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

February News Summary  

 
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
 
On February 23rd the Senate approved the nomination of Tom Vilsack as the next agriculture secretary by a 92-7 vote. Vilsack was the agriculture secretary during both Obama terms from 2009-2017. During this time Vilsack made two trips to Cuba, hosted the Cuban Minister of Agriculture, Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero, on his trip to the US and signed two MOUs with the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture. Unsurprisingly, Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott voted against Vilsack’s nomination citing his efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. However, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who supports engagement with Cuba, also voted against Vilsack’s nomination stating, “I opposed his confirmation today because at a time when corporate consolidation of agriculture is rampant and family farms are being decimated, we need a secretary who is prepared to vigorously take on corporate power in the industry.” While Vilsack is an ally for normalizing relations with Cuba, his second term will need to bring significant transformative changes to truly address the multiple crisis facing our global agrifood systems including the breakup of corporate power and consolidation, investment in agroecology to build resilience to the climate crisis, and enabling locally controlled food systems to thrive. Cuba has made advances in these last two points and should be priority areas for collaboration between our countries.
 
Some of the news stories from Cuba this month include: The Ministry of Agriculture in Cuba put out a report that outlines the financial toll that the agricultural sector in Cuba has suffered in the last year because of the US blockade. The Indio Hatuey Agricultural Experimental Research Station has been successfully trialing agroecological potato production, a strategic crop given its popularity in the Cuban diet and its high dependence on synthetic inputs. In order to address the need for animal protein, there has been an increase in the promotion of small livestock (sheep, goat and rabbit) production with promising results. The ManglarVivo project reports on advances implementing ecosystem based adaptation strategies to address the impacts of climate change.
 
If you have not had time to donate to our tractor fundraiser, we are still receiving donations. Please consider supporting the Finca del Medio family farm in Cuba.
 
We will be hosting the 4th session of our virtual conference series Resistance and Resilience: Responses to the Climate Crisis from Cuba and Puerto Rico on March 11th 3-5pm EST. This session will focus on Energy Transformations. You can find more information and register here.
 
 
NEWS
 
Estación Experimental de Pastos y Forrajes Indio Hatuey contribuye a la sustitución de importaciones
“Indio Hatuey Pasture and Forage Experiment Station Contributes to Import Substitution”
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: Lyl Jiménez Rodríguez, January 27, 2021 
In 2020 the Indio Hatuey Pasture and Forage Experimental Station received the Innovative Entity award by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment (CITMA). At Indio Hatuey, a variety of experiments are being carried out to enhance national agricultural efforts. A silvopastoral system is currently being studied on-site, in which high protein animal feeds are evaluated. A postgraduate student at the center demonstrates the high production rates of the organoponic systems as part of their thesis research. There are also current efforts to study potato production, with yields ranging from 15-18 tons per hectare. This particular experiment has extended to several municipalities in the province and uses two varieties of seed. 
 
“Papa cultivada con métodos y principios agroecológicos, una opción para contribuir con la soberanía alimentaria en Cuba”
“Potato Cultivated with Agroecological Principles and Methods, An Option to Contribute to Food Sovereignty in Cuba” 
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: Yasnier Hinojosa O'farrill, January 29, 2021 
As Cuba makes strides towards food sovereignty, the Indio Hatuey Pasture and Forage Experimental Station’s 2020-2021 research has played an important role. A recent experiment of agroecological potato production has been extended with the support of the National Institute of Agricultural Sciences, the Villa Clara Plant Biotechnology Institute, the National Center for Agricultural Health, and the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAG). Nationally produced tubers of the Romano variety are being used in 46 peasant farms in the province of Matanzas, with about 42 hectares under production, with the aim of achieving a yield between 17 and 20 t/ha. So far, the experiment has generally shown satisfactory results. This recent study demonstrates the importance of multi-stakeholder research projects, including government entities, private companies, and universities, in order to achieve innovative models that foster better results in national food production.
 
Evalúan en patrimonio forestal matancero captación de CO2
“They Evaluate CO2 Capture in Matanzas Heritage Forest”
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: Yunielis Moliner Isasi, January 31, 2021 
Since 2013, the Matanzas Agroforestry Company monitors the environmental services that forests provide, in particular their capacity to capture carbon dioxide. The agroforestry company creates criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management and actively monitors the emission of atmospheric carbon and the sequestration of CO2. If there are high rates of emissions the company takes one of two courses of action, one, increasing the hectares dedicated to silvicultural management, and two, the reduction of the area that is cut down in a year. The Matanzas Agroforestry Company, which is part of the Ecovalor project, is in the process of creating a 1,500-hectare carbon sequestration forest estate.
 
