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Cuba Is Boosting Climate Resilience In Agriculture

In a post by the Environmental Defense Fund, the organization shares that Cuba is boosting climate resilience in agriculture and explains three things that the small island country could show us.

In a post by the Environmental Defense Fund, the organization shares that Cuba is boosting climate resilience in agriculture and explains three things that the small island country could show us.

The writer, Katherine Angier, interviewed a farmer, Fernando Funes, who explained to Angier that, “Everything here is about working with nature.” Fernando’s farm is just outside of Havana, where Angier writes that, “we admired the diverse assortment of crops, chickens strutting through a grove of trees, and colorful rows of beehives.”

Image via Google Maps

In general, when one thinks of Cuba, one thinks of communism, poverty, and hurricanes. Guantanamo Bay and terrorism may also come into our minds. What doesn’t come to mind is the picture Angier painted in her article.

She was there thanks to a three-day symposium on sustainable agriculture and food systems that was organized by the Environmental Defense Fund, the Foundation of Antonio Núñez Jiménez, and the Vermont-Caribbean Institute. What Angier got to take part in was something beautiful: discovering connections between Cuban and U.S. farming systems. It was an opportunity for learning that could benefit both of our countries.

In her article, Angier shares three ways that Cuba can help us see how to produce food in a changing climate. This isn’t a wrong or right way to do something, but something different that we can learn from and hopefully incorporate into our own systems.

1. Cuba has conservation practices built on farming resilience. The country is working to make its agricultural sector prepared for a future filled with unknowns — such as extreme weather, severe storms, and rising seas. The plan Cuba is implementing is part of its National Plan to Confront Climate Change which is often referred to as Tarea Vida.

One example of improving resilience is the ability of Cuban farms to produce food while relying on minimal amounts of fuel or fertilizer. Incorporating technologies such as solar power and biogas from livestock manure can create a buffer for farmers in case of emergencies and crises such, including the annual hurricane season.

2. Sustainable farming is contributing to landscape-scale resilience. What this means is that agriculture conservation helps the entire landscape. Angier shares a brilliant example of this by comparing it with the US. In Iowa, which has corn and soy, many farmers are using watershed-wide planning. So are the farmers in Cuba who produce crops such as mangos and yuca.

3. Innovative Policy and Financial Solutions. Here in the US, policy and finance often are at war with the idea of clean energy, green technology. In Cuba, the country is researching approaches to payments for ecosystem services that would aid farmers who engage in sustainable farming. They could receive monetary compensation for their work that provides landscape-scale benefits. In other words, the farmers could be funded for using better ways of doing their work.

One takeaway from Angier’s article is that climate change will devastate our farmers if we don’t plan for it. Cuba is taking action to do just that. Being on the frontlines of the annual hurricane season leaves the country with no other option–it’s an island that will also be on the frontlines of rising sea levels and other consequences of climate change that will come due to humans’ continued  addiction to fossil fuels. 

“We must work quickly and collaboratively to make them more resilient to climate change.” –Katherine Angier, Environmental Defense Fund

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