We hear it all the time : bees populations around the world are drastically declining, but it turns out that there is an exception to this global trend. Today organic honey is one of Cuba’s main exports, besides rum and cigars. The country is a kind of a bee paradise and the explanation behind this really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. For many years we’ve been talking about the very negative effects that pesticides have on bees and other native pollinators. Cuba gives us a chance to take a look the future of organic agriculture and observe its benefits.
The negative effect of the fall of the Soviet Union on Cuba’s economy turned out to be a blessing in disguise for nature on the island. Since Cuba couldn’t afford to buy pesticides anymore they were forced to look for an alternative and turned to organic farming. It took time before the country started to reap its rewards, but the government didn’t change its policy and today this is paying off. Bees populations in Cuba are thriving and since the country is pesticide-free all the honey produced is marketed as organic. Honey is now Cuba’s fourth most valuable export.
“The overall use of pesticides is fairly controlled, “Cuba has been immune to the bee die-offs [hitting other regions].” – said the FAO’s Friedrich, quote from The Guardian
Meanwhile around the world the declining bee population has become a serious problem. Most countries are intensely using pesticides, many of which have been known to kill bees and other pollinators. Bee farmers from across the United States , Canada and Europe have raised their concerns over the effects of pesticides and neonicotinoids in particular on the bees. The problems that honey (and fruit) producers in the West are going to face might be bad news for us, but it will certainly be good news for Cuban farmers who believe that the business is just picking up, they are sure it will only expand.
“I don’t think there are any doubts that populations of honeybees [in the United States and Europe] have declined … since the second world war,” Norman Carreck, science director of the UK-based International Bee Research Association told the Thomson Reuters Foundation , quote from The Guardian.
Are we going to be smart enough to learn from the Cuban example and do our best to shift our agricultural practices ? The benefits of respectful farming techniques are not just going to affect the bees, but the entire ecosystem, our own health. We can and should support organic, permaculture and small scale farming through our daily consumer choices. We should also push for action from our governments for harsher regulations on pesticide and herbicide use as well as for more subsidies for truly sustainable food production.