Peasant women

Vidalina, Martha and Georgina are the maximum expressions of the peasant woman of this century. They know about the color, taste, texture, and smell of food products; they know if the seed is not good or if the water cannot be used, when to sow and when not to do it. They know that nature is a wonderful prize and cannot be stripped away, or run over. They respect and love the earth as their own blood. 

Las Tunas, Cuba - The climatic variability needs producers who help to heal the soil and three of them put their magic and knowledge, in order to continue giving and strengthening life.


Vidalina The estate is her empire and she feels it. Her family's history could well be told there, as it has belonged to them since the 1920s. The airs and graces of the place are undeniable: it smells of prosperity, of passion for country life and also of the responsibility of breaking away from the daily chores before dawn, no matter wind or rain.

Vidalina Ferrás López was born and raised in those lands, in the property “La Rosa”, located in El Yarey de Vázquez, in Puerto Padre Municipality. Still amazed, she tells us that even she did not know that she liked to produce so much. Destiny took her in a different direction and for many years she worked in the saddlery of La Villa Azul, but family emergencies made her return to where it all began. Now she feels that she wakes up every day in the exact place where she wants to be.

"My father passed away many years ago and my mother stayed in charge. When she died I came to help my only brother because he had health problems and had to have surgery; time passed and I stayed. This land has passed from generation to generation, now I represent it, but then it will be my grandson's turn or my nephew's turn and so on. The earth is the primary link in everything, without it there is no food.

The farm belongs to the Otilio Díaz Credit and Service Cooperative (CCS) and is agro-ecologically diversified. All the food, some vegetables, fruits and grains can be found there. As permanent areas, it has three hectares of fruit trees, the banana and the “palmiche” for the food of the pigs and rams. The sweet potato, in addition to human food, guarantees the shelter for the rabbits and the cane is enjoyed by the hens, the turkeys and all the animals that run around the house. The yucca also does its thing by becoming the cream of life and the flour for the sweets at the snack. Corn, chili, chives and garlic also grow in these areas.

"It can be grown organically, and with agro-ecological practices, my crops do not become very infested. I already have experience in the use of intercropping, living barriers and planting plants that act as repellents; at the same time, I plant flowers that attract the attention of bees and insects. I have only applied the Enerplan, which is biological, to the chives I am growing now twice and they have not become sick.

"The oil we use is extracted from the sesame seeds I sow. It is a very small fruit, but it is the one that yields the most. A quintal of sesame provides 18 to 20 liters of oil. It is known in the international market as sesame oil, it contains the three omegas and is very tasty. We consume it naturally without any process. At this moment I produce almost everything I need, except for the rice. I believe that one can grow as much as one needs for family consumption. The land gives everything if you know how to ask for it", she says calmly.

The conservation of the fruits was necessary, the property has 14 hectares and a brigade of five workers who are retired. Guaranteeing snacks for the whole year was complex because the fruits are grown seasonally. "I made pulp, but it wasn't always preserved, until in 2012, thanks to the PIAL project, I set up a workshop in Havana. There I discovered that I was not making correct sterilization of the bottles.

"Now I am happy with my preserves, I have a snack guaranteed for the workers and when a visitor comes I can offer them a good natural refreshment at any time. My dream is to one day have a mini-industry and a place to sell them".

One project occupies it now and it is the creation of a space whose destiny would be the conservation of grains, which would benefit all the members of the cooperative, who must wait for the seeds to come from other places. The idea will surely flourish, like everything that grows in their fields.


Gerogina After 5:00 in the morning, there is no force capable of keeping Georgina Martinez Turruelles under the covers. The rooster starts its song and she already has her feet firmly on the ground, because running the Justo Bruzón CCS in the town of "Jesús Menéndez" and coordinating its seed conservation program is no game.

Her greatest pride is the seed conservation chamber, also the cause of some sleeplessness. It was the first one that existed in the province, more than three years ago, and it is the apple of his eye. It has brought them considerable economic benefit, which they have been able to use in repairing the cooperative's infrastructure, paying workers' salaries and stimulating outstanding producers.

The idea came from a rural learning school in action, where they brought together grain producers. When analyzing the concrete situation of the region, it can be seen that the process from the moment the farmer requested the seed until he had it in his hands took about 15 days. Instead, they now have them at their disposal at the optimum time for sowing, without having to travel long distances to obtain it.

She explains to us that "it is processed manually, each farm keeps between two and 10 quintals". The chamber has a capacity of up to 450 quintals, 50 percent of the seed used in "Jesús Menéndez" for the entire bean campaign. This was achieved with funding from Oxfam, the PIAL, as well as the cooperative's own funds and the collaboration of Cubasolar.

Gina, as everyone calls her, has a restless look in her eyes and a special glow comes from talking about this project that made the work easier for many. Currently, 10 producers supply the seed and three agricultural engineers from her collective are in charge of visiting the farms and certifying the quality of the sample. The technical norms stipulate that there can be no mixing of varieties, they must be healthy crops and use biological means in the fields, for the sake of better conservation and to protect the health of future consumers.

