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