Natural paradox

On November 4, the un General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of ending the us-imposed embargo against Cuba. The Mexican representative was the first to speak in favor of the anti-blockade resolution. So did Morocco, on behalf of the Group of 77 plus China; and Malaysia, which presides over the Non-Aligned Movement. In a blistering finale, Cuban foreign minister Filipe Perez Roque rebutted the Bush administration's arguments in support of the blockade point-by-point, branding it a "crime of genocide.' The assembly seemed to agree with him, for after according Roque a thunderous ovation, it voted 179-3 on the motion. The us, Israel and the Marshall Islands voted against, but the vote was further proof that the Bush administration's foreign policies have resulted in widespread international distrust.

But even as Cuba celebrated, a paradox came to the fore: what would happen to organic farming there?

Due to the us embargo, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba was unable to import chemicals or modern farming machines to uphold a high-tech corporate farming culture. This led to a general diversification towards organic agriculture.

According to experts, Cuba witnessed the largest conversion to organic or semi-organic farming the world has ever known. State food rations were not enough for Cuban families, so farms began to spring up all over the country. Small farms and gardens in densely populated urban areas also played a crucial role. Havana, home to nearly 20 percent of Cuba's population, is now also home to more than 8,000 officially recognized gardens, cultivated by more than 30,000 people and covering nearly 30 per cent of the available land.

Now, the very factor that helped create the gardens might lead to their demise. People could return to more conventional methods of farming. Chemical fertilizers, tractors, and food will undoubtedly become available again when the Americans move in.