If, as in sociology texts, we had to start from a definition, we would say that Casimiro is a small farmer, fortunately very Cuban, who lives with the family on the farm, and who says about himself, that he was first a practitioner of the agroecology and later became a permaculturist. Actually, and in our understanding, the representative of a futuristic family of farmers, an idea that we will try to argue in the paragraphs that follow.
At the beginning of September, the authors of this article, professors from the University of Sancti Spíritus “José Martí Pérez”, visited the farm of the family of José Antonio Casimiro and excited by what we saw, we decided to write the following text.
In Siguaney, Municipality of Taguasco, province of Sancti Spíritus, in central Cuba, the work of the farmer José Antonio Casimiro has become notorious, for maintaining, together with his family, one of the most outstanding agroecological farms in the country and for contributing with this to the concept of sustainable development of agriculture.
If, as in sociology texts, we had to start from a definition, we would say that Casimiro is a small farmer, fortunately very Cuban, who lives with the family on the farm, and who says about himself, that he was first a practitioner of the agroecology and later became a permaculturist.
Actually, and in our opinion, the representative of a futuristic family of farmers (1), an idea that we will try to argue in the following paragraphs.
He is a farmer who feels convinced that the family is much more than a group of people united by ties of blood and coexistence, built from ties of ancestry and descent; It is, according to him, something that is integrated into the farm, it is a relationship that unites that affective dynamic, but in its relationship with the natural environment in which it lives and creates.
The principle that guides this peasant family is “Living with nature, in harmony with it, serving ourselves without harming it, imitating it; it is the way to do agriculture for life, to obtain benefits without harming anything or anyone ”. It is assumed as conviction, as hope, as the way to reach a responsible balance between men and nature.
When you talk with them, it is understood that in this agricultural task, farm, family and country are united in a single content, it is like the love that one has for the soil, crops, flora, fauna make the men and women who live there, people who include from the small, the country where they are born and that at the same time feel great; It is hearing about Cuban things in many ways, and the most pleasant thing about it is that in their talk you realize that they have not needed to have deepened, perhaps in a particular way, in the study of national history.
His farm is a palpable example of the defense of wildlife, full of paddocks surrounded by living barriers (2), where the growth of biodiversity is stimulated, fruit trees abound and birds, who are cared for, feed on and they nest from what grows there; the fauna that multiplies in them, not only is defended by the results it brings in the fight against pests, which is already good in fact, but is part of spiritual enjoyment, a component of a natural hedonism that unfortunately logical agriculture industrial has destroyed and that if it is not resumed in some way, the unfortunate day will come when the earth will not produce to meet the basic needs of those who inhabit it.
You can hear an accurate criticism, not at all sophisticated from philosophical ideals, but very forceful, to the ideal of Western modernity, to the ideal that sees in the industrial modernization of agriculture a duty; This man may never have read Descartes or Rousseau, we don't really know, but he assures that the field is running out of a safe relay, “everyone has studied. Everyone aspires to something else ”, it can be said that he understands in a very peasant way, that that ideal in which the urban is appreciated as the superior, and the agrarian is the backward, is at the base of the crisis in today's society, the The world needs another vision, another behavior, other different ways of perceiving life, a different society. We hear a phrase that sums up this critical attitude towards the modern world: "The agriculture of chemists, demanding imported inputs, very expensive, scarce and degrading, is the path of the mountain that has no way out." When referring to one of the paradigms of conventional agriculture: the tractor, he says “The tractor works in agriculture where everything is the same”.
For Casimiro, it is necessary to save man, save him from the deterioration of his behaviors and beliefs, save him from his consumerist egoism, his excessive desire for money, power and the voracious appetite of the transnational corporate structures that he makes up, it is man who that it has to be saved and with it nature will be saved and grateful.
Agriculture is then defended from the perspective that in addition to producing food for life, men and women of the countryside are produced, never obsessed with the idea of getting rich at all costs and by any means. Every day lost in the insistence on mass industrial agriculture will mean that the future is further away and that man and woman willing to participate in sustainable agriculture take longer to be the decision-makers.
For these practitioners of agroecology and permaculture, the soil is of utmost importance, "first of all it is the guarantee that the soil comes before anything else", not sales, not the market, the market is thought after; when there are no real soil management strategies, when it is not given priority to protect or rebuild it, where human action has left undesirable traces, the future is condemned, children and grandchildren are denied the possibility of being producers of tomorrow.
Develop a long-term strategy to recover the farm, especially to improve the soil, subjected for decades to excessive exploitation. The idea consists of leaving on the earth five parts of organic matter extracted from the reservoir for each kg of food based on rice (it is the reference that is used) that is harvested, in addition to using fertile irrigation, from residual liquid effluents of a methane gas digester that you have installed. The strategy has also incorporated reducing the use of the tractor, since it believes that in Cuba the deterioration of the soils is closely associated with its exaggerated use.
This strategy of soil protection allows you to state without ambiguity about your farm, that "what we have today will be better in the future" and very favorable results are seen in a land that became unproductive, due to being exploited by conventional methods ( 3).
So the solution that he defends, in terms of agricultural strategy, and that has been shared by many farmers in the world, is that of an agriculture that makes it possible to continue sowing indefinitely, it is not the agriculture of an investment to collect short-term productions term and thus obtain a group of economic benefits, as if that were the last year of the farm.
Another ideal of interest, Casimiro has, in relation to grass, he affirms that he does not share the concept of "weeds" at all. Grass can be part of agricultural strategies, part of the system, not only as food for farm animals, but as a component of crop protection, since they contribute to biodiversity, so they can be useful as a destination for Undesirable pests, which if they did not exist would lodge in the crops.
