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The CBC celebrates individual initiative...

...But gives credit to the communists.

Back when the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba was unable to feed itself, and the country depended on food aid (among other things) from its communist allies. Facing starvation when this aid was withdrawn, Cubans started growing their own food on small patches of land. And the government didn't stop them.

This, according to the CBC, is a 'green revolution'. They sent David Suzuki down there to make a two-part documentary celebrating how a repressive state removed enough repression from their agricultural system to allow people to scratch out a subsistance lifestyle using pre-industrial farming methods. And isn't it worth celebrating?

Without fertilizer and pesticides, Cubans turned to organic methods. Without fuel and machinery parts, Cubans turned to oxen. Without fuel to transport food, Cubans started to grow food in the cities where it is consumed. Urban gardens were established in vacant lots, school playgrounds, patios and back yards. As a result Cuba created the largest program in sustainable agriculture ever undertaken. By 1999 Cuba's agricultural production had recovered and in some cases reached historic levels.
Imagine! A fertile tropical island growing enough food to feed itself! Will the wonders of Fidel's revolution never cease?

According to Terence Corcoran (I could never sit through watching the show myself), Suzuki rhapsodizes about these charming, earthy people digging potatoes out of the ground with their fingers, and complains about Canada's modernity:

The big equipment breakthrough is the return of oxen to pull ploughs. There's no money for tractors or fuel. One scene lovingly records a man struggling to wedge his plow into the ground as two oxen push forward, a beautiful setting reminiscent of Canadian farming, circa 1870. Suzuki provides commentary: "Oxen don't compact the soil, like heavy machines. As a result, soil fertility is improved. Oxen can go into the fields when it's too wet for tractors."

...

Each small garden farm produces multiple crops -- vegetables, fruits, coffee, forage. That avoids the Canadian "practice of monoculture where large tracts of land are planted with a single species that creates the most severe pest problems."

Suzuki says the old Soviet industrial farm system imposed on Cuba by Castro is "the same system used today by northern countries like Canada."
...

The use of earthworm composting, based on labour-intensive movement of earth and animal and garden waste, is said to be "extremely efficient." Pests are controlled using bacteria, ladybugs and natural chemical such as extracts of garlic. "Nothing is wasted," Suzuki claims.

But there are problems looming on the horizon for Cuba. Eventually the 20th century might intrude on this idyllic medieval form of living, and following that might be the 21st. Cubans may eventually be allowed to have some kind of control over their lives:
Fidel Castro has survived many perils and at 78, he is rumoured to suffer from a number of afflictions. As his health declines the world wonders: what will become of Cuba's Green Revolution after he is gone? Even now Castro presides over a political system, which although socialist, has an economy where bartering and quasi-entrepreneurial practice seemingly influence many trades and professions, including the "green" sector. There is also ever-increasing pressure from Canada and European nations for the U.S. to come to terms with Cuba's political dissent.

Will Cuba's "Green Revolution" become a blueprint for sustainable agriculture, medicine, and biotechnology, or will it be swept aside by the economic weight of foreign investors? Or will the public clamour for consumer goods from a weary people, fed up with lack of choice, overwhelm contemporary Cuba? Will Cuba's enormous experiment in sustainable development be maintained if the U.S. embargo is lifted and Cuba is exposed to the brutal arena of world trade?

Let's hope not.

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