By Bianca Agbayani
When people think of the word, they think of it as a getaway from their busy and supposed “difficult” lives. Otherwise, they would usually associate “poor” or “communism” when describing this country. In other words, “Cuba is rich in poverty and poor in economy” as a summary statement from our cultural view.
During ten days in Cuba, the GCELE team and I were involved in a very promising adventure. The type of agriculture we encountered is called Permaculture, which are the words permanent and agriculture combined. Permaculture is a type of agricultural farming that is sustainable and self-sufficient. As in relation to Permaculture, this trip gave me, and the rest of the team, the knowledge of how Cuban locals secure their food and how they use their waste efficiently. An example of this is that they operate a method called “grafting”, which is combining two different vegetables (under the same biological family classification) to grow from one tree. This technique will save space in their farms. I also learned how they make the best out of their own produce with the remaining waste products they have and the nearby cities produce. We learned about this from working at a farm for five days and with those who have experience in agriculture. The significant message of this experience is they never waste anything and always look for the best opportunity on how to use their excess resources.
Despite Cuba’s history, it is very inspiring to see them independent and happy, as back in North America, we are so dependant on technology and get miserable about the smallest things. Their culture is very exquisite and interesting, especially when it comes to dancing. Cubans live a life where digital communication is almost non-existent and where global outreach is sparse. It is when a country is very independent, they must look upon their resources to make the best out of it. It is very amusing to experience what it is like to be Cuban and inherit the admiring adventures we had been through. I lived like a Cuban, without depending much on our North American “necessities” that we often take for granted (such as WiFi or laptops). This experience made my eyes open and encourage me to speak about it to others such as my friends, classmates and family members. It gave me a spark that if they can do so much for their country without much resources, why can’t Canada do the same?
Canada is one of the most bountiful countries in the world. It is a miracle that we are so rich in agriculture and produce 1.5% of food in the world, per Statistics Canada (2015). Though our produce percentage is high, our garbage still consists of fresh produce and uncontaminated products. As a fact, a resident in British Columbia spends an average of $44 each week on produce and throws away about 11% of their purchase, per a study by KitchenAid. In total, an average Canadian home throws out $200 worth of fruit and vegetables each year — making up to a total of more than $2.5 billion from Canadian households as of 2015. To add, big grocery chains, such as Walmart and Loblaw’s, throw food away simply because they have ripped packaging or they are too ugly to sell to the public. These little things, or mistakes in the eyes of the business sector, make consumers like us uninterested to buy – which force these vendors to discard the unsold food.
If Canada can teach younger generations about permaculture, there is a great chance that we can decrease the waste percentage of crucial resources.
As you see, Cuba and Canada are so much alike; yet, we are also so different. We tend to be narrow-minded and often look at one perspective of things. As for Cubans, they see what they receive. They never overthink it. In addition, they are so grateful for what they have. To be honest, their lives are simpler and happier compared to our lives here in North America. Cubans have more than enough to live a happy life.
This GCELE experience gave me an insight to simple happiness, amazing culture and most importantly, the purpose of permaculture and how it can affect positively in our world today.
Please take a moment to view this video capturing some of the trip’s most memorable moments: