Tuesday, 16 September 2008
The Cuban Food Revolution Comes to Wales
It's not often that I can say I am truly inspired in our National Assembly, but I was yesterday. Roberto Perez called in to Cardiff (at very short notice) for a meeting with myself and Nerys Evans AM. He was on his way through to Bristol from Machynlleth - he's in the middle of a speaking tour advancing the permaculture revolution which could soon spread to Wales.
I went to see this community-owned allotment project (organiponico)in Alamar in May, when Nerys and I were part of a Plaid Cymru study trip to Cuba. I met a representative from the Cuban Agriculture Ministry with Elin Jones AM, Plaid's Rural Affairs Minister and we were given a tour around Organiponico de Alamar, which is on the outskirts of Havana.
Cuba lost two thirds of its oil when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. The whole food system had to be reorganised. People no longer had access to fertilisers, machinery or the means to distribute food. The organiponico movement started with people squatting pieces of waste land in urban areas. The government allowed them to use the land as long as they continued to produce food. Collective co-ops were developed and markets for selling the food were established.
Roberto Perez is one of the founders of the urban permaculture movement in Cuba and he is in Bristol tonight. He agrees that we have a lot of potential in Wales to localise our food systems and develop ways of producing food that work with, rather than against, nature.
We don't have to start from scratch. Last week I visited a number of projects in Pembrokeshire and met with some representatives of the transition towns movement. People there - and in plenty of other places throughout the country - are getting together to produce their own food and energy. As Roberto said, wherever you go in the world there are plenty of people who want to get involved in permaculture and small scale renewable energy production. It's up to governments at all levels, especially councils, to make it easy. According to Roberto, access to land is key. In Cuba there are gardens on former car parks and polluted industrial sites. They are very cheap to set up, and have the potential to employ and educate people and contribute to healthier lifestyles. With the price of food rocketing, they would be a great way of ensuring access to cheap, good food. What are we waiting for?