Family Farm Defenders (Kansas Chapter)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dr. Humberto Rios Labrada, 2010 Goldman Environmental Prize Winner, about how Cuba survived Peak Oil: "Agriculture is an Art."

Dr. Humberto Rios Labrada, 2010 Goldman Environmental Prize Winner,  about how Cuba survived Peak Oil: "Agriculture is an Art.  Thank you to my team of farmers and scientists who are the true heroes of these  times.   "

 Image result for Humberto Rios Labrado photos

These are profound talks in English by Dr.Humberto Rios Labrada, (He sings too!) Cuban  Goldman Environmental Prize Award Winner 2010 and member of the Cuban sustainable agriculture movement about how Cuba survived Peak Oil by learning to grow food without oil. (February 2007, UK).  

In 2010 Dr. Humberto Rios Labrada won the Goldman Environmental Prize for his work for Cuban seed sovereignty.

Humberto graduated in 1984 as Agronomist at the Higher Pedagogical Institute for Technical and Professional Education in Cuba. He was a lecturer of plant breeding and experimental design for 12 years in Cuba.
He finished his PhD in Agricultural Sciences in 1999 and participated in the International Centre for Development Oriented Research in Agriculture's ARD course in 2000, as well as ICRA's Design and Management of Interactive Learning in Rural Innovation in 2009.

Humberto has been involved in participatory research in Venezuela, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Colombia, Costa Rica, Central Asia and Cuba. He has published several papers on participatory approaches in Agriculture and was invited as a guest lecturer in Canada, United States, Mexico, Norway, United Kingdom, Holland, Germany, Malaysia, China, Syria, Ethiopia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, Brazil and Venezuela.

Humberto coordinated the Agricultural Local Innovation Programme (PIAL) in Cuba from 2001 to 2011. Humberto was recently  based in Bolivia and advising the SDC financed project “El Programa de Innovación Contínua”. In  2012, Humberto became  the ICRA representative in Latin America.

In 2003, Humberto received the ‘Rural Innovation Award’ from the International Agriculture Centre, Wageningen, for his results in Participatory Plant Breeding. In 2010, he received the ‘Goldman Award’ (considered as Novel Green Prize) for his contribution to agriculture transformation in Cuba.
In 2011, Humberto, with two Cuban colleagues, published a book on agriculture, participation and climate change in Cuba "Innovación agroecológica, adaptación y mitigación del cambio climático" and recently “Chencho Transgénico”, a novel about changes of attitude in conventional researchers. Humberto contributed to the 2012 IDRC publication The custodians of biodiversity - Sharing Access to and Benefits of Genetic Resources

Humberto loves farming and singing and produced his first CD “Mango Chupé” with his musician friend Daniel Lodeiro.

In the UK in 2007, says the charismatic Dr. Rios Labrada: "These talks are for all of humanity,"  because, as many of you already know, we are all going to face peak oil and we can learn from Cuba's experience beginning in 1989 facing this crises and surviving.

It wasn't easy and the story is still going on. One must wonder what the impact of US normalizing realtionships with Cuba will be on our beloved Cuban sisters and brother's Sustainable Agriculture Movement.

In February 2014, I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Rios and others  on a food  research tour in Havana.  Dr. Rios shared with me that the Cuban Sustainable Agriculture Movement had to work with their government to get their support for their sustainable agriculture work. Said Dr. Rios with his usual openness, "They (the Cuban government) say they don't like the US, but they want to be like the US." They want to compete with the US and be industrialized, rely on petroleum: "We had to educate them about sustainability and work with them."

Dr. Rios who was at that time working with the ICRA  to improve Bolivia's agriculture, shared with me that he thought Bolivia's food system exceeded Cuba's in that a complete meal could be purchased in Bolivia at a local restaurant for $1 a day.

In these 2007 talks in the UK, Rios continues, "We are growing 2 times as much food without petrochemicals but we are importing more food from the USA now because it takes time to increase agriculture productivity sustainably. I know as well that we are as well importing a lot of food from Canada as well."

