Going Green in Cuba!

Dana Silverman

Let’s talk about one of my favorite subjects: food! More specifically, let’s talk about Cuban food. A quick Google image search will have you drooling over pictures of braised lamb, chicken with rice, potato balls, and pork sandwiches. Those lucky enough to visit Havana have to stop by an organopónicos farm, where all the fresh ingredients that give rise to Cuba’s amazing foods are grown. Witness the benefits of food sustainability techniques that have attracted chefs, politicians, farmers, and scientists from across the globe who hope to replicate their success.

Organopónicos (organoponics) is a term that originated in Cuba to describe the country’s local, simplistic farming approach to generating sustainable food production with a minimal amount of resources. This system arose out of necessity, when the country lost the Soviet Union as one of its biggest trading partners during its historic collapse at the end of the 20th century. With the United States’ embargo on Cuba still restrictive during this time, Cubans were forced to rely on antiquated farming techniques – oxen instead of tractors, manure for fertilizer – in order to feed themselves. From these circumstances emerged organopónicos farms: community-driven, locally grown, and self-sufficient.

Pay a visit to Vivero Alamar to get a first-hand look at the fascinating 25-acre farm within a public housing project that contains livestock, fruits, herbs, vegetables, all used to feed the surrounding community. With more than 200 organopónicos gardens that provide nearly all of the fruit and vegetables for the city, Vivero Alamar is one of the largest facilities of its kind in Havana. Farming is such an integral part of the community of Las Terrazas that children learn how to grow and use medicinal herbs while in school. Organopónicos receives strong support from the Cuban government, which has supplied such projects with natural pesticides, and agrarian experts to train volunteers. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has determined that such practices are less expensive than industrial-based methods of farming, and less detrimental to the environment. A win-win for everyone!

The success of places like Vivero Alamar and Las Terrazas has inspired communities from all over the globe! Ordinary travelers can leave Cuba with a better understanding of the nation’s culture, history, and cuisine just by seeing organopónicos in action. Stray off the beaten tourist track with a visit to a few of these farms as well as nearby national reserves for an up-close look at Cuba’s flora and fauna. Going green in Cuba has multiple benefits!

For those who want to know more, these two articles provide a great introduction to the practice of organic farming in Cuba.

 

Dana credits her passion for travel to Girl Scouts, which provided her with amazing opportunities to attend summer camps throughout the United States during her childhood. She’s lived in Australia and New Zealand, and she’s planning a trip to Japan around her appreciation for the country’s cuisine and temples.