Most beginnings are rocky and sometimes the obstacles seem insurmountable, before they are finally overcome. This was certainly the case for the Finca Marta, a farm in Cuba that had to begin by digging a well in search of water and with the hard-scrabble work of clearing an arid, stony and overgrown plot of land.
It's eight o'clock in the morning and Pascuala Ninantay is carrying two large containers of water in her wheelbarrow to prepare with neighbouring women farmers 200 litres of organic fertiliser, which will then be distributed to fertilise their crops, in this town in the Andes highlands of Peru.
"Our philosophy is based on two principles: zero tolerance of pesticides or bosses," says Leandro Ladrú, while he puts tomatoes and carrots in the ecological bag held by a customer, in a large market in the Argentine capital, located between warehouses and rusty old railroad cars.
"Now we live well," say both Givaldo and Nina dos Santos, after showing visiting farmers their 1.25-hectare farm in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which is small but has a great variety of fruit trees, thanks to innovative water and production techniques.
Brazil is one of the world's largest agricultural producers and exporters, but its food supply has become seriously deficient due to food insecurity, unsustainability and poor nutrition, according to a number of studies.
At the entrance, the Tierra Brava farm looks like any other family farm in the rural municipality of Los Palacios, in the westernmost province of Cuba. But as you drive in, you see that the traditional furrows are not there, and that freshly cut grass covers the soil.
Organic agriculture is rapidly expanding in Argentina, the leading agroecological producer in Latin America and second in the world after Australia, as part of a backlash against a model that has disappointed producers and is starting to worry consumers.
The United States has indicated a clear interest in buying organic produce from Cuba as soon as that is made possible by the ongoing normalisation of ties between the two countries. But farmers and others involved in the agroecological sector warn that when the day arrives, they might not be ready.
As the festive season begins, some farmers say that consumers should be asking about the origins of their food, and thinking about who produces it, especially in light of the historic accord reached at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) on Dec. 12 in Paris.
Armando Marcelino Pi divides his day between the university, where he teaches philosophy, work on his family farm, and coordinating a group of 33 agroecological farmers, in this mountainous rural municipality in western Cuba.
"It is time for a new agricultural model that ensures that enough quality food is produced where it is most needed, that preserves nature and that delivers ecosystem services of local and global relevance" – in a word, it is time for agroecology
Peasant farmers from one of El Salvador’s most fragile coastal areas are implementing a model of sustainable economic growth that respects the environment and offers people education and security as keys to give the wetland region a boost.
Agriculture in this Caribbean island is going through its worst moment. Whereas this sector accounted for 71 percent of its gross domestic product in 1914, now it amounts to no more than one percent.
An organisation that brings together some 10,000 peasant and indigenous women from Chile is launching an agroecology institute for women campesinos, or small farmers, in South America.
The furrows are hard to make out in fields of the Finca de Semillas, a farm on Havana’s outskirts, because its administrators, Esmilda Sánchez and Raúl Aguilar, protect every centimetre of soil with mulch.
Vilda Figueroa and her husband, José Lama, live in Marianao on the outskirts of Havana, where they share hundreds of recipes based on Cuban-grown foods and sun-drying, along with other ecological food preservation methods.
Present day European farming is based on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which was created over six decades ago by countries emerging from severe food shortages that swept the continent during and after the Second World War.