Saturday, December 26, 2015

December 16, 2015

Harmless lizards and a snake shared the room for some of us overnight in the Villa Hatuey.

Breakfast in the cafeteria at Indo Hatuey

After breakfast (cafeteria style) we were given a tour of the facilities, which included silk worm, ornamental grasses, vegetable and biogas production. In the afternoon we had presentations from staff and the local municipality of Perico who are interested in bringing the ecopueblo concept to their locality.

Map of local agriculture impacted by Indio Hatuey

Classroom discussion/presentation at Indo Hatuey about ecopueblos and local agriculture

We then left for Havana and on the way stopped by the Finca Campesina Placido Gonzalez (aka Placido farm) in Cardenas, Matanzas province where we received a tour from Fernando Donis. The farm was an excellent example of integrated animal and plant agriculture with an emphasis upon creating and maintaining a closed system, i.e. no external inputs, which is the agroecological way. In the animal category there were cattle, swine, poultry and rabbits. In the plant category we saw turmeric, banana, elderberry, and moringa. We also saw biogas and micronutrients production, the later which has multiple uses including antiparasital, fly control, smell mitigation, among other benefits. The micronutrient production we saw uses forest litter, milk and other ingredients. 

Dr. Fernando Funes and Fernando Donis (left to right)

More views of Placido farm

 Nursery beds with bird house beyond

 The farm had ducks, peacocks and chickens

 Poster about the finca

Turmeric between the orchard rows 

There was an amazing natural chemical injection system for the greenhouse built from a large plastic soft drink bottle, a counter weight and fluid tubing. This instead of the expensive and almost impossible to obtain (in Cuba) electromechanical chemical injection systems requiring electricity. This was appropriate technology at its best (see pictures below)!

 The software drink bottle fills up with nutrients then its full weight causes it to tilt forward where it when injects the secret sauce into the water supply supplying the greenhouse plants. When the bottle empties its contents, it springs back to be refilled again with nutrients.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December 15, 2015

After being served a light breakfast by our casa particular host, we left Trinidad for Indio Hatuey. Enroute we stopped at Villa Yaguanabo where we went for a dip in the Caribbean from a sand beach.

 Peggy, Liz and Marlen
 Jody and Angela with Limbert off in the distance.
Open café above the beach
Classic bar displaying liquor and Lucky Strikes

This was then followed by a tour of the Jardin Botanico Soledad, formerly Harvard University Tropical Plant Research Station. The garden is fantastic even though we only saw about 5 hectares of the 94 hectares total, which houses some 1,500 species of tropical plants, including 245 varieties of palms. We were given a guided tour by a scientist named Hilda who was extremely knowledgeable and engaging.

 Such tropical beauty! incredibly knowledgable...her depth & breadth OMG!

 One of the 245 varieties of palms

 Youthful palms.
Cuba pre-revolution blockade cars are everywhere...including in the arboretum
I took videos of Hilda's tour which I hope to place online soon. Before my trip I found very little online about the Atkins/Harvard University garden. Here is what I found:
We then left the garden driving through Cienfuegos on to Indo Hatuey, an agroecology research station of about 800 acres in Matanzas province. Dr. Fernando Funes met us there having driven there to meet us from Havana. We stayed onsite at the Villa Hatuey which are dormitories with four beds in each room.

December 14, 2015

Bus ride to Trinidad

Today we traveled to Trinidad in Sancti Spiritus province, staying overnight in Casa Particulares in Trinidad city.
 Arranging transport to casa. Note the cobblestone streets which made for a jaw jiggling ride!

Jody relaxing in the casa courtyard

Ate lunch at the El Dorado listening to superb live music performed by a quartet consisting of two guitarists, maracas and bongos plus singing. We were transported to our casa particular by biciped which I filmed which was hilarious given how rocky the cobblestone streets were. In the afternoon we just rested in our temporary residence. That evening we ate at La Ceiba restaurant against a backdrop of live music where we dined on lobster tail among other choices.

 Duet at La Ceiba
The El Dorado where we ate lunch
 Biggest lobster tail I have ever eaten!

Inconspicuous entrance to La Ceiba in Trinidad

Monday, December 21, 2015

December 13, 2015

Today we left Havana for Artemisa province to visit Finca Marta, a ten acre agroponico run by Dr. Fernando Funes Monzote (son of Dr. Fernando Funes) and his wife. On the way we stopped at a food preservation research and education center – Protecto Communitario: Conservacion de Alimentos Condimentos y Plantas Medicinales (Community Project: Preservation of Food) - run by a man named Pepe and his wife.

Fernando & Pepe

The center has been running for many years developing and promulgating techniques for the preservation of roots, tubers, vegetables, fruits and herbs through drying, fermentation and pickling, having produced many publications including videos, books and pamphlets and even a radio show. 

  Books and pamphlets on food preservation
Food preservation educational posters

Afterwards we drove on to visit the Finca Marta about 30 minutes west of Havana where we were given a tour of an integrated farm which consisted of an apiary, vermiculture, cattle, vegetables and orchard trees.

  Finca Marta planting beds

Fernando and his wife Claudia owns the improvements on the land while the owner, now in his 90s, still owns the land. We saw a biodigester where manure from cattle is used to generate gas for cooking in the house. Plans are to increase the size of the biogas facility so as to generate electricity. Fernando is planning on developing the finca as an education and research center and is working with local farmers and the municipality along the lines of regional community development.

Bolivian delegation members at Finca Marta, from left to right: Orlando, Limbert, Marlen & Liz

 Finca Marta view looking east towards Havana

Bee box materials

Inspecting the hand dug well

The original and current land owner

Steer manure biogas digester

Shade cloth greenhouse for vegetable starts

Fernandito watering the aspagargus!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Agroecology Delegation to Cuba – December 2015


Based upon preparatory work done in Bolivia and in the United States, a delegation of sixteen representatives from government and NGOs from those countries traveled to Cuba in December 2015. Over the course of ten days the delegates visited several agroecology research stations (agroponicos), an arboretum and several other destinations.

December 12, 2015

The Aleman Agroponico is about ½ hour east of Habana on about 25 acres of land on the outskirts of Habana. This is the premier research farm in Cuba where agroecology is advanced including biological controls (companion planting, biocides manufacturing, IPM).

We were given the tour by Dr. Fernando Funes and Isabel. Dr. Funes is well known worldwide with many published studies and through numerous speaking tours. Isabel’s father was one of the founders of the farm.
She said they produce about 3.5 million starts annually, with 90 percent of their production being sold to the people in the community with the remainder going to hotels and restaurants. She pointed out the plant borders where sunflowers grew to attract and confuse harmful pests.
They make their own planting mix which consists of three elements 1) soil 2) compost and 3) rice hulls mixture. They use drip irrigation with a magnetic device which changes the properties of the water before it is applied to the plants.
A couple of local women passed us on our walk through the gardens and spoke with Isabel. After some conversation with Isabel these women went on with Isabel then telling us that these women practiced Santeria and had come to the agroponico to obtain soil that has been tilled by oxen which they believe has special properties.

We saw workmen shelling garlic, weeding the field with hoes and pulling sugar cane through a device that stripped off the leaves from the sugar cane stalk.


A machine with Fidel in the background

Dr. Funes showing Joanna Thayer the vermiculture beds

Lovely red loam soil

Rabbits production for meat and manure for vermiculture

Working ox

Workman's area


The beds with newly planted starts

 Moringa, the miracle plant