issued during its spring meetings over the weekend, show that Cubans live longer than other Latin Americans, including residents of the US Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

At the same time, the island's literacy levels are only equalled by the middle-income nations of Argentina and Uruguay.

The bank's data shows life expectancy in Cuba is 76 years. Among Latin American countries, that is second only to Costa Rica at 77. It equals the showcase market economy of Chile, while it is ahead of Puerto Rico at 73 years; Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico, where the average person lives for 72 years; and Brazil, which lags at 67 years.

Infant mortality in Cuba is seven deaths per 1,000 live births, much lower than the rest of Latin America.

Only 3 per cent of Cuban males above the age of 15 years cannot read, a literacy rate that is five times better than Brazil and 16 times ahead of Haiti, the data shows.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-06-08 09:09 AM
Response to Original message
31. Links, and photos, Cuban "organiponicos" and new ones (taught by Cubans) springing up in Caracas.
Edited on Sat Sep-06-08 09:34 AM by Judi Lynn
Have seen articles in internetS searches which indicate groups from the U.S. have been going to Cuba to study these Cuban techniques for quite a while, and coming back very impressed. Articles just don't get published in ordinary U.S. media, of course. Cuba is simply off limits unless there's something which can be twisted for propaganda purposes.

For the vast majority of urban Cubans since the Revolution, food came from a grocery store or supermarket. Growing food was generally considered a part of campesino (peasant) life, left behind on the move to the city. To encourage small scale food production in urban areas, the government gave unused land to anyone who wanted to cultivate it. Havana, with a fifth of the island's population, was a priority area for urban food production. The provincial Ministry of Agriculture (MinAgri) set up an urban agriculture department to give support to the new gardeners, which was delivered through the activity of the MinAgri outreach workers (extensionists) based in each of the city's municipalities, and through direct support given to community efforts. The department was also responsible for the shops which supplied seeds, tools and sundries to the growers. The three types of garden supported were known as huertos, organoponicos and autoconsumos

This all created, almost overnight, a new urban gardening culture. By the mid 1990's there were over 28,000 huertos in Havana city province, run by 50-100,000 individuals. Some of this new army of gardeners could remember farming with their parents 35 years ago, before they moved to Havana. For many it was an entirely new occupation.

Huerto is Spanish for 'kitchen garden' and these are the equivalent of allotments or smallholdings in Britain. They may be individual, family or collective and some are attached to institutions such as day care centres and schools. They range in size from postage stamp to two or more hectares. Garden clubs are comparable to allotment societies and may be a gathering of gardeners in a particular locality or may be the overseers of a large patch, a parcela, divided into a number of huertos. There are more than 19,000 individuals organised into more than 800 clubs throughout Havana.

Auto-consumos are horticultural units attached to colleges, hospitals and factories. The workers may be part or full time, working by choice or placed there as a disciplinary punishment by their workplace. The primary object is to produce food for the occupants/workers' lunches.

Organopnicos originally were defunct hydroponic units which had been re-filled with composted sugar cane waste and used to grow vegetables and herbs organically. The success of this conversion led to new ones being constructed As the ground itself is not cultivated they could be built on any waste land including old car parks and building sites. Some are state owned, others are cooperatives. The vegetables produced are sold to the local communities, on-site or at the farmers' markets. Beyond quota, the profits of the state-run units are split between the state and the workers. 'Organopnico' has become the general name for an urban market garden, with beds raised by mulching as well as by containing the soil.

Cubas Second Revolution
by Will Raap

Organiponico are organic farms and gardens of a few thousand square feet to several acres located in urban areas. Vacant lots, old parking lots, abandoned building sites, spaces between roads, any available site (even rooftops and balconies) were taken over by thousands of new urban farmers trying to feed themselves and make some money.

In Havana alone, 30,000 residents tend 8,000 community gardens and small farms producing vegetables, fruit, eggs, medicinal plants, honey, and such livestock as rabbits and poultry. These urban farmers produce 30% of the citys vegetables and perishable food. All this produce is organic; chemical pesticides for agriculture are not allowed within the city limits.

