HAVANA, Might 23 (IPS) – Thorny bushes and barren soil made it seem like a foul guess, however Cuban farmer José Antonio Sosa ignored different individuals’s objections in regards to the land and gave life to what’s now the thriving La Villa farm on the outskirts of Havana.
“The land was a large number, lined with candy acacia (Vachellia farnesiana) and sickle bush (Dichrostachys cinérea), with little vegetation and plenty of stones. Folks requested me how I used to be going to take care of it. With an axe and machete I steadily cleared the undergrowth, in sections,” Sosa advised IPS.
Now there are plots of various forms of fruit bushes, greens and tubers on the 14 hectares that this farmer obtained from the State in usufruct in 2010, as a part of a authorities coverage to cut back unproductive land and enhance meals manufacturing.
The crops feed his household, whereas contributing to social packages and gross sales to the neighborhood, after a part of the produce is delivered to the Juan Oramas Credit score and Companies Cooperative, to which the farm positioned within the municipality of Guanabacoa, one of many 15 municipalities of the Cuban capital, belongs.
On the farm, the place he works along with his household and an assistant, Sosa produces cow and goat milk, raises pigs and poultry, and is dreaming of farming freshwater fish in a small pond within the not too distant future.
La Villa is within the strategy of receiving “sustainably managed farm” certification. The farm and Sosa characterize a rising effort by small Cuban farmers to recuperate degraded land and use environmentally pleasant strategies.
The restoration of unproductive and/or degraded lands can also be linked to the necessity to improve home meals safety, in a rustic extremely depending on meals imports, whose rising costs imply a home market with unhappy wants and cycles of shortages reminiscent of the present one.
On the finish of 2021, Cuba had 226,597 farms, 1202 of which had agroecological standing whereas 64 p.c of the whole – some 146,000 – had been working in the direction of gaining agroecological certification, in line with official statistics.
Sosa, who has been referred to as “Che” since he was a toddler, mentioned the usage of pure fertilizers and animal manure has made a distinction within the restoration and transformation of the soil.
“It’s also vital to concentrate to the best way crops are cultivated or harvested, to keep away from compaction,” the farmer mentioned.
Research present that adjustments in land use, insufficient agricultural practices (together with the intensive use of agricultural equipment and irrigation), the rise in human settlements and infrastructure and the results of local weather change are components which might be accelerating desertification and soil degradation on this Caribbean island nation of 11.2 million individuals.
Sosa pressured the significance of taking note of the course of the land for planting, and the usage of dwelling or useless boundaries “to stop the water from carrying the topsoil to decrease areas when it rains.”
Drought and local weather change
On this archipelago overlaying 109,884 sq. kilometers, 77 p.c of the soils are categorized as not very productive.
They’re affected by a number of adversarial components reminiscent of erosion, salinity, acidity, poor drainage, low fertility and natural matter content material, or poor moisture retention.
The newest statistics present that 35 p.c of the soil in Cuba presents a point of degradation.
However at 71 years of age, Sosa, who has labored within the countryside all his life, has little question that local weather change is hurting the soil.
“The rain cycles have modified,” Sosa mentioned. “Once I was younger, within the early Nineteen Sixties, my father would plant taro (Colocasia esculenta, a tuber that’s extensively consumed domestically) in March, across the tenth or so, and by the fifteenth it might be raining closely. That’s not the case. This April was very dry, particularly on the finish of the month, and so was early Might.”
He additionally referred to the lower in crop yields and high quality, “as soils grow to be hotter and water is scarcer.”
A number of research have corroborated vital adjustments in Cuba’s local weather in recent times, associated to the rise within the common annual temperature, the lower in cloud cowl and stronger droughts, amongst different phenomena.
In line with forecasts, the nation’s local weather will have a tendency in the direction of much less precipitation and longer intervals with out rain, and by 2100 the provision of water potential might be lowered by greater than 35 p.c.
However extra intense hurricanes are additionally anticipated, atmospheric phenomena that may discharge in 48 hours half of the typical annual rainfall, with the ensuing stress and extreme soil erosion.
Though the least productive lands are positioned within the east, and Cuba’s so-called semi-desert is proscribed to elements of the southern coast of Guantánamo, the easternmost of the 15 provinces, forecasts point out that the semi-arid zones may broaden in the direction of the west of the island.
Along with being a State Get together to the United Nations Conference to Fight Desertification, since 2008 Cuba has been selling the Program for Nation Partnership, also referred to as the Nationwide Motion Program to Fight Desertification and Drought; Sustainable Land Administration.
Likewise, the Cuban authorities is dedicated to the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Improvement Targets (SDGs), agreed throughout the United Nations in 2015.
In SDG 15, which entails life on land, goal 15.3 states that “By 2030, fight desertification, restore degraded land and soil, together with land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and attempt to attain a land degradation-neutral world.”
In line with Sosa, the rise in soil degrading components requires extra efforts to restructure its bodily and chemical traits.
As well as, he mentioned, mechanisms ought to be sought to prioritize irrigation, bearing in mind that many sources are drying up or shrinking attributable to local weather variability.
“In my case, I irrigate the decrease a part of the farm with a small system linked to the pond. However within the increased areas of the farm I rely on rainfall,” he mentioned.
The development of tanks or ponds to gather rainwater, along with the standard reservoirs, are best options for this Caribbean nation with quick, low-flow rivers and extremely depending on rainfall, which is extra considerable in the course of the Might to October wet season.
However farmers like Sosa require higher incentives: there’s a want for extra coaching on the significance of sustainable administration strategies, and for financial returns, in addition to monetary and tax help, so as to make agroecological practices extra widespread.
In 2019, Cuba authorized the Nationwide Land Degradation Neutrality Goal Setting Program.
“The rule of thumb foresees implementing new monetary financial devices or enhancing present ones by 2030 so as to obtain neutrality in land degradation,” Jessica Fernández, head of the Local weather Change division of the Ministry of Science, Know-how and Setting, advised IPS.
The plan is to boost the usage of credit, insurance coverage and taxes as financial incentives for farmers, primarily based on soil enchancment and conservation, and to account for the present bills destined to environmental options to find out the whole bills for soil conservation, the official added.
“We’re in talks and research with the Central Financial institution of Cuba to steadily introduce inexperienced banking,” Gloria Gómez, director of pure sources, prioritized ecosystems and local weather change on the ministry, advised IPS.
“This service will search to advertise and finance tasks that present options to environmental issues by means of loans with decrease rates of interest, longer reimbursement intervals, incentives for inexperienced services, or eco-labeling,” she mentioned.
Since 2000, the Ministry of Agriculture has been creating the Nationwide Program for Soil Enchancment and Conservation, and in January the Coverage for Soil Conservation, Enchancment and Sustainable Administration and Fertilizer Use got here into impact.
On the identical time, the Cuban State’s plan to fight local weather change, higher referred to as Tarea Vida, in pressure since 2017, additionally contains actions to mitigate soil vulnerabilities.
Within the final 5 years, the rules of Sustainable Land Administration (SLM) had been utilized to greater than 2525 hectares, whereas a million of the greater than six million hectares of agricultural land within the nation obtained some kind of profit, statistics present.
Different nationwide priorities are associated to growing the forested space to 33 p.c, extending the areas underneath SLM by 150,000 hectares and enhancing 65 p.c of agricultural land by the top of the present decade.
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