By Carlyle MacDuff
HAVANA TIMES – Following the implosion of the USSR in 1989/90, which previously gave major financial and economic support to Cuba, Fidel Castro found it necessary to impose what he described as the “Special period”. This meant that Cuban’s had to further tighten their belts and not only survive on reduced rations, but find means of obtaining additional funds to extend those rations with purchases on the ilicit market, which still forms an essential component of Cuba’s economy.
The Castro regime ever cunning in converting a liability into an asset, honed in upon the need for the urban community to develop what during the Second World War were described in the UK as allotments. In Cuba they call them “urban agriculture” and take visiting overseas groups on tours to see their benefits. The major product of this urban agriculture is lettuce of rapidly wilting varieties rather than cos types, produced on raised beds.
Although thus displaying the horticultural side of urban agriculture, the regime fails to take the tours to visit urban livestock producers of whom there are many thousands and are economically more important.
Their major product is pork from pigs kept in fairly unsavory conditions in the small backyards behind the ramshackle homes. Usually kept in sties made with concrete block walls and rough metal roofing, the pigs are when adult, then sold to those who sell pork for a living from their front porch having been slaughtered by having their throats slit.
In addition to the pigs, a few hens and cockerels – some used for illegal cock fighting, peck around and a fortunate few Cubans keep a horse to pull their little sulkies as family transport. Keeping guard over the assorted livestock there will be a dog chained permanently to an old oil drum as a kennel.
The consequences of such livestock urban agriculture are that the urban neighbors are not only subject to that unmistakable rural farmyard stench, but to the squeal of the pigs, the crowing of the cockerels and the incessant barking of the miserable curs.
This is particularly noticeable during the evening and at night. Loudly crowing Cuban cockerels peculiarly seem to recognize midnight as the start of a new day with the piteous whimpering and howling of hungry dogs especially when there is rain, adding to the chorus.
There remains but one obvious question. Why doesn’t the regime demonstrate the livestock part of Cuba’s urban agriculture to visiting groups? Is it that they don’t wish to admit that their state system fails to supply sufficient protein, or do they not wish to disclose the pitiful conditions under which both the animals and the citizens co-exist?
Related Post: Urban Animal Farms in Havana