Local women in eastern Cuba improve their economic situation and self-esteem as they join agro-ecological projects under implementation by the Bartolomé G. Lavastida Christian Training and Service Center (CCSC- BG Lavastida) in Santiago de Cuba, 861 kilometers away from Havana.
Along with her family, Mayelín Aguilar, a 36-year-old nurse in Babiney, a village in Granma province, close to Santiago, is putting perm culture into practice.
Thanks to the knowledge gained at the nine-month courses organized by the Center, they are currently producing vegetables, tubers and condiments, rearing animals, using dung as fertilizer, and collecting rainwater to deal with heavy drought.
Financed by international cooperation agencies, the training actions got underway in 2010 and have ever since covered the use of alternative energy sources and gender issues.
There are now around 30 families implementing ecological principles in agricultural production.
«We used to plant only corn and cassava, but we are now growing over 20 different crops,» Aguilar told SEMlac.
«Our monthly savings stand at around 100 pesos (four dollars) on cooking (biodigestor use), 120 pesos (five dollars) on water collection (no need to buy cistern truck services), and up to 1,500 pesos (60 dollars) on foodstuffs,» she added.
«We have changed our eating habits; we now eat vegetables and sheep more often,» she stressed.
The Center projects also reach vulnerable social groups like pregnant women, HIV-positive and disabled people, and senior citizens.
Veterinary doctor César Parra indicated that these projects are benefiting over 600 families.
Perm culture and gender
«Our initiatives seek to promote food preservation, disease prevention, and gender-related awareness-raising,» coordinator Teresita Rebustillo emphasized.
«We organized 31 workshops in the 2010-2014 period to help fight male-chauvinism and sexist stereotypes. They involved 742 people, including 529 women,» she recalled.
Surveys have revealed that there is still a need to change traditional family roles and gradually eliminate gender violence.
Alina Guerra, a resident in El Bosque neighborhood in Bayamo (Granma), had been unemployed until she joined a Center project.
«It helped me open my eyes wide and realize I could do any type of work,» she told SEMlac.
The project has for five years been producing sheep meat and cow milk for vulnerable population groups, while the surplus is freely sold at low prices.
Out of 75 farmers under the initiative, 38 are women.
Aguilar has seen her family change. «We are all involved in household chores now,» she noted.
«We often organize community debates and talks to identify abuse situations and take action,» she emphasized.
«There was gender violence even within the church,» she concluded.