Now back to Cuba. About 20 years ago they were using a very oil reliant system to produce crops on large scales. They had access to cheap oil to fuel their system. So what went wrong for them? The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 lead to there cheap oil supply running low. Also the US trade embargo would further lead to a lack of resources to keep the whole system running. Recognise the situation? Understandably their agriculture suffered a steep downturn. Their tractors couldn't be fueled. The oil based fertilisers couldn't be produced. The current system wasn't designed to take such a loss. We see again people focusing on short term goals rather than long term sustainable approaches.
When Cuba was faced with this crisis they had to find some alternatives to food production and become much more self sufficient. Now this is the interesting part that we all can learn from. These days in the capital of Havana there are many urban allotments scattered amongst the buildings. A variety of crops were being grown such as potatoes, beans, maize and many more. But along side these were plants such as marigolds and basil which were there to reduce the amounts of pests that can reach the crops. Sunflowers and corn are grown as well to encourage the helpful insects such as lady birds. There are a chain of 220 bio-pesticide centres promoting and providing safe alternatives to pest control. Fresh fruit and veg is produced for the local communities. No transporting required. You are feed from your local allotment and it is the local people who work on them.
Their system was producing enough for everyone. By 2000, the average daily consumption was 2600 calories and 68 grams of protein which is perfectly reasonable. In 2003 approximately 200,000 people throughout Cuba work to maintain the urban allotments. Also the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture was using 50% less diesel than in 1989 as well as less than 10% of chemical fertilisers and less than 7% of synthetic insecticides. Cuba is now approximately 90% self sufficient. These numbers clearly show that the Cuban agriculture system is far less reliant on oil based products and as a result more sustainable for the future. They will be much more resilient to a future food crisis than many other countries.
Other benefits include a much healthier diet that the west could really do with. Also the systems are better for the environment as less resources are used and there is a huge focus on natural methods of pest control to produce the yields required. Overall the system seems to benefit all. History tells us of a country that suffered a food crisis and recovered using the above system and methods. Around the world this should be adopted so we can all have these benefits and also help reduce the severity of any future food crisis. Cuba has demonstrated to the world an agricultural system that makes sense.
The Vegetable Gardens of Havana