Cuba’s Land Distribution Plan Keeps Farmers Waiting

LAS GUASIMAS, Cuba (AFP)–Idalmis Garcia is on the cutting edge of Cuba’s bid to boost food production and proudly shows off the small plot of land President Raul Castro’s government put her to work on. Now she wants more.

“I asked for as big a piece of land as they could give me, but they gave me 0.95 hectares (two acres), which is not too much, so I applied for more and I’ve been waiting months for an answer,” Garcia, 39, said, standing amid the goats and sheep she tends on her spread at a former military base just south of Havana.

She is one of 78,113 Cubans who have jumped at the chance to cash in on a law that took effect in September 2008 to try to boost homegrown farm output.

More than 60% of cash-strapped Cuba’s arable land, which totals 1.6 million hectares lies fallow, in a country roughly the size of Portugal, or the U.S. state of Virginia.

And the Americas’ only one-party communist regime spends about $2.8 billion a year importing food for its population of more than 11 million and well over a million tourists.

Adding insult to injury, three major hurricanes ravaged Cuba last year leaving $10 billion in damage and seriously harming many crops and farm animals.

While a great deal of abandoned farmland in Cuba is covered with dense tropical scrub brush, Garcia and her family have been making the best of their New Deal.

Farmers work the land but don’t own it outright. The Garcia family have turned a former military barracks on an ex-base into a small home surrounded by corrals.

Official media say the government has handed out 689,697 hectares – 41% of the total Havana plans to distribute, and that 25% is already being farmed.

Garcia’s lot, however, isn’t as easy as many of the 100,000 private farmers whose productivity is higher and who don’t have such tough brush to contend with.

Many of them have family plots that were small enough that they weren’t confiscated by the government after the 1959 revolution.

All of them have their eye on producing for themselves – and bringing any surplus to market in crowded Havana and other cities.

So land which lies a manageable driving distance from Havana is very much in demand, and a cornerstone of Garcia’s strategy.

She says she would like to have had more government help and advice, but most of all wants a green light to buy five cows to produce milk, and to start raising pigs and rabbits.

Just down the road from Garcia, Orlando Venegas, a mechanical engineer who took up farming three years ago, has been waiting seven months for an additional plot he requested to expand his operation.

And he is dismayed that the cooperative he sold his tomato crop to left him in the lurch, never paying him the $600 it owes him.

“That makes a lot of problems for me; I have workers I have to pay, and they don’t care what the reason for the problem is,” Venegas said.

Failure to deliver payments is a chronic problem, the government acknowledges.

And new farmers, in state media in March, aired passionate complaints about the lack of equipment and seeds.

They even have a hard time getting proper clothing and work boots – most of those items are only available in stores that sell goods in hard currency. Cubans earn an average of under $20 a month.

Despite the challenges on the new rural economic frontier, many Cubans are ready to take a chance and are waiting for their land.

Rafael Echevarria, 50, lives with his extended family in a tiny shack, hoping that he’ll get his land, “even if it is just a little bit.” – Swimming pool condo in Cuba


About Particular Cuba
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One Response to Cuba’s Land Distribution Plan Keeps Farmers Waiting

  1. Pingback: Lawyer in Farmland offering legal service to those suffering from malignant mesothelioma

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