Outside of Havana the Organiponico movement is also growing rapidly with impressive results. In 1999 urban agriculture produced 46% of Cubas fresh vegetables, 38% of non-citrus fruit, and 13% of its roots and tubers. The government supports this movement by making land available, by allowing relatively unrestricted free-market sales of the food, and by supporting organic research centers that are making impressive advances in biofertilizers and biopesticides. Cuba leads the developing world in small-scale composting, organic soil reclamation, irrigation and crop rotation research, animal powered traction (oxen) and other innovative practices.

Organoponico plaza, Havana, Cuba. Photograph: James Pagram
Cuba's organic revolutionThe collapse of the Soviet Union forced Cuba to become self-reliant in its agricultural production. The country's innovative solution was urban organic farming, the creation of 'organoponicos'. But will it survive a change of government?
Ed Ewing reports, Friday April 04 2008 01:02 BST \

when the USSR collapsed in 1990/91, Cuba's ability to feed itself collapsed with it. "Within a year the country had lost 80% of its trade," explains the Cuba Organic Support Group (COSG). Over 1.3m tonnes of chemical fertilisers a year were lost. Fuel for transporting produce from the fields to the towns dried up. People started to go hungry. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) estimated that calorie intake plunged from 2,600 a head in the late 1980s to between 1,000 and 1,500 by 1993.

Radical action was needed, and quickly. "Cuba had to produce twice as much food, with less than half the chemical inputs," according to the COSG. Land was switched from export crops to food production, and tractors were switched for oxen. People were encouraged to move from the city to the land and organic farming methods were introduced.

"Integrated pest management, crop rotation, composting and soil conservation were implemented," says the COSG. The country had to become expert in techniques like worm composting and biopesticides. "Worms and worm farm technology is now a Cuban export," says Dr Stephen Wilkinson, assistant director of the International Institute for the Study of Cuba.

Thus, the unique system of organoponicos, or urban organic farming, was started. "Organoponicos are really gardens," explains Wilkinson, "they use organic methods and meet local needs."

"Almost overnight," says the COSG, the ministry of agriculture established an urban gardening culture. By 1995 Havana had 25,000 huertos allotments, farmed by families or small groups and dozens of larger-scale organoponicos, or market gardens. The immediate crisis of hunger was over.

Now, gardens for food take up 3.4% of urban land countrywide, and 8% of land in Havana. Cuba produced 3.2m tonnes of organic food in urban farms in 2002 and, UNFAO says, food intake is back at 2,600 calories a day.

Organoponico plaza
A visit to Havana's largest organoponico, the three-hectare Organoponico Plaza, which lies a stone's throw from the city's Plaza de la Revolucin and the desk of Raul Castro, confirms that the scheme is doing well. Rows of strikingly neat irrigated raised beds are home to seasonal crops of lettuces, spring onions, chives, garlic and parsley.


Revisted: Cuba's Urban Vegetable Farms

He gestured to the rows of vegetables--beets, spinach, chives, planted in neat beds. As we made our way through the herb garden, he then started explaining the benefits of the herbs to me: siempre viva is for headaches, chamomile helps with skin problems, anise is to give you a strong stomach. Or, as Nestor put it, "Le da animo." It gives you spirit.

We stopped under the shade of fruit trees, where he showed me a passionfruit, still green on the tree, and then a noni fruit, pale yellow and naturally pocked. He picked a few small ripe bananas for me to try.

"If this wasn't a garden, it would be filled with garbage. Instead, all year long we have food for the people," Nestor said, then added the distinctly Cuban phrase, "Tiene que resolver."

"Resolver" has been Cuban's battle cry, chant, groan since the Special Period. It means to find a way to survive, to make the impossible, possible. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, Cuba lost 80 percent of its imports. Known as the "The Special Period," government food rations were cut in half, public buses didn't run, and blackouts rolled through the cities. Hoping to crush the government, the United States tightened the embargo by passing the Cuban Democracy Act (1992) that prevents the docking at a U.S. port of any ship that has docked in Cuba six months prior or that plans to visit Cuba within six months after. This further reduced food and medicine reaching the island.More: /

Organic Farming Feeds A Nation
by Renee Kjartan

A recent report shows that organic farming--often considered an insignificant part of the food supply--can feed an entire country.

Titled "Cultivating Havana: Urban Agriculture and Food Security in the Years of Crisis," the report found that in Cuba, many of the foods people eat every day are grown without synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides. The author, Catherine Murphy, works with the Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First. Based in Oakland, CA, the group works for sustainable farming.

How did Cuba's organic food movement begin? It took a severe crisis for this to happen.