"When the harvest stage comes, the camera is ready. First, it is fumigated with a nim preparation to prevent insects from invading it, we place the seeds for three hours in the solar dryer and then we use the humidity detector to verify that it has the required humidity. Then, we place it in the chamber and start the dehumidifier that extracts the humidity that the chamber itself generates. When it is ready to be extracted, we do the germination test and we check that it has been successfully preserved and is suitable for sowing.

"When the cowpea bean harvest begins in April and May and there is still no seed to preserve, we use the chamber temporarily to protect the bean that will be sold. In this way, if the sales process is delayed, we collect the beans from all the associates, weigh them, store them and when the buying company is ready, we transport them and the farmer does not run the risk of damaging such a sensitive line".

The knowledge of the Municipal University Centre of "Jesús Menéndez" worked its magic in this company. It is part of the local development plan of the municipality with the intention of expanding the camera and sealing it and thus ensure safety from the impact of a weather event. In the future, they hope to be able to certify the seeds.

Georgina talks about gratitude and challenges, also about what is pending. They still have a debt of high electricity consumption, so the next step is to manage to run it with solar energy. "If we manage to do this we will be able to keep it working all year round and preserve other botanical seeds such as tomato, pumpkin, cucumber, melon and different grains."

"I'm proud of what we're doing. When you dream a project and see it materialize it satisfies you, more so if it benefits many people. The sense of belonging increases with these results and our aspirations grow. I dream that there will be more ideas like this that will be turned into improvements for the associates," she concludes.


Martha If a macho man were to write these lines he would probably say that Martha Orcell Adeis is a woman "with her pants on", "with hair on her chest" and who knows how many other things. Some of those under her leadership at the Gonzalo Falcón CCS in the municipality of Manatí think, even if they don't dare to say it out loud, that she is too imposing, probably because she doesn't beat around the bush, calls a spade a spade, and enforces the right thing, which is better for everyone.

The collective respects her and her merits speak to the tireless of her spirit, even though the years do not pass by for pleasure and a lifetime of sacrifices comes to light in her eyes. She still remembers when they closed the Manatí Sugar Mill and disintegrated the Basic Unit of Cooperative Production (UBPC) Mártires de Manatí where she was president. Suddenly she was unemployed and had to join the Alvaro Reinoso Task, in which she was paid a minimum wage to study, an initiative that protected thousands of workers after the closure of many sugar mills in Cuba.

She was always humble, very young she had to leave her studies to support the family economy. Combined squads and a machine shop knew about her young energy, but all that was before her time in the "Martyrs of Manatí". The "Alvaro Reinoso" returned her to the classrooms and the momentum was such that she entered the University and graduated as an agricultural engineer.

In 2012, after graduating and already having some experience, she was proposed to direct the "Gonzalo Falcón", which imposed new obstacles. "Being a woman leader at that time was very difficult, now that has changed a lot, but I had to face many difficulties and they did not accept what I said. The CCS is complex because each farm is a company and there are still farmers who disagree with me constantly, even though we have good results," she says.

"The arrival of the Apocop project was very important for us, we had some deficiencies and limitations, we have been overcoming that. Today we have made a great impact on the community, which is what is expected, and we produce between 300 and 400 liters of milk daily, which is destined for the population of Manatí.

Personally I was very uncommunicative, I had stage fright and through the training, I have been able to overcome it.

A grow house distinguishes the CCS. Its objective is to produce vegetable stalls for the municipality's food and at the same time employ women from the community who have never worked outside their homes. As they themselves say, they are now others, they think differently, they are empowered and have more economic independence.
From there they sell their products to the 12 cooperatives in the region, to the community, to the suburban areas, and to the Family Farming. At this moment they have 155 thousand positions within its perimeter and the same in the surrounding areas. The demand is growing and in one day a single producer can sell more than four thousand 500 pesos.

"We have had stands of different varieties of peppers and tomatoes, mainly. When it is not the time for seedlings we take advantage of the space when we plant lettuce, tomatoes and other crops. In the outdoor areas, we have vegetables that we sell to the population and to priority centers such as homes for the elderly and pregnant women. We aspire to have a place of honor in the province because in Manatí we already have it.

"I dream of new achievements, when I started I was almost alone and now we are more women on different fronts, which makes dialogue with producers easier, among whom machismo still predominates. We have some resources to promote a technical fruit tree nursery and the positions for that project are already being produced. All this motivates me a lot because of its beauty and importance and I want it not to be lost, but to stay that way."

Several decades have passed in the struggle for land in our country, when there was the first talk of agrarian reform, of individual rights and that land must belong to those who work it. Today the problems are different and the challenge is to ensure the feeding of millions, with a damaged environment and a climate that changes rapidly.

Turning our eyes to the countryside has been a hard lesson that we have learned, particularly in Las Tunas, where the rural areas are larger in extension, but the average rainfall was reduced from 1,126 millimeters per year to 1,038 and the trend is to continue decreasing. Eighty percent of its soils have been declared between low and very low productive, which forces the incorporation of science and innovation in order for the territory to be, as the nation needs, a leader in food security management.

More than a hundred projects are being developed and are a fundamental part of experiences that are already bearing fruit, such as agroecological farms, the creation of varieties that are more resistant to drought, agro-tourism and the use of renewable energy sources. In each of these projects, the role of rural women stands out. They organize their daily lives differently and ensure that each bite brought to the table brings nutrition, health, fertility and satisfaction.