News and Facts about Cuba

Sustainable Technological Alternatives in Havana

Sustainable Technological Alternatives in Havana

March 19, 2013

Regina Cano

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba is an ideal environment for exchanges between people

committed to the earth, said Madeleine Porr, the executive director of

the German NGO "In Good Hands."

Her group sponsored a recent symposium in Havana titled, "Making the

Future with Local Strengths," which dealt with recycling, renewable

energy and healthy . This forum was conducted in late February at

the Cuban Association of United Nations by the "El Pan Alegre" project.

The activist proposed "comparing visions and ideas [and] their

usefulness in everyday life in different cultures."


Amaranth is a versatile and resistant American ancestral plant that's a

valuable source of protein and other nutrients, which is its first key

characteristic. The colonialists of Latin America prohibited its

cultivation for religious use. However, according Madeleine Porr, "its

seeds are so small that it was impossible to prohibit it… the plant is

still a source of fear on the part of those in the industrial biotech

empire… It's a rebel plant…"

It also has a history in Cuba. Eduardo Ortega (from the plant physiology

laboratory of the of Havana) reported that they worked with

amaranth plants in 1989 but economic changes in Cuba meant putting those

efforts on the back burner.

They came up with modest results, learning more about amaranth and

hoping it could be grown in tropical Cuba.

Madeleine Porr — the facilitator of the discussion between the forum's

participants — commented that even under those conditions, four

generations of amaranth plants have been grown in Cuba.

She added, "Cultural changes required time for it to become established

in the local ." Currently it is being cultivated by some of the

Cuban community projects that were represented at the symposium, groups

like "Arbol de Vida", "Haciendo Almas", "Ando Reforestando", "Alas de

Mariposas", "Jesus del Monte" and others associated with the "Mapa

Verde" and "Bahia de La Habana" networks.

The plant is used in various delicacies and recipes, such as horchatas,

pudding, candy, chutneys and wine. These were shared by Francisco

Bonilla Hernandez (Mexico) from his community experience. He explained

what happens at "Rancho Alegre" with the planting, cultivation and

marketing of amaranth.

From the "Mexican Women's Network" and "Rural Women," Nuria Costa

Leonardo told how a commonly marketed brand called "Na – Sueños hechos a

manos" (Na – Dreams Made by Hand), would be coming onto the market.

Their credo is: "Linking women with Mother Earth… struggling for the

visibility of rural women… pulling triple and quadruple work days in the

community, which isn't recognized… achieving a better quality of life…

Today, poverty has a female face [but]… the path is diverted when we

come together for them to give us… [money]."

The key is "working for an awareness of the mission. Self-financing

[with] solidary savings groups…"

"The levels of malnutrition resulting from poverty [reflect] a problem

of political conception on the part of the government… therefore we're

the ones who we're suffering from them… These are opportunities for

transforming consciousness and introducing ourselves with our strengths,

with successful projects…" (*)

Solar Alternatives

The project "Camino del Sol" led by Enrico Turrini (Italy/Cuba), with 20

years of experience with the Camilo Cienfuegos City (Cuba), is

proposing an alternative energy source: "It's not only about achieving

clean energy… but finding sources in which all people can participate…

where energy doesn't remain in the hands of a few transnational


He asserts that solar panels become cheaper "when there's participation

from everyone…" He emphasized "the use of small generators or biogas,

ocean currents… with everything connected."

Conrado Moreno Figueredo (from Cuba's Center for Renewable Energy) noted

that "other countries have policies that are defined for each of these

sources… they must be approved by the government, they need laws."

"We're working to have an exact policy [in Cuba] approved by the Council

of Ministers this year…"

Citizen's Participation

In Buenos Aires (Argentina), "Los Cartoneros" (the "Cardboarders") are

selling recyclable waste. They now have cooperatives, explained Anja

Mocker ().

Mocker found community groups there working for environmental hygiene,

which through protracted neighborhood-government dialogues solved

collective needs. "Public participation promotes cultural change… a

transformation of the system is not achieved from operating at a very

small scale," she insisted.

Cesar Añorve has spent 30 years (in Mexico) seeking sustainable

solutions after being moved by people's misuse of water. His own

practices include the treatment of soapy water, bicycle pumps, dry

toilets (**) and houses made from adobe.

"Challenges in the Cuban context have the most concrete expressions on

the local scale and are an important part of the solution, stressed

Berriz Ricardo Valle (Cubasolar).

Cubans community projects shared practices for planting amaranth

(including the preparation of nougats mixed with sesame seeds) and other

crops (vertical or rooftop grown), solar cookers, the recovery and

reprocessing of materials in disuse.

In addition, there was a sharing of the experiences of Cuban women (in

their 50s) who were devoted to studying, disassociating themselves from

family traditions — with bad habits, like eating junk food, that are

transmitted to children — as they need solutions for providing food and

for the problems of "our aging population."

Science-fiction environmentalists?

Each day the actor Yoset Posada would read an excerpt from the book The

Tahiti Project, by Dirk C. Fleck (Hamburg, 1943). Gertrudis Ortiz (from

Arte y Literatura publishers) presented the Cuban edition of this work,

which was awarded the 2009 German Science-Fiction Prize. She stated,

"The most important thing is that all concepts and technologies

presented in this book… now exist… are accessible… [and are] ready for

application even if only in the form of studies or prototypes…"

People also attended from the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Agrícolas,

the Instituto Pedagogico "Enrique Jose Varona", the Grupo de Desarrollo

Integral de la Capital, CubaEnergia and the ministries of Public

and Science, Technology and Environment. The latter agreed to promote

the planting of amaranth among people who own plots of land.

The sponsorship of the event was shared by the German NGO, the CubaSolar

NGO and the Cuban Book Institute.

There was no saying goodbye – we agreed to meet again the following

Sunday to make "snacks" with amaranth.



(*) Another exponent of amaranth was Roland Hoffmann-Bahnsen (Germany):

He discussed its cultivation and its benefits for humans and animals.

(**) Some of us women asked ourselves if the designers of "dry

bathrooms" had taken into consideration that females possess organs that

are developing and that are in different locations relative to men. They

asked…"how can we keep our excretions dry?"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Follow Us
Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Google PlusCheck Our Feed
March 2013
« Dec   Apr »
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31
Donate for Servers
We run various sites in defense of human rights and need support to pay for more powerful servers. Thank you.
Cubaverdad on Twitter
Tweets by @Cubaverdad