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A monthly news brief highlighting news and events related to
agriculture, food and the environment in Cuba.

August News Summary

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
 
Please see below summaries on food, agriculture and environment related news in Cuba. 
 
¿Esperar por frijoles?
“Waiting for beans?”
*Article posted in Spanish
By: Juventud Rebelde, August 4, 2020
Cuba’s bean count is down. The country, which demands 70,000 tons of pulses every year, only expects to produce 10% of that figure in 2020.  Constraints on the Cuban economy due to the current global pandemic and tightening of the U.S. blockade, not to mention plagues and climate change, have forced farmers to reduce planting by almost half this year,  as this staple product almost disappears from Cuban tables. But used to adversity the island is turning to science to boost pulse production. With limited options, the country’s scientific and academic institutions - such as the Cuban Institute for Grain Research; National Agricultural Sciences Institute and Marta Abreu Central University - are putting their heads together to find economically viable alternatives. One such is to produce more resistant varieties of pulses, such as chickpeas. For senior sector officials it’s a question of adaptation and diversification, supported by knowledge sharing, scientific advances and strategic investments, not only to recover pulse production, but also satisfy national demand, substitute imports and achieve food sovereignty.
 
 
Medios biológicos, agroecología que requiere la agricultura moderna
Biological means, the agroecology that modern agriculture needs
*Article posted in Spanish
By:  Luz Marina Reyes Caballero, Periódico 26, August 3, 2020
Cuban farmers aren’t waiting around; with access to industrial pesticides all but cut off, campesinos are turning to cheaper, more environmentally friendly and sustainable methods of production.  The country’s strained financial situation, exacerbated by the tightening of the U.S. blockade and global coronavirus pandemic, has meant that the longstanding use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers is no longer an option. Cuban farmers, alongside national institutions, are turning to agroecology and domestically produced bioproducts for solutions. This necessarily involves changing traditional agricultural methods and mentalities. No small task. However, the country’s current reality means that institutions and producers are embracing the challenge. Working side by side, all tiers of the agricultural sector are uniting efforts toward expanding the use of proven bioproducts and practices. A bit like Cuba’s National Healthcare system, the idea being promoted is prevention over cure, with timely and strategic planting methods to help ward off plagues and pests, while protecting crops from the impact of climate change. Cuba’s move toward agroecology as a viable and beneficial way forward takes on greater significance this year - declared International Year of Plant Health, by the UN, to raise global awareness on how plant health can end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment and boost economic development.


Evalúan acciones ambientales en comunidad de Nuevitas incluida en Proyecto internacional de resiliencia costera
Environmental  actions and international coastal resilience project reviewed in the community of Nuevitas.
*Article posted in Spanish
By:  Lauris Henriquez Arocha,Radio Nuevitas,  August 5, 2020
On a small island developing state in the middle of the Caribbean, like Cuba, coastal areas are especially vulnerable to climate change. That’s why an international resilience project has been established in the community of Nuevitas on the northeast of Camaguey. The initiative aims to support local adaptation and mitigation efforts, research and disaster response actions. In Nuevitas locals and state institutions are working together to develop natural solutions that will enable the community to effectively adapt to climate change.  Conscious that human activity also poses a threat to coastal habitats and ecosystems, Camagüey's Environmental research center (CIMAC) is helping to refine strategies that can be harmoniously implemented in and by the community.  With the need to confront climate change growing by the day, this experimental project, present in 3 key provinces and 15 coastal municipalities along Cuba’s north central coastline, forms part of ongoing efforts within the comprehensive State Plan known as Tarea Vida (Project Life).
 
