Dara CooperDara Cooper was one of 81 participants on a Reality Tours trip of farming and permaculture experts to Cuba, to participate in the International Permaculture Convergence, November 24-December 7. Dara is the director of The NYC Food and Fitness Partnership at Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, which works to address food and health access issues, creating model places where communities of color have equitable access to healthy, safe, clean environments.

Upon her return she posted “Forwarding the Food and Justice Movement in Brooklyn” in the Brooklyn Reader, drawing upon what she learned in Cuba and linking it to the food justice movement in her home community of Brooklyn. Below is an adapted report back. Thanks Dara! 

From Cuba with Love
My second time in Cuba, I am more inspired than ever by the ingenuity, political sophistication and human rights lessons from this island, supplying free housing, food, education, and medical care to all of its people with very limited resources due to the US imposed economic blockade against Cuba.  

There is so much to learn from this island.  How do you feed, house and care for all of your people, despite a huge economic embargo attempting to choke your economy? How can people learn to be resilient, self-sufficient, defy the odds and feed everyone with very limited resources?  

But all of those issues should sound very familiar to those of us living in areas lacking an abundance of healthful options and strong, resilient food systems.

Permaculture Garden in Cuba Photo Credit: The Brooklyn Reader

Permaculture Garden in Cuba Photo Credit: The Brooklyn Reader

Interestingly enough, I am writing this at an international conference on permaculture (sustainable agriculture), learning and temporarily living with permaculturalists from around the world interested in building skills for sustainable living for all communities in the powerful tiny island nation of Cuba, right after working with activists to coordinate a dynamic (third annual) national gathering of Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners (BUGS) Conference at Boys and Girls High in Bed-Stuy.

I am here representing the Black Permaculture Network on a delegation with Global Exchange and Eco Cuba Network at an international conference, bringing permaculturalists from all over the world together to focus on environmental, food, resource and social sustainability.  

This permaculture conference, being in Cuba, studying sustainable food systems, directly after the BUGS conference in Brooklyn is so very timely. As an activist in food justice and liberation movement and the director of the NYC Food and Fitness Partnership at Restoration focusing on healthful food access and sustainable food systems for Brooklyn, I am very excited by this moment in time – a time of intersections and creative imaginations with praxis that I am able to witness and participate. I left the BUGS conference filled with excitement, renewed energy and a deep connection to many others who love and care about sustained farming and growing legacies.

There is much work to be done, but from BUGS to Black Permaculture Network to Cuba—I am beyond inspired.  There is a small, beautiful revolutionary island, leading by example to feed, house, educate and care for all of its people. I plan to bring back every lesson, inspiration and example from this experience when I return to Brooklyn.