State farmers on a junket to Cuba

State farmers on a junket to Cuba

Trip to hone organic agricultural skills; govt to spend 2 lakh per couple

State farmers on a junket to Cuba

Farmers in the State practising organic farming have an all-paid trip to Cuba coming their way. The government’s Organic Farming Mission has decided to send 1,000 farming couples to Cuba to get a peek into the organic farming revolution in the island nation, where 80 per cent of farmers avoid chemical fertilisers in farming.

The first batch of 350 farmers is expected to leave for Cuba  next March. The government is expected to make a formal announcement about the trip after the completion of on-going panchayat elections.

The couples who own less than five acres and practise organic farming are eligible for the trip, the itinerary of which is yet to be worked out. The expenditure on each couple will be around Rs 2 lakh, which will be borne by the government .

Cuba, one of the world’s few socialist regimes, was compelled to depend on native farming techniques in the wake of the trade embargo imposed by the United States decades ago. The Cuban government has made organic farming a priority, handing over 80 per cent of state-owned land to private shareholder enterprises.

The Organic Farming Mission decided on the trip after holding talks with Cuban Ambassador to India Miguel Angel Ramirez Ramos. Mission chairman A S Anand said: “The ambassador was very happy after knowing our interests in his country and has assured us of all support for the trip. The ambassador also informed us that he would convey our interest and enthusiasm to Cuban President Raul Castro.”

Anand said the ambassador has asked him to list three teams so that it would be easy to arrange for their farm visits and interaction with local farmers. For every batch, the mission will identify two couples from each taluk.

Karnataka is the first state in the country to take farmers to Cuba. The government has been sending farmers abroad for the last two years. As many as 841 farmers were sent to China in 2008-09 and 190 to Israel in 2009-10. The trips were aimed at exposing native farmers to advanced techniques of food production adopted in these countries.

In the earlier foreign trips there were less scope for women farmers, but this time, the mission decided to give couples a chance. A visit to Cuba would help them understand the advantages of avoiding chemical fertilisers in farming. “Cuban farmers’ success story and a visit to their farms will boost the confidence of our farmers and they could come back and advise other farmers to adopt organic methods of farming,” Anand added.