Trip to Guantanamo

“You see…that tiny strip of lights…that’s Guantanamo Bay. Less than 3% of the total territory of this province, yet the only thing the world knows about us”


A twenty-two long hour bus ride, with stops in seven different locations around the island, launched my trip to the 5th International AgroEcology Conference hosted by ANAP, the National Association of Small Producers, in Cuba. For two whole days, we visited urban and rural farms, met with campesinos, representatives of multiple coops and associations, school children, families, and ANAP staff.

Campesinos can be part of two different types of cooperatives in Cuba. CCS’s and CPA’s: Cooperatives of Credit and Services and Cooperatives of Small Producers. The CCS’s we visited have an average of 200 members, and the presidents and representatives of each association are campesinos themselves. Every associate is member of the cooperative’s General Assembly, in which they all vote for candidates for different roles of the association, for the amount of land or products that will be earmarked to fund the cooperative and staff, for capital investments and much more.

Cooperation in Cuba is not just a nice word. It is felt in the spirit of the people, in the pride for their citizenship and their land. In 2008, Law 259 was passed, which gave people the right to petition the government for land that was not being used to start agroecological farms. The “Distribution of Usufruct Land” Law allows farmers become owners of the land and they not only receive incentives but rewards for farming sustainably and being part of the distributed network of campesinos that feed themselves, their communities and their country. The international Campesino a Campesino movement, started by Via Campesina, is an integral part of the Cuban food system. Campesinos, share resources, help, and train each other with the help of ANAP.

ANAP is a non-governmental organization, however, they work closely with the Cuban Department of Agriculture, Trade, Health, among others. Increasing food security and food sovereignty in Cuba  are the government’s mandates, and their tools and systems are guided by the principles of AgroEcology and Sustainable Farming. With the scarce resources of the country, the people have made long leaps and strides into the future of a sustainable and just global food system.

 The children we met at two of the farms we visited, were members of a school interest group who visited and worked in the farm once or twice a week. They gave us presentations about what their groups mission and the principles they were learning about. Composting, the use of animals in the farm, the use of live and death plant barriers to prevent erosion, the benefits of polyculture, vermiculture, the exclusive use of natural and organic inputs to cultivate a healthy land and produce healthy foods, higher in nutrient content than their industrially produced counterparts. There is more. Watch the video. It is incredible.

The general conference wasn’t to begin till we all came back, from all 7 provinces my bus-mates  and I (15 in total) visited, and twenty-two more hours on the road.

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