Monday, February 10, 2020

Special Organic Period

Cuba's meandering Rio Cauto in the photo accompanying the Morning Star article.
You can explore the river further on Google Maps; the city in the center of the image
is Guamo Embarcadero; east is up in the view above.
The title of a recent article in Morning Star is a good summary of the results of what might be called an accidental experiment: "Cuban rivers free from pollution thanks to green farming."

The article is correct: several decades of organic farming have led to much cleaner soil and water in Cuba. For what one must presume are ideological reasons, however, author Steve Sweeney neglects to mention the reason Cuba embarked on this experiment. The greening of Cuban agriculture was not a choice; it was simply the only option during Cuba's Special Period.

For several decades, the Soviet Union subsidized Cuba in two ways: it sold petroleum and its derivatives to Cuba very cheaply, and it paid Cuba well above market prices for its sugar and other crops.

When the USSR collapsed, the Special Period began, and Cuba -- to its credit -- got VERY creative and thrifty. There was a lot of suffering but also a lot of innovation. One example was the gathering of citizen work crews to convert freight vehicles into public buses.
My favorite example of collaboration during the Special Period:
citizen brigades turned lowboy trailers into public buses,
known as camels.
In agriculture, Cuban farmers had to learn quickly how to grow crops without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. My visit to Cuba was in the very early days of my interest in coffee, but I was already aware that the seedling nursery we visited on the outskirts of Havana was not at a high enough elevation for coffee production. It was, however, a suitable site for giving organic coffee plants a healthy start.
This might be my first #coffeemaven photo!
It is, of course, not permitted for U.S. citizens, residents, or visitors to buy Cuban coffee (our claims of being the freest nation on earth notwithstanding), unless one gets a Treasury Department waiver under the Trading with the Enemies Act (I am not making this up). We had such a permit for our 2003 visit. One can, however, order Cuban style coffee from Paul Katzeff ("God's Gift to Coffee") at Thanksgiving Coffee.

Lagniappe

Readers may explore a region just to the east of what is show above in my 2013 Hoguín Son post, which I wrote a decade after my only (so far) visit to the island.

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