Cubans have been teaching this method to Venezuelans!


The garden - named after Mr Chavez's hero Simon Bolivar,
the 19-Century independence fighter - holds workshops for
university students and organises visits for schoolchildren.
"They can then replicate what they've learnt in their homes,"
Juan says.

"Even if they do not have a garden, they can plant vegetables
in boxes and put them on window sills or rooftops."

Successful stall

The harvested crops are sold from a stall by the garden.
The prices are lower than in the supermarkets. Four organic
lettuces, for example, cost less than half a dollar. The
stall opens at 0830 each morning - by lunchtime, most of
the vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers have been sold.

Text: Nathalie Malinarich.
Photos: Emma Lynch.

Small photo journal:

Caracas, Venezuela Embraces City Gardening for Improved Nutrition, Jobs
Linked by Michael Levenston

Photo: Urban farm located in central Caracas, Venezuelan next to the Hilton Hotel.

Before the revolution that threw out dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, and to some extent during the years of Soviet support for Cuba, the island followed a typical pattern of colonial food production: It produced luxury export crops while importing food for its own people. In 1990 over 50 percent of Cuba's food came from imports. Says the report: "In the Caribbean, food insecurity is a direct result of centuries of colonialism that prioritized the production of sugar and other cash crops for export, neglecting food crops for domestic consumption." In spite of efforts by the revolutionary government to correct this situation, Cuba continued in this mold until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989.

The withdrawal of Soviet aid meant that 1,300,000 tons of chemical fertilizers, 17,000 tons of herbicides and 10,000 tons of pesticides could no longer be imported, according to the report.

One of Cuba's responses to the shock was to develop "urban agriculture," intensifying the previously established National Food Program, which aimed at taking thousands of poorly utilized 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.

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Billy Burnett Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-06-08 09:55 AM
Response to Reply #31
32. Great links and pics. Thanks for posting them
As usual, Judi Lynn, a nice collection of information. :toast:

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happydreams Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-06-08 02:22 PM
Response to Reply #31
34. Thanks for digging all of this up Judi especially the info on Venezuela.....
Edited on Sat Sep-06-08 02:25 PM by happydreams
The thing that blows me away is that fruits and veggies were in short supply until AFTER the fall of the Soviet Union. The crisis turned into a boon for producing these foodstuffs.

The US needs to study this success story and see how it could be applied in the US.

On edit: The stigma of "campesino" is another twist to this story that I find interesting. Who woulda' thunk it.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-06-08 04:59 PM
Response to Reply #34
38. It's a story worth celebrating, isn't it? Reagan and the Cuban Batistiano faction in Miami really
thought they were going to bring these guys to their knees when they were able to manuever Russia into cutting Cuba lose totally as a means of ending the Cold War, just like the old Breckenridge Amendment from 1897 said:
We must impose a harsh blockade so that hunger and its constant companion, disease, undermine the peaceful population and decimate the Cuban army.

They've been plotting against Cuban sovereignty a very long time, and the hardship has produced a very resourceful group of skilled, capable, independent people!
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happydreams Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-09-08 03:26 PM
Response to Reply #38
40. What really happened in the lead up and execution of Spanish American War
has never been revealed in mainstream. It is a sordid tale that I have in a book I'm working on.

William Randolph Hearst, who was later an ardent fan of Adolph Hitler, was largely responsible the media blitz promoting the war.

Here's a snip from my book:

--Motivation for Spanish American War and the Panama Canal:
""Rockefeller's paid henchmen on the floor of Congress wanted the war; Hearst and Pulitzer demanded it; Roosevelt and Lodge forced the war; McKinley and Hanna acquiesced in it; and the Rockefeller-Stillman National City Bank benefited most directly from it, for Cuba, the Philippines, and , indeed, all of Latin America soon afteward became dotted with National City branches, and the Cuban sugar industry gravitated into Nation City's hands. Morever, all of Wall Street, its eyes upon South America's rich mineral resources, wanted the Isthmian Canal built; and Cuba and Puerto Rico bore a strategic relation to the control of such a canal. "(Lundberg, 60 families)
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diane in sf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-06-08 02:52 PM
Response to Original message
36. This is a great article--should be cross-posted to energy and environment
This why I don't worry about loss of petroleum and chemical inputs to farms--we'd be better off without them.
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