Decided opposite of monoculture; it is, according to him, boring, monotonous, always the same. On his farm, polyculture is practiced everywhere, it can be seen planted in combinations of banana, pumpkin, sweet potato, cabbage, peppers and corn, etc. This makes farming and the farmer enjoyable and entertaining.
Based on the idea of living within the system, with the least possible external energy participation, and a performance that imposes the concept of reducing expenses, Casimiro introduces two hydraulic rams on his farm, which allow him to raise between 30,000 and 40,000 liters of water per day, to his house, located 17 meters high, using only hydraulic power. As a result, he manages to have half the farm with running water for eight months of the year. To this he added two windmills to extract water from the subsoil, to be more used in the dry period. Once this technology is introduced, it is the family that fixes and makes innovations, to improve its operation.
With these changes he got rid of a conventional irrigation system, with his diesel pump. For any Cuban producer, this action can be seen as an absurd madness, but with it Casimiro achieved an irrigation system that does not depend on oil or oil, he got rid of the purchase of spare parts and the hiring of mechanics. And most importantly, it managed to successfully cope with the droughts of past years.
He is loaded with projects, he is really a researcher and an innovator, among other things he aspires to improve the hydraulic system, connecting the system that transports the water through the hoses installed to the rams, to that of the wind mills and to create, in addition, a mechanism for collecting rainwater that falls on the facilities of your home.
Another interesting and useful technical component is the installation of a digester that allows it to produce methane gas from bovine manure and sewage, which provides, according to its estimates, a total of 167,900 liters of fertilizer effluent per year, which They are used in fertile irrigation, brought by gravity to crops. Specifically, everything is very ecological, if one takes into account that it supplies itself with methane gas for cooking all year round, thus preventing these gases from reaching the atmosphere and also contributes to the improvement of soils and increased yields without resorting to to agrochemicals.
He has incorporated pond fish farming into his farm, these are red carp, which is added to those that grow in the reservoir of his farm: clarias and tilapia. All this in function of producing food for self-sufficiency and as food for animals. Fish farming is rare among Cuban peasants and by serving as an example to the rest of the farmers it ennobles the effort even more.
The Casimiro farm has become a science and technology laboratory, experiment and innovation are a daily practice. One of his most significant results has been the creation of an animal-drawn plow that is capable of executing 28 different operations, an innovation for which he has obtained an international patent and of which he speaks with pride.
The concept of agriculture as a purely economic management overflows, he sees in it the beauty, the consummation of ideals of commitment to a new ethics (4) of nature, which make the farmer someone in love with what he does and with his environment, which allows to overcome any alienating barrier.
If something could be said to Casimiro, it is that in reality the problem he complains about is in the very essence of capitalism and in all its remnants and influences, which also took a presence in those countries that have tried to transition to socialism; The change towards cleaner agriculture today faces the power of the transnationals and is actually a crucial issue of class struggle, the powerful of agriculture do not want agroecology at all, they demonize it with subtle arguments, because agroecology reduces the consumption of their products and do not aspire to lose control of the markets, to maintain it they will continue to press with their genetically modified seeds, they will buy politicians and lawyers to defend their multimillion dollar interests and they will not allow the world, the peoples to reach an agreement. Therefore the reality that must be changed is that of capitalism.
It is evident that the world needs a revolutionary hegemony in the management of agriculture, a subjectivity that, by incorporating the ideal of protecting nature, becomes the dominant trend, and that at the same time makes it possible to reduce the exaggerated productivism that condemns it kills biodiversity and destroys soils. A subjectivity that specifies an attitude of definitive rupture with the perverse ideal that takes the rural as the backward and sees happiness and happiness in the urban, which decisively confronts the exaggerated consumerism that capitalism reproduces as part of its internal logic.
We believe that in Cuba, a country that is trying to move towards socialism, the positive meaning that agroecology and permaculture can have, as an alternative to conventional agricultural practices, is very relevant, if it is considered that conventional agriculture has not achieved efficiency. Except in very exceptional localities, in general it has gone through a deep crisis of unproductivity, conditioned by external and internal factors, and its most evident example is that the country imports most of the grains it consumes and, on the other hand, the cane fields, traditional source of wealth generation, they have been very deteriorated in the last decades.
We are of the opinion that agricultural beliefs and practices can be very diverse, but this endeavor developed by families like Casimiro's is full of values and points to the future, thinking firmly about the children, the grandchildren, the that will come; he is very optimistic when he considers that what is lost can be rescued, that hope exists and that it can only be reaped with prominence.
Alberto Matías González, Assistant Professor at the University of Sancti Spíritus, José Martí Pérez. Cuba, Doctor in Environmental Management and Sustainable Development.
Julio Cesar Calderón Leiva, Professor at the University of Sancti Spíritus, José Martí Pérez. Cuba, Doctor in Environmental Management and Sustainable Development.
Edelso Valero Orellana, Assistant Professor at the University of Sancti Spíritus, José Martí Pérez. Cuba, Master in Education Sciences.
Casimiro, José Antonio. "With the family in the agroecological farm", Editorial CUBASOLAR, 2007.
(1) It should be noted that the opinion of a good part of Cuban agricultural society does not identify Casimiro with the successful peasant model; The idea that conceives that the appropriate thing is to produce looking for high profit rates is still dominant, without a real notion of the environmental problem, or of climate change. On the other hand, the life aspirations of many producers, accentuated in consumption, rule out the possibility that a person can be happy away from comforts and luxury. All this despite state efforts to educate on environmental values.
(2) The farm has 5,212 m of living fences, which between borders, guardrails and spaces occupied by fruit trees, represent 2.8 hectares throughout its length.
(3) Taken from Casimiro, José Antonio. "With the family in the agroecological farm", Editorial CUBASOLAR, 2007.
(4) He sees in his agricultural model a technical set "a thousand times more decent than the most advanced technology"