Leidy Casimiro Rodriguez is an agroecology expert with wide theoretical knowledge and long term in-field research experience of the daily practices of Cuban farmers.
Leidy returned to the family’s ancestral farm with her parents during the Special Period, a decade of economic crisis that hit the country hard. They transformed the farm over the course of twenty three years into one of the most sustainable in Cuba, using agro-ecological techniques that help mitigate climate change and improve food security.
In addition to her PhD, Leidy created a mathematical formula to measure the Socio-ecological Resilience Index of family farms, an indicator of how prepared farmers are to face negative externalities:
“The Special Period happened to be a positive phase for the third and fourth generation of the family. It came as a challenge to return to the family farm that the first and second generations had almost abandoned due to the deterioration of soils and infrastructure.
In the Special Period we weren’t yet completely agro-ecological. We started with all the usual setbacks: trying to make agroecological chemicals without synthetic chemicals, without money or experience and just our enthusiasm to go on. The idea of transforming our farm stems from the Cuban agroecology and permaculture movement, plus several years of bitter experience of agrochemicals.
The world needs such examples, and Cuba may be one of the best, for many reasons. We are proposing to create a national project to use almost a million hectares of unoccupied land that belong to a hundred thousand families.
We believe that small farmers can offer so much for a sustainable future: the maximum use of renewable energy, the traditional knowledge held on each farm with its microclimates, biodiversity, and local customs. It was easy for us to understand this since we had the chance to compare.
We have become stronger than we had ever thought possible through our constant dedication to the farm’s improvement, interpreting the laws of nature day in, day out, year after year, and generation after generation.
The Socio-ecological Resilience Index that I created allows for an evaluation of the capacity of a family farm or a rural territory, to be maintained over time, taking into account the desires of the family, the needs of their community buy also caring for and conserving the soil, natural resources and protecting both ecological and social diversity. This capacity of resilience should allow farming families to maintain and enrich their culture and community environment and reduce their vulnerability to negative externalities such as climate change, market fluctuations, political changes etc.
The methodology for the evaluation of Socio-ecological Resilience was achieved by the work of our family over twenty three years, which allowed us to analyze the progress and dynamics of family farms, how they adapt to changing political, environmental and economic factors.
This can contributes to the improved effectiveness of decision-making processes, both for farmers who wish to improve their resilience, and for politicians who wish to develop more sustainable agrarian policies.
We joined the Slow Food movement because it combines our philosophy of life with new concepts of healthy, varied food, adding value to the work we were already doing and giving us a new capacity and creativity to grow good, clean and fair food. Slow Food offers an integrated, sustainable vision from production to consumption, subjects that are commonly treated separately but which are in fact closely related.
Supporting Slow Food’s campaign means donating funds to strengthen this massive movement for the common good, safeguarding traditions and diversity for a prosperous and sustainable society.”
Slow Food is promoting the Menu For Change campaign to tell the world how climate change is affecting small-scale farmers and food producers and what we are doing to support them. Get involved!
Photos: Leidy Casimiro Rodriguez