Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cuban permaculturalist to tour Australia

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc in the early 1990s, Cuba lost access to the oil, fertilizers and virtually all trading partners that the small island nation depended upon to survive. Cuba faced economic collapse virtually overnight.

Cuba, however, refused to give up on building a socialist society — maintaining, for example, its universal free healthcare and education — while it entered into the period of economic hardship known as the "Special Period", and the United States tightened its decades-long blockade of the country.

During this time, however, it faced an even more challenging crisis: securing food to sustain the population. Over half the country's food had come from the USSR, and most of its petroleum, fertilisers and pesticides were imports.

Early in the "Special Period", a number of Australians travelled to Cuba to introduce permaculture, a form of sustainable, low-input agriculture. The ideas were eagerly taken up by the Cuban government as part of its policy of "linking people with the land". The government immediately set about creating urban agricultural cooperatives and investing in biotechnology and agricultural science.

Cuban agriculture is now over 95% organic, and the city of Havana itself now produces over 60% of its fruit and vegetables within the city's urban and peri-urban spaces, in community gardens and cooperatives.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Ecuador: Massive rally marks Correa's first anniversary

On January 19, 100,000 people marched in Ecuador's largest city, Guayaquil, to celebrate the one year anniversary of Rafael Correa's presidency and his "citizen's revolution".

Correa, a self-declared socialist and close ally of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, was inaugurated on January 15 last year, promising to revolutionise his society by eliminating poverty and initiating a constituent assembly to rewrite the country's constitution and allow more direct popular participation.

Since then, Correa has increased the average wage, doubled social benefits and begun renegotiating contracts with the multinational oil companies that dominate the country's main industry.