any hope of finding something to eat is in the countryside.
By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – Nature is being very kind to farmers in the Mayari Valley. We have several heavy and gentle showers, at intervals, every week, giving great life to our crops. More than half of everything here depends upon the rain because, while we are surrounded by water in rivers, streams and a big dam, farmers don’t have access to irrigation systems for many reasons.
The main reason is that bureaucrats spent the limited resources allocated by the State (because it isn’t a normal market but works by allocation) on channeling water to less fertile areas that are further away. They lack a labor force and need electricity to irrigate their fields. The decision left a great deal of the fertile valley waiting. Situated just beneath the dam that was built in the neighboring mountains they could irrigate with gravity alone. Another benefit is they could do it without the need for additional energy expenditure.
Nope, these are just your everyday gaffs in the centralized state planning. They are repeated time and time again, across the country. This has been going for six long decades, without those in power recognizing it just doesn’t work.
Politics and economic decisions
They also haven’t learned that sticking politics at the center of economic decisions only weighs them down. Likewise, how many directors are useless. These directors are selected by the Communist Party’s artificial “cadre policies”, and not by a process of natural selection. A mess that they say they want to improve, but nothing changes. That’s to say, changing without changing, which seems impossible to do.
Harvests are lost sometimes, or an important part of them anyway, because of a lack of rainfall. This also happens because rains come a week later than what the crops were able to wait out for. Nature doesn’t know that we are here, waiting for its cycles, wishing that they play out in our favor. It doesn’t work like that. Luckily, rains have been punctual this year, which we desperately needed because the crisis is threatening to become a famine.
Hope is in the crops
Even though less corn is planted in the valley during the winter farming season, because approximately 270 hectares are dedicated to growing tobacco, corn crops planted are already looking really good. Decent yields are expected. Also, these cooler months are great for growing sweet potatoes, cassava, beans, tomatoes, leafy vegetables, herbs and pretty much everything. I’ve seen many people really motivated to plant crops, as if it were a matter of life or death.
You can also sense fear in the air when it comes to sales. That’s taking into account that everything you buy on the street is ridiculously expensive. The State wants prices of agricultural produce to remain the same for the farmers that grow it. They also demand that farmers hand over pretty much their entire harvest, under the threat of being fined. Some farmers who didn’t comply with ACOPIO (Cuba’s State purchasing entity) have already been fined. This is expected to serve as a warning for others.
However, despite all the uncertainty during this current crisis and reforms announced by the government, everybody knows that “we have to plant because things are bad.”
There’s no doubt whatsoever, because not only is food getting more expensive, but you also can’t find it in stores. Not even in semi-private or state-owned markets, which had a pretty stable supply up until very recently.
Shelves remain empty at times, or even for a few days at a time. That’s why any hope of finding something to eat is in the countryside. So the rain is for us in Mayari is a blessing.