The story of Ang Rita Sherpa, the first person in the world to climb Mount Everest 10 times without supplemental oxygen, who died aged 72.
How organic agriculture in Cuba saved its population from hunger
Cuba’s example shows that sustainable development isn’t only possible, it’s necessary. This country was forced to abandon its sugar monoculture and has survived thanks to organic agriculture.
The fall of the Soviet Union left Cuba in a dire economic situation. Cuban citizens started to grow crops on their balconies whilst farmers, left with no petrol or pesticides, were forced to resort to traditional methods to feed themselves. This started a true revolution: that of organic agriculture in Cuba.
Cuba’s “special period”
Cuba is often associated with sugar. In fact, right until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, this country had been its greatest exporter; cane sugar was the principal crop being cultivated, which entailed a large use of pesticides. From that year onwards the situation changed: with the disappearance of its main recipient, the Soviet market – also necessary for the importation of petrol – the Cuban economy suffered a great blow and entered what is euphemistically called the “special period”, made even worse by the tightening of the American embargo.
Were all those pesticides really necessary?
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?,” Miguel Angel Salcines, the owner of one of Cuba’s organic farms told British daily The Guardian.
The growth of organic agriculture in Cuba
This is how organic agriculture took a hold in Cuba. Today, small plots of land – no larger than 40 hectares – are being farmed without using pesticides and all products are sold locally. The government has supported citizens’ initiatives through land concessions and the creation of a body that coordinates and promotes the development of sustainable urban agriculture. This is how people have been able to feed themselves and the country managed to cut some of its dependence from imported goods. The transition hasn’t yet become definitive and the process has slowed down as the economy has improved, and we must also take into account that massive amounts of pesticides were used on many of the lands where crops are now grown organically. Nevertheless, a study that was published in Monthly Review magazine shows that from 1988 to 2007 the country increased the production of vegetables by 145 per cent, decreasing the use of pesticides by 72 per cent.
“Organic agriculture isn’t a mirage, and the closing of half of the country’s sugar refineries represented the first step towards our food independence,” according to Fernando Funes Monzote, who has a Phd in Agronomy and is the son of one of Cuba’s greatest supporters of organic agriculture. Even though it isn’t perfect, the country’s transition towards a new agricultural model is an example to others as it shows that sustainable development and food security are attainable and deeply connected.
Photojournalist Livio Senigalliesi tells his story, from the Yugoslav Wars to the Balkan Route. And through two videos, one created with journalist Raffaele Masto.
The Louise Michel is the humanitarian rescue ship saving lives in the Mediterranean. Financed by the artist Banksy, it has found a safe port in Sicily.
We must listen to witnesses on the ground who are seeing abuse, duplicity, and the dereliction of duty firsthand. Our lives depend on their voices being heard. The op-ed by Sean Thomas, International Director of Investigations at Animal Equality.
Costa Rica celebrated its first same-sex marriage when two women, Alexandra Quiros and Dunia Araya, celebrated their wedding: an “extraordinary moment”.
Will Tokyo 2020 be the revival Games? Much uncertainty remains but preparations haven’t stopped as Japan remains committed to hosting the Olympics.
Homecast is a podcast series recorded in quarantine in which creatives from around the world share their lived experiences of these unique circumstances. Creator Giacomo De Poli tells us why this collective diary was needed now more than ever.
As London and the rest of the UK are in lockdown opportunities for long-lasting change have emerged out of of the crisis: solutions relating to the environment, work and healthcare that can be applied elsewhere too.
A historic win for the Ashaninka of Brazil as they receive compensation for deforestation on their land
On top of a 2.4 million dollar compensation, the indigenous Ashaninka people will receive an official apology from the companies who deforested their lands in the 1980s.