“I Will Miss Havana”

(A Farewell letter dedicated to ACTAF – Cuban Association of Agriculture and Forestry Technicians)

By Tarirai Mpofu*

Tarirai Mpofu
Tarirai Mpofu

HAVANA TIMES – Depending on what one believes, comments on Cuba by different people take on various shapes and angles. My seven-week stay in Havana gave me an opportunity to also meet other people from different parts of the world such as students, tourists, visitors, volunteers and even diplomats. Their comments on Cuba’s revolution and its Agro-ecological food production ranged from “crazy” to “wonderful”.

At my farewell dinner at the Zimbabwean Embassy I quote myself saying, “Never on earth has a revolution been so deeply committed to save its people. Cuba is a sanctuary of humanity, jealously guarded and driven by selflessly committed scientists and politicians who have like Moses and the Israelites resolutely voyaged their way to the Promised Land of Canaan.”

Yes I call it Canaan a land full of milk and honey, that is what I see in the minds of all the revolutionary leaders of the agroecology program and that is what the optimistic population of Cuba is beginning to witness. Canaan is where markets are overflowing with affordable produce, pantries full and everyone happy. Canaan is where 100% of the population can read and write, Canaan is where the distribution of services is equal. Canaan is where your citizenship and not your money gives you access to good education, health and social facilities and Canaan is Cuba.

I am jealous to see such ‘lowly’ paid professionals doing so much work for their country. How I wish I could smuggle out professor Fernando Funes and let him make his noise in Africa. He is a tireless and focused senior with unquantifiable scientific knowledge in sustainable agriculture. How I wish I could smuggle out Dr Luis Vazquez to help us plan and control our pest management before Monsanto, Syngeta, Bayer and their friends destroy our communities with hazardous pesticides and chemicals.

How I wish I could smuggle out these veterans of agroecology: Miguel Salcines, Luis Pozo Menendez (INFAT), Roberto Gaballero, Luis Sanchez, Emilio Fernandez, Norma Romero, Ecidio, Jose Morales,Medardo Naranjo, Eduardo Martinez, members of the GJA and so many other technicians that I have admired so much.

Anyway, I will try to make use of every piece of information that they have kindly shared with me.

Tarirai Mpofu with draft animal implements. Photo: pinterest.com
Tarirai Mpofu with draft animal implements. Photo: pinterest.com

I am aware of the conventional agriculture system going on in this country, but I see this big wave of agroecology sweeping it off and taking charge of the whole country’s food production system as natural as God himself wanted it.

Cuba has been my best visit ever in life! And don’t be surprised to see me again soon. I will not miss any opportunity made available to come and enjoy once more the most delicious mangoes in the world, the endemic Mamey, Guanabana, Papaya and honey from your stingless bee hives! Hahaa I was going to include cigars too if I was a smoker.

Above all I envy your educational system. How can such an Island under a massive blockade receive students from more than 82 countries to study Sports? How can your school of medicine carry more than 5000 students from South Africa alone? You surely have achieved your millennium development goals in Education and Food security. I am sure Apostle Jose Marti today is happy wherever he is peacefully resting as he said before “The happiest country is the one that has educated its children best, both in how to think for themselves and how to develop their sensibilities.” “An educated country will always be strong and free.”

I leave you a poem:

Now that am going back home I will miss this beautiful Island,
Its endemic flora,
The wide variety of royal palms everywhere,
The Mariposa flower and many other marvellous plants,
That I failed to distinguish.
I will miss the delightful moments of watching the little Colibri flying around my doorway, the smallest bird of the planet.
I will miss the Cotorra parrot, a popular pet in Havana,
That makes unboring noise in every other casa (house),
And cheers me on my way to the market along 19th street.
The cutest vultures that greeted me at the crest of Jose Marti’s memorial tower.