El bloqueo significó en un año pérdidas millonarias para la agricultura cubana
“The Blockade Results in Millions Lost for Cuban Agriculture”
*Article Posted in Spanish
By: Gladys Leidys Ramos López, February 4, 2021 
Although the economic, commercial, and financial blockade by the US government transversally affects the economic and social life of the country, the agricultural sector is one of the sectors that is most directly affected by the coercive measure. It affects not only the exportation and importation of goods but also creates difficulties in acquiring technologies and other inputs needed to produce food for the population. According to a study published by the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAG), in a period spanning from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020, the impact on this sector totaled $USD350,598,937. According to the MINAG publication, among the main obstacles is not being able to access the United States market, one of the world's leading importers whose proximity to Cuba makes it advantageous, in relation to other destinations. The need to import items from markets as far away as Europe, China and India, has also contributed to the industry’s high costs. 
 
Una Tarea que da Vida
“A Life-giving Task”
*Article Posted in Spanish
By: Ministry of Science, Technology, and the Environment, February 5, 2021 
The Tarea Vida is a public policy put forth by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA) to address climate change. Odalys de la Caridad Goicochea Cardoso, general director of environment of CITMA noted this week that, “our preliminary assessment today is that many activities in the economy have come to a halt and, therefore, the emission of greenhouse gases has slowed. For this reason, the post-Covid recovery must be done in a sustainable way, in order to counteract negative issues for the planet.” The implementation of activities that contribute to the objectives of Tarea Vida have been carried out in coordination with a diversity of institutions across the island to reforest mangroves, rehabilitate beaches, and continue to conduct research so that activities are based on scientific evidence.  
 
Polymita de Cuba por título de molusco del año
“Polymita of Cuba to Win Title of Mollusk of the Year”
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: Presna Latina, February 8, 2021 
Cuba's polymita picta is among the five finalists selected to compete for the title of “Mollusc of the Year 2021”.  Said snail is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. There were over 120 nominees in the contest, held by the Translational Biodiversity Genomics Center and Unitas Malacologica. According to scientific literature, these mollusks belong to a class of gastropod hermaphrodites, with two oral and two ocular tentacles. Their shell is known for its extraordinary striped colors. Currently, Cuban environmentalists work hard to protect the rare mollusk, which is threatened by habitat loss and over-harvesting for private collections.  
 
Responde Agricultura santiaguera ante necesidad de producir más alimentos
“Agriculture from Santiago Responds to the Need to Produce more Food”
*Article Posted in Spanish
By: María Antonia Téllez Feburary 10, 2021 
The province of Santiago adopts urgent measures to produce more food in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and due to the resurgence of the economic, financial, and commercial blockade by the United States. Cesar Vázquez, Delegate of Agriculture in Santiago, notes that state, private, and cooperative lands have been grouped together in order to enhance production. Residents are currently receiving 30 pounds of fruit, vegetables, and grains and five kilograms of meat. Through the new Ordinance Task, more hectares will be dedicated for the production of export products, destined for the special zone of Mariel and other ports. In an effort to support the economy exports will focus on citrus under agroecological production. 
 
Monitorean implementación de la Tarea Ordenamiento en el Ministerio de la Agricultura
“The Ministry of Agriculture to Monitor the Implementation of the Ordering Task”
*Article Posted in Spanish
By: Tony Hernández Mena, ACN, February 10, 2021 
The Agri-Food Commission of the National Assembly of People's Power has implemented twenty-four measures aimed at supporting the agricultural sector with the Economic-Social Strategy and, in particular, of the Ordinance Task within the Ministry of Agriculture. To date, eighteen measures are actively being executed, while the remaining six are currently being proposed and awaiting approval of the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers. It has been determined that the municipal self-sufficiency program currently only reaches twenty-three pounds per inhabitant, out of the thirty pounds sought to be achieved next year. In monitoring the new Ordinance Task the Ministry detected various issues on both a productive, administrative, and operational level within the cooperatives. Among other irregularities, they reported overdue debts for more than 184 million pesos from the Capital Market Company with the agricultural companies of Artemisa and Mayabeque, making it impossible to access new bank loans.
 
Por la buena semilla comienzan los rendimientos
“Yields Begin with Good Seed”
*Article Posted in Spanish
By: Luz Marina Reyes Caballero, Periodico 26, February 10, 2021 
The Project for Agricultural and Local Innovation (PIAL), in the province of Las Tunas, promotes agricultural research on over 40 farms and within eight municipalities throughout the region. The project has a special focus on the production of seeds, studying different varieties and their capacity to adapt to climatic conditions within the territory. Doctor of Science, Raquel Ruz Reyes, professor at the University of Tunera and coordinator of the PIAL emphasizes that this work is vital for finding varieties capable of adapting to common adversities such as drought, pests, and disease. In order to promote food sovereignty and autonomy amongst farmers, the program also works to train farmers in seed-saving practices. The farms involved in the project also serve as research sites for students studying agriculture within the university, the students are responsible for monitoring the research results.
 
