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Posted April 08, 2003 by publisher in Business In Cuba

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Des Moines (Iowa) Register

HAVANA—Cuba’s organic food movement has made the country a world leader in low-input sustainable agriculture.

Several thousand organoponicos (organic gardens) have sprung up in the past 10 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union led to a severe downturn in Cuban food production. Organoponicos range from less than an acre to six acres.

It’s estimated that Cuba, an island country about the size of Pennsylvania, has more than 81,000 acres of organoponicos.

The gardens produce about 250 pounds of food a year for each of Cuba’s 11 million people and have generated 300,000 jobs, said Peter Rosset, co-director of Food First: Institute for Food and Development Policy. “It was a push from the bottom,” Rosset said. “Now, the scientists are scrambling to stay up with the farmers.”

Urban agriculturists can earn as much as $200 a month, he said, which is 10 times what a doctor makes in Cuba.

The agricultural curriculum in the universities and vocational high schools in Cuba has been completely revamped to reflect the change from a high-input, industrialized agriculture to a low-input, organic system.

“We earn a good wage, and we are doing a good thing,” said organic farmer Ydelio Yzquierdo. “We feel very good about this.”

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