Cuban Scientist Dreams of a Sustainable Farming Community

This is an article about agroecologist Fernando Funes and his farm “Finca Marta”, in Artemisa, where he has implemented sustainable development models of production and society.

By IPS Cuba

Fernando Funes Monzote, in love with science and farming. Photo: IPS Cuba Archive

HAVANA TIMES – Eight years ago, agricultural engineer Fernando Funes put on a hat, some clothes and wellington boots and set out to take science to the land on his “Finca Marta” farm, which now provides work for 15 people. Today, he wants to expand his experience and create a sustainable farming community.

In the Caimito municipality, in the Artemisa province next to Havana, the farm’s staff grow herbs and vegetables on its eight hectares, keep livestock, produce biogas for the house and it also has its own apiary, all of which are eco-friendly practices.

“We have a level of organization, production and ties with markets that has given us experience, we want to duplicate this elsewhere, creating a community and social dynamic, not just a productive one,” Funes explained to IPS Cuba. Funes transformed a plot of land overrun with weeds into an organic farm.

Sustainable farming community

Funes said he not only wants for this farm to grow, but for this experience to be replicated in as many neighboring plots of land as possible, until a sustainable farming community is created in the next few years.

Finca Marta, the seed of a sustainable farming community farming community. Photo: IPS Cuba Archive

There are many models in the world: ecovillages; the Landless Workers’ Movement, in Brazil, and transition towns, in England, for example.

“Every country has a different model. I have seen and visited many of them, and I wanted to take the best of each experience for our community,” Funes admitted, who dedicated 20 years of his life to research and teaching.

He pointed out that this initiative is a united effort of different farms, who hold onto their individuality within the group, with shared goals such as protecting the environment, production, commercialization, agro-tourism, educational activities and research on and the introduction of renewable energy

“It isn’t only centered around production, but everything leads to it indirectly,” Funes explained.

Then, he added that, within this social and economic dynamic, funds and assets generated would also be invested in the community’s entertainment, such as a swimming pool, social center, a store, for example, where not only the communtiy benefits but other locals in the area too.

“We are going to encourage farms belonging to other families and make a social, human connection with them so that we can work together not only on this small space, but in a larger area, so that more people are looking after the environment, producing food and living in the countryside,” he planned.

Further projects

Planting on Terraces at Finca Marta.  Photo: IPS Cuba Archive

However, this isn’t the only project that Funes has in mind, who has been throwing some conceptual ideas about with experts at NGOs such as Cubasolar and the Antonio Nunez Jimenez Foundation, as well as with experts who have worked on issues relating to communities and landscape architecture.

This entrepreneur is also working on proposals such as a fruit and vegetable company, a cooperative of consumers and an app to inform users when products are available and help facilitate food orders.

While he is working hard to bring his projects to life, the 15-person team on his farm are growing some 60 different types of plants, mainly vegetables, which are then sold to thirty-something private restaurants. They also sell honey to the corresponding state company and they receive tourists, via a travel agency, as part of an agro-tourism project.

12 thoughts on “Cuban Scientist Dreams of a Sustainable Farming Community

  • That Nick is why I mentioned the snake incident (which incidentally was recorded by one of the camera operators who stuck to his position). I learned from it that snakes like the boa constrictor involved, eat seldom and are pretty somnolent, but a TV studio has a lot of very bright powerful lights, and that caused the snake which had been laid along the laps of the front row of the audience, to awaken and take a look around. That was when the trainer and his two assistants, decided to put it back into its big box, with the consequences i described. Once in the dark of the box it decided to snooze – but not before urinating on the hot tiled floor of the studio – I can’t start to describe the stench. But, all the time, the studio audience just sat in their places! The show had to go on and they certainly got their entertainment.
    As you will know, Cuba does have snakes, but all are non-venomous and small, only the crocodiles pose any threat – and fortunately the American ones are only found in the western tip of Guanahacabibes.

  • The agricultural sector is not the only one in which fortunes are made out of the exploitation and abuse of those at the bottom of the pile.
    You are absolutely correct to point out this sad fact Mr MacD.
    And thank you for your bovine insights. It is always good to learn stuff from someone with expertise in their field.

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