Conference Sharing Agroecological Experiences in Cuba

An event shows participants from 26 countries the work of Cuban farming cooperatives, producing the greatest amount of farming products in Cuba.

By IPS Cuba

Grease traps are important as pest control, which is why Cardero uses them on his farm, La Chatarra.  Photo: IPS Cuba Archive

HAVANA TIMES – Including visits to environmentally-friendly farms such as La Chatarra, belonging to farmer Antonio Cardero, the VII Agroecology, Sustainable Farming and Cooperative Movement Conference is currently underway in the western provinces of Havana, Artemisa and Mayabeque.

The event kicked off on November 17th and will end on the 23rd, including an exchange with other farmers such as Cardero, who turned a dump of old car parts into a plot of land, in the Bauta municipality, Artemisa province.

However, the transition “began with a change in my own vision about what a farm is, from a small plot to a holistic agro-system,” the farmer explained, who is the son of farmers in Santiago de Cuba and a Social Sciences graduate.

Environmentally-friendly farms

La Chatarra is one of the 40 environmentally-friendly farms that features on the event program, organized by the ANAP, the National Association of Small Farmers.

At La Chatarra farm, waste on the land, stones and wood gates, which need to be cut during the right phase of the moon, were used.  Photo: IPS Cuba Archive

“I understood that giving up agrochemicals wasn’t enough, a completely different system needed to be built, based on understanding and the management of local resources, as well as natural cycles of energy, water, nutrients and even the Moon,” Cardero pointed out.

With his brother, he has managed to sow 70 different crops in less than a hectare: mangoes and avocadoes all year around, some rare species such as loquat, cashew, soursop and cherimoya; lemon, passionfruit, as well as fowl, goats and pigs.

Practices such as composting, windbreaks, grease and color traps, living and dead barriers, botanical mixtures made with Neem tree, purple basil and coconut water, are all present, as well as another essential thing: beekeeping.

Basic farm work, using the left-over of harvests as compost and agro-diversity make the farm more resilient to pests and disease. Polyculture increases the variety of produce and promotes sales. And direct sowing and cuttings cut the time needed for trees (all of which they have planted themselves) to bear fruit.

Over the years, these experiences, supported by Cardero’s determination to outdo himself and developed with advice from experts at research centers, have contributed to improving the soil quality and to control water, increasing the family’s income in turn.

International congress

Approximately 140 representatives from 26 countries will have the opportunity to exchange and learn about experiences such as Cardero’s own, during a tour of environmentally-friendly farms in western Cuba.

In this seventh edition, panels about family farming, the environment, food security, agro-biodiversity, food sovereignty, incorporating young people and women within agro-ecology systems, etc. will be held, to promote the exchange of different experiences within the environmentally-friendly movement.

During the last days of the event, every country will present its different practices. The largest delegations attending the event come from the US and Puerto Rico, it has been reported.

Organizations called to take part in the conference include Vía Campesina, the international movement that Cuba belongs to and gathers organizations of farmers, small and medium farmers, rural women, indigenous communities, migrant farm workers, young people and day laborers without land, as well as the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations (CLOC).