Roberto Perez promotes a Resilient Community in Byron Shire
On Wednesday the 12th March, in support of our efforts to create a
community in the face of increasing challenges, Kindred magazine and The
Foundation presented a very special evening. Think Global, Eat Local: in
with Roberto Perez was an opportunity to come together and participate in
discussion about how local food systems help to create self-sufficient and
communities. Roberto Perez, Cuban permaculturalist, is best known for his
appearance in the film,"The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak
The Cuban crisis of 1990 – triggered by the withdrawal of Soviet oil supplies – started a green revolution. 80% of agriculture had been American controlled, and focused mainly on sugar cane and tobacco. During the crisis, food became so scarce that most Cubans lost about 7 kilos in weight. Then people began growing food – even in the middle of the city. Agriculture was re-invented as a socially responsible source of food, shelter and sustenance to human life, instead of being for financial profit.
Permaculturalists from Australia arrived, and organic farming thrived – as did the people who became healthier through eating freshly-picked local food. Reliance on petrochemical based fertilizers and pesticides was slashed, and soil-compacting heavy duty tractors were replaced by oxen – farmers learned how to love and work the oxen from older farmers who had worked with them years ago. Today there are half a million oxen working in Cuba. Farming has become well-respected work; 15% of the Cuban population are now farmers, compared with 1% in Australia.
Roberto said: “Everyone started to work together. Food was shared according to the number of hours worked in the garden – there was no separate ownership of land. People got to know their neighbours, asking for salt or sugar and this helped them through the crisis. People took whole boxes of vegetables to day care centres and old people’s homes – free – just because they felt it was the right thing to do. Community feedback started to happen – people swapped clothes from Havanna for food, even organic compostable garbage for food. Awareness of sharing helped to build the community fabric.”
In relocalisation of food production and energy, Cuban local economies were rebuilt. Healthcare and education were decentralized, public transport and bicycling flourished.
Roberto: “We need to collect water, grow food and talk to neighbours. Keep away from TV. If we are a collective, we are more resilient, more resistant. We need to move forward in a way that makes our species strong, not live in a society based on competition. Change is not ethanol instead of petrol, stockpiling and struggling to keep doing the same thing, in that way we are accelerating the process. First is to recognize the way we live is irrational, we need to start changing here and now, from down to top, start doing little things within reach; we need to change the way we think and the way we act.”