I will miss the most friendly and deeply social humans I have ever seen in the world.
I will miss Cuban gentlemen,
Men of humour and determination,
I will miss the 86 year olds, who still walk upright,
Along 23rd street with long naked bread rolls in their hands from the Casa de pan,
The man who practically refused colonization and kicked Batista out,
And chose to be colonized by tobacco and rum.
I will miss a population with the most striking and passionate women.
The ladies who beautifully decorate the playa every evening,
With their provoking close to naked dress,
In a country where public unwearing act is not part of the constitution.
I will miss the aromatic scent of cigars smoked at La Rampa.
I will miss the scenic tropical sunset at Malecon at 2019 hrs,
Amid the fruitless invitations of Jineteras and procurers.

I will miss the exquisite view of the old Habana from the crest of Jose Marti
Memorial Tower.
I will miss your sovereign police and guards,
Who made charge me 1000% more than locals at Casa de Musica,
For Salsa and Timba hymns that I never understood.
I will miss strolling from 20th street to Capitolio at 12 midnight,
With neither worry nor hurry.
HOO-O I will miss you Havana,
I will miss you Cuba,
I will miss you Fidel, God bless you!
Usted es los más buenos

(*) I am a Zimbabwean. I came to Cuba in May 2013 with a team of 13 people in our preparation for what is known here as the East London Greening project, an initiative to copy the Cuban agro-ecology system and urban farming.

The ACTAF organization was our host and while they might have shown us only the glittering side of the garm I was so enticed with everything that I laid my eyes on.

My brief bio: I grew up in Zimbabwe, studied agriculture at Gwebi College of Agriculture one of the first and finest in southern Africa and then worked as an agricultural extension officer for a few years in Zimbabwe before migrating to South Africa. While in South Africa I dedicated my work to only natural farming methods and have worked for a number of community food production projects. When the opportunity presented itself for a study tour in Cuba I was the first to jump on board pushed by my interest to study communism and my love of organic farming.

Our group stayed for 9 days but myself and one other guys remained for 3 weeks, I was finally chosen to have an extended stay while doing my case study at the Alamar urban agriculture farm in Havana.

Back at work I was asked to write the main report of the trip/tour and honestly speaking I just found myself fondly writing that poem (above) at the end of my report and I told myself and everybody who read it that its merely a dedication and encouragement to the work of ACTAF especially professor F. Funes in my own words. Nothing more nothing less.


8 thoughts on ““I Will Miss Havana”

  • July 7, 2015 at 6:15 am
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    Carlyle, Harsh!! True though

  • July 6, 2015 at 7:34 pm
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    If Monsanto was a Chinese company you Dan would be lauding praise upon it. Perhaps you would appreciate cloning if the scientists at Edinburgh University had cloned Fidel Castro Ruz – but then, maybe they tried and ended up with Dolly – a sheep!

  • July 6, 2015 at 1:05 pm
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    Hail hail, the gang’s all here. What’s up with these scientists and their Com-Symp fellow travelers anyway? All these environmentalists are a bunch of anti-business kooks and Castro bootlickers. When the Castro Family Dictatorship is finally gone the people of Cuba will have the freedom to accept Monsanto’s warm embrace. Maybe, if they are as lucky as us Americans, they too can have a Monsanto CEO appointed to oversee their food supply.

  • July 5, 2015 at 10:01 am
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    Well said, we should consider the source.

  • July 5, 2015 at 9:22 am
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    It is interesting that Castros acolytes all share certain things in common; authoritarian leadership, moribund economies, repressive political systems and censorship.

  • July 5, 2015 at 9:16 am
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    GMO and its associated lethal pesticides and herbicides are dangerous poisons. Eating genetically modified corn (GM corn) and consuming trace levels of Monsanto’s Roundup chemical fertilizer caused rats to develop horrifying tumors, widespread organ damage, and premature death. rats exposed to even the smallest amounts, “developed mammary tumors and severe liver and kidney damage as early as four months in males, and seven months for females.” The animals on the GM diet suffered mammary tumors, as well as severe liver and kidney damage. Everywhere GMO is being grown, food allergies, disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, and others have been skyrocketing in the human populations.

