October 14, 2007 When most people hear the word “revolution” about either Cuba or Venezuela, images of the Cuban revolution of the 1950s with Fidel Castro at the forefront, or of Hugo Chavez giving a scathing speech attacking U.S. imperialism are brought to mind. However, both countries are today experiencing a revolution in the way their people eat.
After the Soviet Union dropped Cuba like a hot potato, the island country found itself without finances. At that time, Cuba imported much of its food, so it had to change its methods to feed its citizens. The Independent daily newspaper of Great Britain ran a story on August 8, 2006, titled, “The Good Life in Havana: Cuba’s Green Revolution.” According to the article:
Twenty years ago, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro’s small island faced a food crisis. Today, its networks of small urban farmers is thriving, an organic success story that is feeding the nation …
… Mr. Salcines and his small urban farm at Alamar, an eastern suburb of the capital, Havana, are at the center of a social transformation that may turn out to be as important as anything else that has been achieved during Castro’s 47 years in power.
Spurred into action by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disastrous impact on its subsidized economy, the government of Cuba was forced to take radical steps to feed its people. The solution it chose — essentially unprecedented both within the developed and underdeveloped world — was to establish a self-sustaining system of agriculture that by necessity was essentially organic.
Laura Enriquez, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who has written extensively on the subject of Latin American agriculture, said, “What happened in Cuba was remarkable. It was remarkable that they decided to prioritize food production. Other countries in the region took the neo-liberal option and exported ‘what they were good at’ and imported food. The Cubans went for food security and part of that was prioritizing small farmers.”
Today, there are more than 7,000 plots occupying more than 81,000 acres on which organic food is farmed in Cuba. Many of these are located in urban areas as well as rural venues. In Havana, there are more than 200 gardens, some in small spaces between tower block estates, that supply the city’s population with more than 90% of their fruit and vegetables. The farmers are obligated to farm a certain amount of products for the Cuban government. The surplus then belongs to the farmers who sell it for profit, which is divided among them.
This method of producing food has supplied work for thousands of Cubans. Their employment is not dependent upon the whims of international finance.
Currently, the Cuban system of organic farming and distribution, is being implemented in Caracas, Venezuela.
April M. Howard wrote an article called “Feeding Ourselves: Organic Urban Gardens in Caracas, Venezuela” that appeared on http://www.venezuelanalysis.com on August 10, 2006. According to Howard:
In the middle of the modern, concrete city of Caracas, Venezuela, Norali Venezuela is standing in a garden dressed in jeans and work boots. She is the director of the Organoponico Boliver, the first urban organic garden to show its green face in the heart of the city of Caracas …
… To Venezuelans, the garden represents a shift in the ways that Venezuelans get their food. “People are waking up,” she (Venezuela) told the press. We’ve been dependent on McDonald’s and Wendy’s for so long. Now people are learning to eat what we can produce ourselves” …
… The Oganoponicos are inspired by similar projects that sprung up in Cuba after the fall of the Soviet bloc, this means that Venezuelans would buy and consume food grown in Venezuela, as opposed to the current situation in which, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Venezuela imports about 80 percent of the food that it consumes.
Currently, Cuba is entirely independent from the outside world for its food needs. Venezuela is moving toward a similar autonomy.
There could be a monkey wrench in the future for Cuba’s astute program, however. Lately, with Fidel Castro recuperating from an operation, much speculation has been spoken about Cuba’s future. The U.S. government (Republicans and Democrats alike) are speaking about bringing “freedom” to the Cuban people.
If such an unfortunate occurrence comes forth, we have Iraq to look at as an example of some of the “freedoms” brought about by U.S. interference. In Iraq, Paul Bremer, the U.S. viceroy who set up the regulations for a “free” Iraq, posted 100 edicts before he left his post: edicts that can not be broken by successive Iraqi governments. Edict #81 forbids Iraqi farmers from using seeds of their previous crops, a farming method had been in existence for 5,000 years in Iraq. Iraqi farmers now must purchase genetically-modified seeds from Monsanto for their crops. This is a rule that is tightly regulated. Inspectors frequently visit farmers in Iraq to ensure acquiescence. If a farmer uses his own seeds, he is heavily fined.
How can this happen? It’s quite simple. Monsanto takes a seed of a crop, copies it and manufactures the seeds. Once the seed is copied, Monsanto then acquires a patent for the seed design. In other words, any natural seeds with the same patented design become illegal to use.
If Cuba is “freed” by the U.S., there will be an immediate end to Cuban farmers using their own seeds. Then, Cubans will no longer be able to purchase readily-available organic foods at a low price.
In reading about the Cuban and Venezuelan programs, the merit of self-sufficiency and economics play a major factor. However, one point is missing from most of the reports: the health component.
If more than 90% of Cubans, and a growing number of Venezuelans, eat a diet consisting of organic foods, they will become much healthier than the people of industrialized societies whose diets consist mostly of processed, artificial, sugar-laden foods that are slowly poisoning them to death.
Obesity and diabetes are at all-time highs in the U.S. More than 50% of the population are considered overweight. Currently, there are 21 million U.S. citizens who suffer from diabetes. Health experts predict that within 10 years, that figure will be a staggering 45 million. This is an easy prediction because experts follow the degradation of the U.S. diet and can accurately predict the results for a 10-year period.
Before I wrote this article, I performed a little research on diabetes in the U.S. and Cuba. In Cuba, there are about 300,000 people with diabetes. The country has an active educational program on diabetes that begins with school kids.
The Cuban rate of diabetes is about 1/7 of that in the U.S. Of the top at-risk populations for diabetes in the U.S., Cuban-Americans come in at third place, a very high-risk figure.
One does not have to be Einstein to figure out why Cuban-Americans are at such a high risk for diabetes. Their gene pools are similar to those on the island 90 miles off the coast of Florida, so it is not genetic. They are at risk because they have succumbed to the U.S. diet of fast food and junk food.
Possibly, opponents of U.S. imperialism and hegemony should consider patience as a countering force for standing up to Uncle Sam. Within a couple of decades, the U.S. citizenry just may eat itself to death.
Obviously, there’s some propaganda in this article, but there’s also a lot of truth. Only an idiot would think that it’s better to eat the processed crap we consume in the US than organic unprocessed food. I know too many people with diabetes, cancer, autism, asthma …
I’ve been quite impressed with the increasing availability of organic foods even at the Kingman Safeway. But it’s expensive and not nearly as fresh as when you get to harvest from your own garden. Especially when you tend to leave the store bought food laying around for days or weeks and most of it goes to the rabbits.
And it’s not only what we eat, it’s GROWING food that keeps you healthy. Picking up a shovel to move some dirt, planting, weeding, harvesting, it’s GOOD for you! Not to mention the satisfaction of knowing that your food is fresh and having tomatoes that taste like tomatoes.
I really hope I’ll be able to grow a few veggies this winter.