Ecological pest management involves primarily preventative measures taken in order to protect your crop. These measures include using crop rotations and intercropping. Cuba has used integrated pest management as well as pest antagonists well. Pest predators, pathogens, and natural enemies have had the greatest success for the Cuban population. The cost of biological controls was 1,172,495 pesos compared to $6,175,345 for chemical management. This is a significant savings coupled with the benefit of having the money spent on biological controls remain in Cuba instead of being sent to an international company. Cuba produces these products in country at several facilities. (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)
Intercropping is the practice of planting multiple crops in the same field in the same year. Intercropping acts as a physical barrier to pest movement. The different crops odors and colors confuse pests. Cuba intercrops many crops, including medicinal crops. Cuba intercrops cassava, maize, and beans are intercropped at a rate of 40%, 60%, and 80% respectively. (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)With the inability to access machinery, oil, and spare parts, animal traction has become a common sight in Cuba. The older farmers were able to train the younger generation in this technique, both in training of the animals as well as in the use of the animals. The benefits to animal traction have clearly been demonstrated. These benefits include decreases in soil compaction and decreases in soil erosion. Animals are more appropriate to small farms than large machinery. The Cuban’s have also developed a “multi-plow” that does not invert the topsoil layer. In fact, this plow opens the soil horizontally and is capable of plowing, harrowing, ridging, tilling, sowing, covering, and hilling. (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)
The soil in Cuba took three to five years to recover from the damage of the green revolution in terms of fertility and production. (Morgan, 2007) Biofertilizers, bacteria, manure, compost, bioearth, earthworm humus, and green manures have been utilized in the production of crops. Cuba is also using sugarcane reside as an organic fertilizer with great success. (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)
All of these changes have affected the health of the Cubans overall. The Cuban diet consisted of tubers, rice, and pork meat traditionally. (Morgan, 2007) The current diet consists of increased vegetable and fruit consumption as well as decreased fat consumption. In addition to food changes, exercise increased throughout Cuba. The lack of fuel led to the importation of 1.2 million bicycles from China and the manufacture of 0.5 million more bicycles. The increased walking/biking as well as dietary changes has led to a decrease in heart attacks and strokes. (Morgan, 2007)
Organic produce and the proximity of the producer and consumer led to Cubans eating and cooking fresh produce daily. (Morgan, 2007) The increase in vegetable consumption led to a more nutritious diet over tubers. Organic produce has several advantages over conventional produce as well. These advantages include reduced exposure to toxins, increased consumption of micronutrients (especially minerals when raised in good soils), safeguards to the environment, and protection from potentially harmful GMO foods. (Murray N.D., Pizzorno N.D., & Pizzorno M.A., L.M.T., 2005) (Nestle, 2006)
The Cuban special period, while forced, is instructive in several ways. It is clear that conventional agriculture is harmful to the environment. The Cubans have demonstrated that free market principles, redistribution of land (from the state), as well as the reclaiming of potential agricultural land in cities have had a positive impact. Populations are capable of feeding themselves through sustainable and mostly organic practices. The healthier produce and diversified diet, as well as increased exercise has led to healthier individuals that should lead to a decrease in healthcare costs. The prevention of disease is far more efficient and cost effective than the management of disease with pharmaceuticals and frequent hospital visits. On a larger scale, healthier individuals and a decreased dependence on foreign oil could lead the United States to a position of greater national security and increased health for all.
Citations on Cuban Special Period post 4 of 4