    There has been a drastic decline of crop-pollinating insects all over the world, and what this means for the future of the world’s food supply. Wild pollinators like bumblebees, butterflies, and beetles are basically disappearing. GMO industrial agricultural practices are causing this insect genocide. Pollinating insects in general, which include a wide range of insects and other animals, are simply vanishing from their normal habitats and foraging areas. That lower diversity and lower abundance of wild insects means less fruits and destruction of the diversity of plants and their fruits worldwide.

    GMOs cross pollinate and their seeds can travel. It is impossible to fully clean up our contaminated gene pool. Self-propagating GMO pollution will outlast the effects of global warming and nuclear waste. The potential impact is huge, threatening the health of future generations. GMO contamination has also caused economic losses for organic and non-GMO farmers who often struggle to keep their crops pure.

    GMOs increase herbicide use. Most GM crops are engineered to be “herbicide tolerant”?surviving deadly weed killers. Monsanto, for example, sells Roundup Ready crops, designed to survive applications of their Roundup herbicide. Between 1996 and 2008, US farmers sprayed an extra 383 million pounds of herbicide on GMOs. Overuse of Roundup results in “superweeds,” resistant to the herbicide. This is causing farmers to use even more toxic herbicides every year. Not only does this create environmental harm, GM foods contain higher residues of toxic herbicides. Roundup, for example, is linked with sterility, hormone disruption, birth defects, and cancer.

    GM crops and their associated herbicides can harm birds, insects, amphibians, marine ecosystems, and soil organisms. They reduce bio-diversity, pollute water resources, and are unsustainable. For example, GM crops are eliminating habitat for monarch butterflies, whose populations are down 50% in the US. Roundup herbicide has been shown to cause birth defects in amphibians, embryonic deaths and endocrine disruptions, and organ damage in animals even at very low doses. GM canola has been found growing wild in North Dakota and California, threatening to pass on its herbicide tolerant genes on to weeds.

    By mixing genes from totally unrelated species, genetic engineering unleashes a host of unpredictable side effects. Moreover, irrespective of the type of genes that are inserted, the very process of creating a GM plant can result in massive collateral damage that produces new toxins, allergens, carcinogens, and nutritional deficiencies.

    GMOs do NOT increase yields, and work against feeding a hungry world.

    Whereas sustainable non-GMO agricultural methods used in developing countries have conclusively resulted in yield increases of 79% and higher, GMOs do not, on average, increase yields at all. This was evident in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ 2009 report Failure to Yield?the definitive study to date on GM crops and yield.

    The toxins associated with GMO should never be tolerated. NEONICOTINOID PESTICIDE neurotoxins are absolutely the main factor causing the collapse of bee and pollinator populations along with other lethal chemicals, Agent Orange herbicides, glysophate, etc. When these poisons are banned as they were in Europe the bee populations start to recover. GMO neonicotinoids, roundup etc. MUST BE BANNED OUTRIGHT and all the farmers along with USDA, Biotech and chemical companies told to cease and desist from what they are doing.

    An even scarier prospect: the “BT” version of GMO soybeans and corn, (basically pesticides engineered directly into the plant )

    The “BT toxin” gene is put into the DNA of the corn in order for it to manufacture its own toxins that kill pests. The BT gene originated from a soil bacteria that also infiltrates the microflora (friendly digestive bacteria) in your gut. The Bt gene converts the microflora in your intestine into toxin-manufacturing machines.

    So, to be clear, eating GMO corn products can cause your gut (which is primarily responsible for keeping you healthy) to turn into a breeding ground for tiny little pesticide factories inside your body, actively creating toxins which are designed to kill living things. These toxins are found in the blood and are readily transferred across the placenta to developing babies in the womb.

  • July 5, 2015 at 9:15 am
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    If Cuba allows any of the US based BioAxis (Monsanto, Dow, Dupont, Syngenta, Bayer) to set foot on Cuban soil, that will be the end of Cuba and its future.

  • July 4, 2015 at 9:47 pm
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    A clear disciple of Robert Mugabe who has dragged his country’s economy down to a GDP of little more than $500 per capita per year and who has pursued racism to a degree perhaps only exceeded in Africa by Idi Amin.
    Any country seeking to learn agricultural policies from those of Cuba is indeed in real trouble – but then Zimbabwe is.

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