Organoponicos And Food Security

"Our laid-back approach to food production is what bothers me most. There is much talk but little action. If government diverts 10 per cent of the resources it has put in its chase for a new POS skyline into agriculture, we could increase food production to a level where it dampens inflation. If we join hands in the Caribbean, embrace our brethren in South and Central America where land space is not a problem, then food inflation would subside."
Some time ago our PM encouraged citizens to beautify their environments with the planting of ornamentals. I welcomed this focus on horticulture because I have always had a personal interest in and respect for this activity which is at once necessary and beneficial if conducted, as with all other pursuits, with respect for the health of the land and for the persons who will consume the produce.

I have always known that Trinidad and Tobago is blessed with excellent conditions for year round agriculture and for the establishment of prosperous and sustainable industries based on the harvests and even on the waste from these harvests. We do not need to depend on food imports to feed our people. In fact I believe that we are fully capable of feeding ourselves. Rather than waiting to be forced back into agriculture when our golden goose of fossil fuels has finally croaked, let us turn towards it now before even more precious land is grabbed up for ecologically unsound industries and as profit making investments by persons who have no interest in the welfare of the wider community.

Even in urban areas we can follow Cuba's brilliant projects supporting community production of healthy, fresh food for its citizens. These neighbourhood gardens are called 'organoponicos" and they are increasing the quality of fresh food available to people living in cities.
Ed Ewing of the UK Guardian explains:

"...when the USSR collapsed in 1990/91, Cuba's ability to feed itself collapsed with it. "Within a year the country had lost 80% of its trade," explains the Cuba Organic Support Group (COSG). Over 1.3m tonnes of chemical fertilisers a year were lost. Fuel for transporting produce from the fields to the towns dried up. People started to go hungry. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) estimated that calorie intake plunged from 2,600 a head in the late 1980s to between 1,000 and 1,500 by 1993.

Radical action was needed, and quickly. "Cuba had to produce twice as much food, with less than half the chemical inputs," according to the COSG. Land was switched from export crops to food production, and tractors were switched for oxen. People were encouraged to move from the city to the land and organic farming methods were introduced.

"Integrated pest management, crop rotation, composting and soil conservation were implemented," says the COSG. The country had to become expert in techniques like worm composting and biopesticides. "Worms and worm farm technology is now a Cuban export," says Dr Stephen Wilkinson, assistant director of the International Institute for the Study of Cuba.

Thus, the unique system of organoponicos, or urban organic farming, was started. "Organoponicos are really gardens," explains Wilkinson, "they use organic methods and meet local needs."

"Almost overnight," says the COSG, the ministry of agriculture established an urban gardening culture. By 1995 Havana had 25,000 huertos – allotments, farmed by families or small groups – and dozens of larger-scale organoponicos, or market gardens. The immediate crisis of hunger was over.

Now, gardens for food take up 3.4% of urban land countrywide, and 8% of land in Havana. Cuba produced 3.2m tonnes of organic food in urban farms in 2002 and, UNFAO says, food intake is back at 2,600 calories a day." SOURCE
Note: I don't know what the levels of lead pollution from vehicular traffic are like in T&T but if you are hoping to plant in urban environments, the location of the plots should be at a safe distance from roads and highways. Perhaps the EMA would be the best agency to advise.

For those of you who have an interest in starting your own organoponico on your farm or right in your own backyard or balcony, here are some links to local organisations/iniatives that can point you in the right direction:


TTOAM Trinidad and Tobago Organic Agriculture Movement

Trinidad and Tobago Permaculture Institute [an Association of practicing Permaculture Designers]
6 St. Ann's Avenue, St. Ann's
Phone: 624 1341

Wa Samaki Ecosystems

In the book by Canadians, Alisa Smith and J. B. McKinnon, "The Hundred Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating," the authors document their experiences over one year as they maintained a diet restricted to only foods grown within one hundred miles of their residence. If we can ensure that the farmers growing our food are not presenting us with produce laced with dangerous chemical residues, I am convinced that if Trinbagonians were to try this, despite the initial inconveniences and adjustments, our health would be greatly improved.

When food has to travel great distances, there is inevitable deterioration. Trust me, the apples I've eaten from roadside stands in T&T are substantially inferior to the ones available at the source, and even at the source, time elapsed after harvesting and proximity are evident in the taste and texture. The same must apply to all the vegetables coming into T&T. If food must be processed to delay this deterioration, it is often tainted with dangerous additives, not to mention the sometimes harmful materials which go into the packaging.

I heard today that 17 million children are currently living in poverty in the USA. The number of desperate citizens is amplified when you consider that attached to those 17 million children are their impoverished, sick, unemployed and often homeless families. This fact is allowed to exist alongside the other fact that trillions of dollars have been and continue to be wasted by that government on wars, or should I say, "humanitarian interventions" in far off places. Where is the humanitarian intervention at home? Why are our immediate neighbours always expendable?

In our case, why shouldn't we love our homeland before all else? Why shouldn't we look around and ask ourselves why are more and more of our people suffering from diseases brought on by poverty, stress, pollution, unhealthy food and lack of exercise?

I once knew some children in T&T who were in their teens and had never been to the seaside. How is it that the beneficial impact of our places of natural beauty, our vistas that have not yet been cluttered and defiled by progress, are not available to some? Why is it that some people cannot come out of their homes and feel the earth under their feet in their own backyards and gardens?

Why is home ownership and/or access to land an impossible dream for many citizens. Billions of dollars are spent on wasteful government public relations campaigns while a home buyer has to find a million plus to get a concrete box.

The money was here, some of it is still here and it could have been used to give many people hope and purpose. I am not suggesting throwing handouts at people, I am dreaming rather about a system that curbs the greed of those who have unrestricted access to the wealth of this nation and who often make cruel and unjust decisions about who else is allowed to join the gang of beneficiaries.

And while we work on making home ownership a possibility for all, home rental - an industry which is predatory and usurious if left unchecked, has to be regulated, especially the management of rents and the standard of housing being offered to consumers.

Yes, one bullet withdrawn might spare the life of one body but the life of a body is good for nothing when the soul has been vanquished.

The whole world is trying to come to terms with something that perhaps we will only be able to define eons hence with the benefit of hindsight and if we are still around to do it. But the moment is a chance and I firmly believe that in this tectonic rearranging there is an opportunity to break free and to try something different, not to continue to mechanically hammer away at old problems with the same ineffectual and infected tools.

"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!


Igor Torgachkin said...

An interesting blog! Good luck!
Greetings from Russia!

Guanaguanare said...

Igor, Thanks for visiting and for your kind comments. I have visited your blog and I can see why you enjoy viewing and documenting these ships. Just to mention one, I love the SEDOV - absolutely gorgeous! with the imposing yet graceful tall masts, the rigging and attractiveness of the colours. Thanks again!