 
Cuba coloca al municipio como nuevo trampolín para el desarrollo
Cuban municipalities, a springboard for local development 
*Article posted in Spanish
By: Luis Brizuela, IPS Cuba, August 8, 2020
Urgently needing to increase economic-productive activity in the country, the Cuban state is harnessing the power of the municipality -  its cooperatives and small and medium sized businesses - to boost local, and in turn, national development. After years of experimenting with different economic strategies triggered by external pressures and internal challenges, the Cuban government has now settled on moderate economic and administrative decentralization to try and galvanize the resources and existent potential in local areas to achieve its socio-economic goals. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, Alejandro Gil, signaled increasing food production as one of the policy’s immediate aims. Buttressed by institutional and legislative actions, including Cuba’s new Constitution approved in February 2019 after a popular referendum, local agricultural projects are already underway to generate sustainable agroecological food production, in an attempt to help remedy the impact of climate change, an economy crippled by U.S. sanctions, dilapidated agroindustry sector, low yields and inefficient management models. On paper it all looks very promising, but caution has been advised, Mayra Espina, Cuban sociologist of the Swiss Agency for Social and Economic Development highlighted various problems that could arise, including a lack of proper training for authorities in charge of implementing and accompanying changes, and delays in establishing a normative framework to support the policy. Nonetheless, if done well, this policy could usher in a  new era of enhanced community engagement and economic efficiency, and with regard to food production specifically, help to achieve local self-sufficiency and reduce the country’s almost 2 billion USD annual food imports bill. 
 
 
Proyecto internacional Resiliencia costera en Cuba, ya exhibe logros en Caibarién
International Project Coastal Resiliency in Cuba is already exhibiting achievements in Caibarién
*Article posted in Spanish 
By: Yudith Delgado Rodríguez, Félix Alexis Correa, Cubadebate, August 12, 2020 
The international project “Building Coastal Resilience in Cuba through natural solutions to Climate Change” began in Villa Clara in the midst of COVID19. The project is designed to strengthen Cuba’s integrated and comprehensive approach to disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate changes. Project coordinator MSc. Luis Orlando Pichardo Moya explained that thus far a project management team has been established and is working directly with the community and local government to design and implement actions based on local conditions and coherent with  territorial and sectoral plans. The project forms part of Cuba’s State Plan to confront Climate Change, “Tarea Vida,” (Project Life). Pichardo Moya also highlighted how data collection of local ecosystems and environmental conditions is contributing to the development of  different adaptation projects. State organizations are also actively involved in the project including those linked to agriculture,  agroforestry, urban farming and beekeeping, as well as the Center for Environmental Studies and Services. The plan is to strengthen environmental, agroforestry, and food infrastructure in Punta Brava through the rehabilitation of mangroves; sustainable food production based on knowledge sharing, strategic planning and the use of agroecological practices; and the reactivation of beekeeping in the municipality. The National Institute of Hydraulic Resources also plays an important part in such efforts, responsible for rainwater, sanitation, and waste management. The Coastal Resilience is funded by the EU under the Global Alliance Against Climate Change Program and implemented by the UNDP and in collaboration with Cuba’s Environmental Agency within the Ministry of Science, Technology, and the Environment (CITMA). 
 
 
Organizaciones ambientalistas de Cuba apoyan acciones gubernamentales para la protección de la vida silvestre
Cuban Environmental organizations support governmental actions for the protection of wildlife
*Article posted in Spanish
By: Granma, August 16, 2020
The Cuban Journal of Biological Sciences published a declaration by Cuban environmental organizations supporting governmental actions for the protection of wildlife and prevention against the illegal trade in flora and fauna. The declaration praises the fact that Cuba signed the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Fauna and Flora and the Convention on Migratory Species.  The document emphasizes the need to promote actions to protect wildlife and natural heritage, which should be the basic ethical principles of any society. The declaration also addresses the urgent need to adopt measures to counter illegal capture, collection, use and trade of wildlife species, which negatively impact these diverse, fragile ecological networks and ecosystems. It calls for efforts to strengthen surveillance, detection and reporting mechanisms, as well as the rigorous application of the relevant legislation and legal provisions. In addition, the declaration considers how these efforts can further knowledge of the local population and how scientific research can contribute to decision-making. Lastly, the declaration applauds the approval, by Cuba’s Council of Ministers, of the governmental plan and other related protocols to protected areas of wild flora and fauna in the greater Caribbean region. It adds that these international agreements signal the “Cuban State’s concern and commitment to protecting its national resources, especially flora and fauna in the country and the region.” The declaration was signed by the directors of the Cubana de Zoología, Cubana de Botánica, and the Ariguanabo and Antonio Núñez Jiménez de la Naturaleza y el Hombre foundations. 
 
