by Yosley Carrero
Organic farming occupies a key position in the Cuban government’s strategy to increase national food production, a high-ranking official at the Ministry of Agriculture has said.
“Organic farming is part of a strategic system to successfully go through difficult circumstances imposed by the (COVID-19) pandemic worldwide,” Elizabeth Pena, head of the National Group of Urban, Suburban and Family Agriculture told Xinhua in a recent interview as her country implements economic measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic and tightening of the U.S. embargo against the island.
Although “scientific research in Cuba was first applied to organic agriculture practices 50 years ago,” it was not until the late 1980s that it gained ground on the island, giving birth to what was later known as the urban agriculture movement.
In December 1987, Raul Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, proposed extending organic farming nationwide by growing vegetables in family gardens and urban allotments, she said.
Pena, who holds a doctorate in agricultural sciences, is a senior researcher at the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture and also a member of the Cuban State Council.
She said that “organic farming and urban agriculture on the island are profoundly intertwined” and constitutes a viable alternative, adding that Cuba has allocated 8,362 hectares for cultivation of fresh vegetables through organic practices.
“We are producing 1.2 million tons of vegetables a year at organic farms, including intensive gardens, greenhouses, and high-tech farms,” she said.
Currently, more than 707,000 gardens and close to 147,000 suburban farms are part of a national movement aimed at increasing family self-supply and food production at the local level, Pena said.
According to the official, seed production is among the priorities of the nearly 2,200 cooperatives linked to the agroecological movement nationwide. Meanwhile, great attention has been paid to soil fertility, environmental impact, and agroclimatic conditions for the development of organic farming.
As far as foreign investment is concerned, Pena said the country has taken steps to get funding so that agroecological initiatives could help farmers and urban gardeners improve agricultural productivity nationwide.
To do that, trucks, tractors and carts are required for the transportation of organic fertilizers across the country’s 168 municipalities, she said.
“Besides, completion of basic technical infrastructure at agricultural production units for the development of bio preparations and biological control methods is fundamental as well as the acquisition of water-saving irrigation systems,” she said.
Pena said that organic and urban agriculture face new challenges nowadays, particularly those related to food sovereignty, the use of indigenous knowledge in conjunction with scientific expertise, and the promotion of healthy eating habits to improve people’s quality of life.