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Organic Cuba without Fossil Fuels

Written By David D'Angelo on Saturday, January 26, 2008 | 1/26/2008

Cuba's experience has opened our eyes to agriculture without fossil fuels, a possibility rapidly turning into a necessity for mitigating climate change as world production of petroleum has also peaked. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Cuba 1989. Cuba is where agriculture without fossil fuels has been put to its greatest test, and it has passed with flying colours. The year 1989 ushered in the "Special Period", a scenario that will hit some countries in the not too distant future unless they prepare for it right now.

Before 1989, Cuba was a model Green Revolution farm economy, based on huge production units of state-owned farms, and dependent on vast quantities of imported oil, chemicals and machinery to produce export crops. Under agreements with the former Soviet Union, Cuba had been an oil-driven country, and 98 percent of all its petroleum had come from the Soviet bloc. In 1988, 12-13 million tons of Soviet oil were imported and of this, Cubans re-exported two million tons.

In 1989, Cuba was forced to cut the re-export in half and in 1990, oil exports were cut entirely as only 10 of 13m tons promised by the Soviet had been received. At the end of 1991, only 6 of the promised 13 m tons was received, and the short fall in oil began to severely affect the nation's economy.

While oil was critical, other losses were also important, as 85 percent of all Cuba¹s trade was with the Soviets. Cuba exported 66 percent of all sugar and 98 percent of its citrus fruit to the Soviet bloc, and imported from them 66 percent of its food, 86 percent of all raw materials, and 80 percent of machinery and spare parts. Consequently, when support from the Soviet bloc was withdrawn, factories closed, food scarcity was widespread and an already inadequate technology base began eroding.

The collapse of the Soviet bloc and the tightened US trade embargo exposed the vulnerability of Cuba's Green Revolution model, and it was plunged into the worst food crisis in its history.

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