Organic Growers School is partnering with Food First and Altruvistas to offer their fourth Cuba Agroecology Tour and their first such trip in the summer from June 22 through July 1, 2021, with a focus on the country’s intensive sustainable agriculture practices. The tour, to be comprised of growers, community leaders, educators, and activists who are passionate about sustainable agriculture, will begin in Havana and travel to destinations such as Pinar del Rio, Artemisa, and Matanzas. The trip offers participants on-the-ground exposure to Cuban agriculture and the food sovereignty movement and will highlight their engagement with the global food system. The intention is for participants to acquire the knowledge and strategies to create just, sustainable, local, and healthy food systems in their own communities.
Cuba has had a focus on organic agriculture production methods since the 1970s. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 ended Cuba’s access to agricultural inputs overnight, propelling them into what is now known as the “Special Period”—a crisis of reduced resources and increased hunger. The country embarked on a massive and rapid conversion to agroecology in an attempt to boost food production. The tour will focus on small farmers, sustainable food systems, and national security. There are multiple opportunities in Cuba’s diverse agricultural landscape to learn many lessons and insights for the development of a secure and sustainable food system elsewhere.
“The purpose of this tour is not to romanticize or glorify Cuban agriculture,” says Sera Deva, Director of Programs with Organic Growers School and the trip organizer. “It is instead an opportunity to learn about what a country-wide commitment to sustainable, local agriculture can look like. It will broaden and deepen our region’s wisdom regarding alternative food systems. Our goals are to show our participants the importance of cooperative farming models and sustainable farming techniques, as well as encouraging them to think critically about practical and governmental structures that could support a thriving community of organic growers and consumers.”
Local partners will provide an overview of Cuban history, culture, politics, agriculture, and ecology. Additionally, the group will meet with specialists who will provide background on the country’s transition into agroecological farming practices and the national policies that prioritize organic farming and the remediation of hunger. With a firm commitment to sustainability and justice, this tour will connect participants to farmers, consumers, activists, NGOs, policymakers and experts working to transform the global food system.
Tour highlights will include the following:
- Discuss agroecology with Fernando Funes, co-author of Food First’s book Sustainable Agriculture & Resistance in Cuba.
- Visit community permaculture and agricultural education, and food conservation projects.
- Discuss changes in US-Cuba relations and how they might affect the future of tourism and agriculture in Cuba.
- Meet with the National Association for Small Farmers (ANAP) and the Ministry of Agriculture.
- Meet with a variety of small farmers and farmers’ cooperatives.
For the purposes of this trip, OGS is partnering with Food First, a “people’s think tank” dedicated to ending the injustices that cause hunger and helping communities to take back control of their food systems. Food First has been offering tours to Cuba for more than 20 years with the organizing assistance of Altruvistas, a socially responsible and philanthropic travel company that has facilitated 20,000 travelers to Cuba.
The cost of the trip is $2,950 and will serve, in part, as a fundraiser for Organic Growers School (OGS), a 501c3 non-profit organization. Thanks to a grant from the Christopher Reynolds Foundation, there are a limited number of partial scholarships for farmers and food activists to attend. This tour and all registrants will not be affected by recent political actions to restrict American travel to Cuba. Cuba is considered one of the safest destinations for travel, partially due to their diligent and holistic approaches to healthcare. Due to COVID-19, the traveling climate of the US (as well as tourist restrictions in Cuba) is changing daily. Cuba has implemented many of the same precautionary measures implemented around the world to minimize the spread of COVID-19 including social distancing, limiting travel to the island completely through the summer, and closing schools. In early November 2020, Cuba reopened its borders to travelers.
Potential tour participants can visit the OGS FAQ page which answers questions such as, “Why Cuba?,” “What are the legal considerations when traveling to Cuba?,” “Why ravel with Organic Growers School?,” “What does the tuition cover?,” and “What can I expect to experience?” Traveler testimonials from previous trips, the full itinerary, as well as a photo gallery can also be found on the website.