Cuba revives its private farms
"Speckled chickens in Geraldo Pinera's garden will be on his family's dinner table soon, stewed with herbs and tomatoes and garnished with creamy slices of the avocados now ripening on a pair of spindly trees," writes Carol J. Williams of The Times.
Pinera, a member of a 25-family farming cooperative in Altahabana, a village outside Havana, tends a private half-acre plot tucked between the state-owned mango orchards where he works a day job. He raises guava, passion fruit, sweet potatoes and poultry to augment a $20 monthly income and the government ration of starches.
Like other Cuban families, the Pineras are eating more fruits and vegetables as a result of a national campaign to boost food output and curb costly imports. Their efforts represent a small but significant step toward the government's ultimate goal to vastly reduce its dependence on more efficient foreign producers, especially for favorite foods such as rice, meat and dairy.
President Raul Castro spurred the planting of idle lands around cities with a series of reforms in recent months aimed at improving self-sufficiency. The moves included making land available free to those willing to till it and easing a strangling national bureaucracy that once controlled a farmer's every step, from seed procurement to sales price.
Photo: A vegetable vendor scoops up peppers at the Sunday market across from the National Capitol building in central Havana. Hundreds of Cubans and tourists flock to the market each Sunday to shop for vegetables, fruits, seafood and meats or just to mingle amid the hustle and bustle. Credit: Lianne Milton / For the Los Angeles Times