 
Volcarse al campo sin pérdidas de tiempo ni de reservas productivas
No time to waste: Maximizing efficiency and productive reserves in Cuban fields
*Article posted in Spanish
By: Freddy Pérez Cabrera  and Julio Martínez  Molina,  Granma, August 22, 2020 
 José Ramón Machado Ventura, the Second Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee visited the provinces of Villa Clara and Cienfuegos, meeting with local leadership and workers in the fields. Machado Ventura spent time reviewing productive reserves and stressed the importance of diversifying agricultural sectors. He also encouraged the greater use of vitro plants, intercropping, promoting animal breeding/husbandry, and maximizing production of food and exports. While expressing the urgent need to fully exploit the productive reserves that contribute to local food security, Machado Ventura, also highlighted current tensions given the coronavirus pandemic and tightening of the United States’ blockade against Cuba. He also noted that despite the scarcity of fertilizers and pesticides, and fuel shortages, the province of Cienfuegos was not only able to recuperate, but also increase “cultivable areas” and soil quality. 
 
 
De tarimas vacías y camiones que no entran
Empty stalls, and no food trucks
*Article posted in Spanish 
By: Dr.C Juan Triana Cordoví, OnCuba, August 24, 2020
It’s Sunday August 23 and the stalls in the main market of the neighborhood of Santiago de Las Vegas, on the outskirts of Havana, are empty. With, according to Dr. C Juan Triana Cordoví, some of the most fertile lands not only in the province but entire western region of Cuba; abundant water supply; microclimate that has even produced strawberries; good transport links; and two renowned scientific institutions dedicated to agricultural production, this is an unusual scenario. But we are experiencing unusual times, in the throes of a global pandemic that has seen populations quarantined, trade buckle and national economies brought to a standstill. So that explains the scarcity, right? Not quite: in his article Dr. Triana Cordoví questions the fundamental and multiple causes of current food shortages in the Cuban capital, as well as potential solutions. From well defined, analyzed and implemented local development strategies that promote self-sufficiency, to better managed and articulated productive chains, for Triana Cordovía a proactive and critical approach to problem solving is half the battle. The other half lies in judicious exploitation of the territory’s abundant resources. Combined they could be enough to ensure a stable and sufficient supply of food, even in times of crisis.
 
 
Más de cuatro mil linieros reparan los daños ocasionados en Cuba por la tormenta tropical Laura
More than four thousand linemen in Cuba repair damage caused by tropical storm Laura
*Article posted in Spanish 
By: Cubadebate, August 26, 2020
Over 4,000 linemen, mobilized across Cuba ahead of tropical storm Laura, are working to repair damage to power lines, reports the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MINEM) – with power restored to 98.5% of clients by 3pm on August 26, according to Cuba’s Union Eletrica (Electric Enterprise). As was expected, the east of the island suffered the most damage, with Pinar del Río and Santiago de Cuba the worst affected provinces. However, less than 24 hours after the passage of the storm repairs to the almost 200 lines damaged in Havana had been completed, with only 37 remaining. Meanwhile over 400,000 people were successfully evacuated ahead of the storm.  As for dwellings, damage was generally concentrated to roofs; although some total collapses were reported. Agriculture was also affected, principally banana, cassava and corn crops in the provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque.


Paso de tormenta tropical Laura afectó sector agropecuario en Artemisa
Tropical Storm Laura impacts crops and livestock in Artemisa
*Article posted in Spanish
By: Cubadebate, August 26, 2020
On Monday August 24, Tropical Storm Laura passed through the western region of Cuba.
The storm caused significant damage to crops and livestock in Artemisa, according to its Provincial Defense Council (CDP). Inadequate protection resulted in partial damage to roofing in various livestock and gastronomy institutions, while loss of power meant that some 15,000 eggs were affected. Yields of banana, cassava, corn and rice are expected to drop after portions of these crops were flattened by the strong winds. Gladys Martínez Verdecia, CDP president, called to act quickly to remedy the effects of the storm by planting short cycle crops and harvesting all others that can still be consumed. As for dwellings, Provincial Housing Director, Dargis Tomé Hernández, reported damage to146 homes, three total collapses and two partial; 37 roofs completely destroyed and 98 partially. Repairs are set to be carried out with resources from the province and should be completed by mid-September. Meanwhile, around 80% of the water and power supply to homes should have been restored by August 26, according to provincial officials.
 

CUSAN is an initiative coordinated by the Vermont Caribbean Institute and funded by the Ford Foundation, the Flora Family Foundation and the Christopher Reynolds Foundation.
 
 
Copyright © 2018 Cuba-US Agroecology Network, All rights reserved.


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