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One Cuban urban farm won’t sacrifice the environment for tourists

One Cuban urban farm won’t sacrifice the environment for tourists

Despite the influx of tourists, the environment still comes first at one
local farm in Cuba.
BY ELIZABETH HANSEN
hansenea@miamioh.edu

HAVANA
Fields of fresh oregano, mint, and garlic surround plant engineer Norma
Romero Castillo as she speaks about the farming methods at Organopónico
Vivero Alamar —an urban farm located in the heart of the Havana suburb
Alamar. Behind her are bulls, getting prepared to carry a load of
recently harvested crops. There is no buzzing of machines or rumbling of
tractors —only the sound of the breeze and bulls clumping down the red
dirt road.

“I’m not afraid of mud, I’m not afraid of rain,” said Romero Castillo.
“I am trained to face everything.”

An hour west of Vivero Alamar sits the quaint eco-village of Las
Terrazas in the Sierra del Rosario Mountains. Most of its inhabitants
have been here their whole lives as the only way into Las Terrazas is
through marriage. But now, Las Terrazas is experiencing some new traffic
in the area: Tourists.

Since 2015, tourism in Cuba has increased 17 percent. Much of this is
due to the improved U.S.-Cuban relations. Of the three and half million
tourists received in 2015, 161,000 were Americans —a 77 percent increase
from 2014, according to reports.

But even with the increase of tourists and U.S. tractor company, Cleber,
set to open a factory in Cuba, both Organopónico Vivero Alamar and Las
Terrazas won’t be sacrificing their environmental values. Vivero Alamar
is sticking to its all-manual and organic labor methods, while Las
Terrazas has set a 400-per-month limit on the amount of tourists
allowed. This will ensure pollution levels from buses aren’t hurting the
environment.

Whether or not Cuba is ready for the increase still remains a question.
But as for Romero Castillo, she’s ready.

More tourists mean the need for more hotels, more food and —of course—
more mojitos.

Clients come daily to Vivero Alamar to purchase bundles of mint for mojitos.

Although the influx of tourists is good for the struggling Cuban
economy, the question is of Cuba’s capability to sustain this steady
increase. But Romero Castillo does not see the farm struggling to reach
demand.

“We’ve got enough mint,” she said, “otherwise, we’ll plant more.”

Last year alone, over 10,000 tourists came to visit Vivero Alamar
bringing with them over 40,000 CUC (about $40,000), Romero Castillo
said. Of these tourists, 70 percent were from the U.S.

“This income source permits us to use that money in producing more and
buying more water pipe irrigation systems which are very very
expensive,” she said. “We are constantly going up and we wish to keep on
growing.”

Up in the mountains of Las Terrazas, tourism began in 1994 to provide
jobs. The market succeeded with over 70 percent of the village
population working in tourism. Back in 2007, Anais Tomayo was studying
to be a teacher. Now, she’s a Las Terrazas tour guide.

The recent tourism spike has also been beneficial for artists. That’s
the case of Ariel Gato, whose main income comes from the tourists
visiting the village.

“Last year at this time, no one was here. And now, you are here,” Gato said.

This article is part of the series Stories from Cuba, produced by
students from Miami University.

Source: With the influx of tourists in Cuba, the environment still comes
first at one local farm and eco-village | In Cuba Today –
www.incubatoday.com/news/article87221362.html

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