Today, according to my 2014 research with Emilio Anderez of  La Asociación Cubana de Técnicos Agrícolas y Forestales, ACTAF, ( The Association of Cuban Farmers and Foresters) ordinary citizens, most of Cuba's chicken is imported  from US and Canada, a highly industrialized and exploitative process well described and depicted in the classic Food Movement film hosted by Michale Pollen, Food Inc. Emilio also  shared with me that Cuba imports white rice from China and Vietnam. Cuba also imports beans. It imports milk (a lot of powder milk) from the US and Canada as well.

According to interviews conducted by the Kellogg Food Fellows in Cuba on a recent tour, Cuba imports 78% of its food: i.e., rice, beans, chicken, and milk as well as others.
"We produce rice, beans, and milk, but it is not enough for the people, " said the speaker in this interview.

In his 2007 UK talks, Dr. Rios shares that his  bottom-up or participatory work was forced on him because when he went to graduate school in Cuba after the collapse of the USSR, with whom Cuba engaged in 87% of its trade due to the US led global embargo,  there was nothing at university, no paper, no desk, no pencils, no books, no machinery. He became a musician playing music for tourists to get tips to survive and support his family. From making a first world salary like you here in the UK, says Dr. Rios, my salary dropped to $3 a day.

Dr. Rios made the farmers the scientists in what is known as participatory research. The farmers and their families selected seeds based on their own categories and experience . Seed fairs and trials were conducted all over the country. Starting with a few thousand farmers, now over two hundred thousand farmers are involved in the project continuing Dr. Rios's work in Cuba, which is now run by women, Dr. Rios proudly points out.

Dr. Rios's acceptance speech for Goldman Environmental Prize (In Spanish, transcribed in  English)

"La agricultura es un arte....Gracias a mi equipo de sceintificos y prodcutores que son los verdadero protagonista de esto tiempos.

[Agriculture is an art...Thank you to my team of farmers and scientists who are the true heroes of these  times. ...]"

"You are making me cry. Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor for me to speak with you tonight. Cuba is a country with a colonial and post colonial history based on the monocultivation of sugar cane. The industrial agricultural model that used fossil fuels, chemicals, and mono-cultivation, damaged the rural environment, natural resources and human health, and it caused a strong dependence on food imports. With the collapse of the Eastern Block socialist countries, our agro-industrial model, entered deep crises. In the face of the national deficit of food crop production, and with the upsurge of the United States Embargo, we proved that by providing access to agrobiocultural diversity and supporting farmers participation in building our knowledge base, we gave renewed value to farmer's wisdom, and brought about rapid advances in food production. Access to agrobiodiversity, the right to manage it, and the duty to multiply it, constitutes and alternative method, to alleviate poverty for millions of people who live in rural areas. This way we will create a greener world with more smiles and less contamination. Industrial agriculture has not kept its promise to end hunger. I hope that our work can contribute a solution to this problem. This prize deepens my commitment to continue working on the path to a true agriculture that produces food promoting agricultural diversity, participation and farmers' implicit cultural values. Agriculture is an art. Thank you to the Goldman Foundation for this recognition. Thank you to my team of farmers and scientists who are the true heroes of these times. Thanks to my family who have always supported me. Thank you to the National Institute for Agricultural Sciences, the Minister of Higher Education of Cuba, the International Development Research Center, the Swiss Development Corporation,the Canadian International Development  Agency, and other important agencies. Thank you everyone for sharing this moment with me. Thank you every much."

Humberto's February 2007 Talks in the UK on the Cuban Agriculture and Ecology experience: brilliant

A talk in Spanish by Dr. Rios about Climate Change and Agriculture in Cuba
As of 2008, the sea level was estimated to be rising by one meter per year due to climate change.

Dr. Rios's CD Mango Chupe.

More articles about Dr. Rios.

More Interviews with Members of the Cuban Sustainable Agriculture Movement 
Interview with Fernando Monzote

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