What could Post-Brexit Britain learn from Cuba?
How isolated will Britain really be?
Post Brexit ‘no deal’ is looking bleak for agriculture and trade, with major businesses threatening to relocate abroad and current trade partnerships being torn apart. We’re all too familiar with what happens when the “bubble” bursts, the economy suffers and the people suffer. There are price increases in every day living costs, not to mention the continued impact on austerity riddled public services, maybe there’ll even be further funding cuts for education and the health service (“in real terms”). Who knows, it’s still all speculation of course, but none of it is looking very good. The consistant and reliable thread in all of this however is that the big money investors will go where they can survive. There’s no loyalty when it comes to making a profit in this world. So where does that leave the people of the country who can’t follow the money? Ironically, without whom industries, a country’s infrastructure and public services collapse, and so here follows my point.
So what can we learn from Cuba?
The Soviet Union was once Cuba’s main source of export and import, fuel and pesticides all came from Russia, however after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 trade partnerships and Soviet trade subsidies disappeared, and Cuba experienced the inevitable and catastrophic fall of it’s economy. The people of Cuba faced unprecedented hardships and isolation, possibly even famine without money to import food, petrol or medicines.
For it’s people and economy to survive, the government would need find a way to help the country become as self sufficient as possible. This came in the radical form of introducing sustainable farming methods and providing grants to small farmers and encouraging co-operatives. The people of Cuba began to learn to grow their own food and crops en mass. Transforming any viable space, abandoned and decaying buildings became designated spaces for growing on domestic as well as intensive farming levels. Every space however small was utilised.
Although without access to chemical fertilisers and pesticides which had previously been imported, organic farming practices were the only way forward. From skills passed through generations, trial and error, Cuba successfully created an agricultural model for growth, albeit through necessity, rebuilding economic stability and social infrastructures that are kept on it’s feet with the help of organic agriculture. Where communities and individuals help each other, where basic medicines are natural and plant based. Health issues become preventative through healthy diets . Where food is grown for the community and factory canteens before the surplus is sold off. It’s reputed that only 8% of the land in Cuba supplies 90% of fruit and vegatables consumed. Can you imagin that happening in England?
There is a collective respect for the produce the land and their hard work provides. Maintaining the health of the soil is paramount and as such they have become experts in no-dig cultivation and masters of composting waste. Being forced to reject chemical agriculture, their organic farming methods known as organopnicos, a type of community urban farm, has substantially increased the nations food production. As a result, one of Cuba’s main exports today is it’s 100% organic honey.
Here’s just one of the films I found online to help you understand just how impressive all of this is.
Will Organic Farming be the future for Post-Brexit Britain?
It has taken Cuba decades to adapt. Organic farming in the UK is still generally considered to be for the minority, a modern lifestyle choice, a fad for the more affluent and educated households, and certainly not something you’ll find in one of those ‘how to save money’ programmes. Essentially, organics are still very much a luxury in capitalist views.
A plot of land in England is usually considered to be a housing development opportunity for commercial exploitation and financial gain. In Havana, a plot of land presents an opportunity to grow medicines and vegetables for it’s people. I’m not suggesting Cuba has the answer to the future of farming in the UK, but we can certainly learn a lot from their agricultural methods and principles, their commitment to organics and success in investing in farms and farmers. Not to mention the inevitable positive health benefits of a primarily organic fresh produce diet. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the more healthy people are, the less pressure they put on the health service. Which in turn frees up funding to for improving other public services and providing grants to support education, research, small businesses and communities.
A message for our farmers and gardeners, to our government and influencers.
A commitment to standardise organic agriculture and farming practices has to be the way forward if we are to build a progressive, positive future. We wont face the political extremes of a Cuban history, but we may be bound to a monopoly of food, fuel and medical trade import agreements, for which we are virtually held hostage. Before things go any further our attitudes to UK agriculture has to change.