Experts have just confirmed what peasants in Las Tunas Province already knew due to the declining yields of their harvests and the degradation of their land. Eighty percent of the province’s arable land has already eroded, and another 28% is facing desertification. According to reports appearing in the official Cuban press on July 28th, this problem is a result of “changes in rain patterns, and inadequate management of the province’s farmable lands.”
Specialists from this eastern Cuban province’s Communist Party Agricultural Affairs Committee estimate that 445,000 acres of previously fertile land are now ruined, accounting for 11.67% of the of the island’s deserts. According to the report, climate change combined with a growth in farming in the so-called “vulnerable zones” will only exacerbate and spread the environmental damage.
Top and subsoil erosion, poor drainage, salinization, and compaction are among the negative results of soil degradation. Consequently, the region’s agricultural output has dropped significantly.
The government experts stress that uncontrolled forest fires, the burning of harvest leftovers, the absence of crop rotation, deforestation, and the excessive use of machinery are some of this situation’s other causes. Las Tunas Province has a naturally dry climate, from where it takes name.* Nevertheless, this reality has only been worsened by the current predicament.
The loss of arable land is worse on the northern border with Camagüey Province. According to Amado Luis Palma, an expert from the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment, “(northern) Las Tunas Province is beginning to resemble Cuba’s only semi-arid region, the desert corridor between Caimanera and Maisí, in Guantánamo Province.”
*Translator’s note: “Tunas” are a type of native Cuban cactus that grows wild in the province.
Translated by José Badué