Two decades ago, Cuba was the first country to convert from industrial agriculture to organic agriculture.
Following the 1959 revolution, the USSR was willing to pay Cuba enormous monies for most of Cuba’s sugarcane and citrus crop, with further incentives given such as petrol to work the land, and fertilizers/ pesticides to increase the amount of crops. To meet this demand, Cuba’s farms were enlarged and nationalized.
But once the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba was not prepared to adequately feed its people. In fact, in the following years, a 20 pound loss per adult was considered average.
Cuban farmers then had no choice but to revert to the practices of their parents, an era when chemicals or artificial methods were not available.
Without petrol (or money) there was no way to import food for the Cuban people. Therefore, its citizens were on the verge of famine. More and more people started growing crops on their balconies and gardens, and farmers were forced to alter their cultivation methods: they returned to ploughing fields with oxen, got closer to their customers through direct sales and used natural alternatives to pesticides.
Boats had arrived from the Soviet Union full of chemicals and fertilisers and suddenly there were no more boats from the Soviet Union, and people asked, do we need all those chemicals?
Cuba’s example shows that sustainable development isn’t only possible, it’s necessary. This island was forced to abandon its sugar monoculture and has survived thanks to organic agriculture.
Today, Cuba preserves its natural resources, practices recycling, uses limited artificial entities, and is leaving a minimal footprint– a fact just applauded by the Living Planet Report who called Cuba the most sustainable country on the planet.
At the same time, crop production needs to be increased so that more people can get more food. The question is: how can this goal be met while staying natural and organic?