Cuba: Planting on Rooftops and in Backyards
*Article Posted in English
By: Ernesto Verdecia,  Havana Times, February 10, 2021 
Journalist Ernesto Verdecia, follows the stories of two urban farmers in the Santa Fe district of Havana, demonstrating a pathway towards food sovereignty. Oscar, a young and enthusiastic farmer grows on his rooftop. This innovative farmer has created a cloth structure to protect his plants, as one of the largest challenges he faces is wind on the rooftop. Ricardo, the second farmer, notes that he struggles to find good seed, often seed from abroad is not adapted to the local climate or he has a hard time finding seed with a high germination rate. Despite the challenges these urban farmers face they find great joy in producing their own food and are so successful that they even provide fresh produce for their neighbors. 
 
Manglar Vivo, trabajo en conjunto entre hombre y naturaleza
“Live Mangrove, joint Work Between Man and Nature”
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By Lorena Chávez Fernández, ACN, February 15, 2021 
With rising sea levels, the loss of natural barriers due to hurricanes, and increased salinity of aquifers on farmland, protecting mangroves is a high priority for the Cuban state. To address these issues over the last six years, the project Manglar Vivo has been working to restore these fragile coastal ecosystems. The project is sponsored in Cuba by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), on the southern coast of the Artemisa and Mayabeque provinces, and is led by the Ministry of Agriculture, Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA). José Manuel Guzmán Menéndez, technical director of Manglar Vivo, recently shared with the Cuban News Agency a summary of the project results, which used Ecosystem-Based Adaptation Methods (EbA). The study concluded that the red mangrove species are the most effective in buffering the ecosystem and embarked on a rehabilitation process to protect them. The study also concluded that the profitability of the EbA approach multiplied up to six times the money initially invested in the Manglar Vivo project when accounting for the value of ecosystem services. The project also developed a plan aimed at promoting the use of Melipona bees, as an economic alternative for local communities and a complement to wetland rehabilitation actions, increasing pollination services.
 
¿Cómo marcha el desarrollo del ganado menor en el país?
“How is the Development of Small Livestock in the Country?”
*Article Posted in Spanish
By: Gladys Leidys Ramos López,  Julio Martínez Molina, Granma, Feb 16, 2021 
Cuba currently imports 2 billion tons of products destined for the population’s basic food basket, which is a very high figure considering the difficult financial situation Cuba finds itself in, caused by the economic blockade from the US and the COVID-19 pandemic. Cuban farmers are actively diversifying their livestock in order to offer an array of meats, in order to ensure the five kilograms quota of protein per capita per month supplied by the government. The department of agriculture (MINAG) has shared that they would like to reach a national goal of 4.1 million sheep; 1.9 million goats, and 6.6 million rabbits destined for meat production. The program also seeks to ensure new technologies to support the increased production of eggs, a key component of the Cuban diet, resulting in a demand nationally of over 4 billion eggs per year. 
 
Arrancó procesamiento industrial en mayor polo tomatero de Cuba
“Industrial Processing Started in the Largest Tomato Center in Cuba”
*Article Posted in Spanish
By: Ortelio González Martínez, Granma, February 22, 2021 
Following extensive investments, the 60-year-old canning factory located in Majagua, Ciego de Ávila is now in production. The largest tomato producer in Cuba began processing fruit for the production of sauces, intended for national consumption. From February to April, the factory expects to process over 5,000 tons of tomatoes. They are making use of the factory’s old equipment by using a Yugoslav concentrator that has been in operation for more than six decades. According to specialists from the provincial delegation of agriculture, the current tomato harvest is struggling due to meteorological events, insufficient temperatures to support flowering, and the lack of agricultural inputs caused by the blockade and the economic crisis of COVID-19. The factory will currently be supplied by fifteen local CPA and CSS,  all located in the Mamonal area. 
 
The Unintended Environmental Benefit of Cuba's Isolation
*Article Posted in English 
By: Katarina Zimmer, National Geographic, February 23, 2021 
According to a collaborative study between Cuban and US scientists, recently published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Cuba has a relatively low number of invasive species in comparison to its Caribbean counterparts. The researchers surveyed 45 islands across the Caribbean and believe that these results are linked to Cuba’s isolation post-revolution. According to the study, only 13 percent of Cuba’s plant species are non-native, by contrast, around 30 percent of plant species in Puerto Rico and Grand Cayman, and nearly 20 percent on the islands of Jamaica and Hispaniola. The invasive species that were found on the island were mostly from Asia, Africa, and the Americas, most likely reflecting Cuba’s trading patterns. This study demonstrates how politics, tourism, and global trade can affect local ecologies. 
 
 

CUSAN is an initiative coordinated by the Caribbean Agroecology 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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