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Feature: Cuba seeks organic food production to reduce massive imports

Xinhua, May 18, 2017 Adjust font size:

For the last decade, Cuba has been scrambling to find new strategies to increase food production with President Raul Castro declaring the issue a matter of national security.

Regino Rodriguez, the owner of La Carolina organic farm in the central province of Cienfuegos, never gave up on his ranch's traditional farming techniques but did decide to diversify its production.

At first, Rodriguez intended to plant tobacco but an in-depth research on soils found the land unsuitable for that purpose, so he opted instead to raise small livestock, particularly goats.

He began with only five goats but now, the farm also raises cattle and produces goat milk.

"We produce around 40,000 liters of cow milk a year, which goes to the elderly people in the area, and another 70,000 liters of goat milk a year for lactose-intolerant children," explained Rodriguez.

The ranch also produces more than 10 tons of pork annually, as well as between 4 and 6 tons of beans, corn, cucumbers and fruit, which are sold directly on local markets.

In an effort to further increase sustainability, Rodriguez has built a small bio-electricity plant which can provide power for his home and for 10 neighbors' as well.

"We take the organic waste from all animals and process it in order to generate electricity. It's a good way to save energy and bring together all organic processes in our farm," he added.

Rodriguez's projects brought him a chance to meet former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

"I have been planting and supporting the production of rich protein plants, such as mulberry and moringa which we use to feed our animals. It has been proven that, with these methods, our animals have increased their milk yields and their offspring have grown stronger," he said.

He had worked along with late Cuban President Fidel Castro, who devoted his final years to researching ways to make food production more and better in Cuba.

"He encouraged us to focus on growing plants that are rich in nutrients, proteins, vitamins and minerals, to feed our animals with them. This is because breeding concentrates and mixtures from abroad are very expensive and our country cannot afford to buy large quantities of these for all farmers," he said.

According to Rodriguez, it was a source of Castro's greatest concern as the Caribbean island's population has increasingly grown.

"He always told us that families in future generations would have three or four elderly people to care for. This will require a special diet, so it is necessary to increase the national production of milk, meat and various crops so as to minimize dependency on imports," he recalled. Endi