Farmer  Dainer de la Cruz bets on agroecology

Dainer de la Cruz Barrios began to work the land as soon as he turned 18, but studying wasn't his thing and he knew that the life of a vagabond didn't suit him either, so he went into the bush, with all his youth behind him, to carve his path.

His father told him he had a craving for the worst place Yeso 2 had, in Vázquez (municipality of Puerto Padre). And when he got there, it looked really bad.

"The maize, for example, grew to a certain height and then no more; you made an effort in the plantations and nothing, there was no progress. One day, I said to myself, we have to do something about this and I started to use chicken. I went to the poultry area that was then in the community of La Viste, in the middle of the Special Period, and I brought a whole cart to the farm and incorporated it into the soil.

"I remember that I sowed some runner beans and, every four or six of them, I put in a run of maize. Fortunately, the weather was good and it rained enough. You see, I'm 5'6" tall and to grab the cob, I had to grab the bush, take a step back, and then reach for it. That was a thing of beauty for me."

And since then, thanks to these results, Dainer has always incorporated organic matter into the soil. A practice that has been strengthened with the insertion into the Ecovalor Project.

"I have managed to transform, little by little, the whole place. Every year I incorporate organic material into about two or three hectares of land, and I return to each every three or four so that the benefit is not lost. Some neighbors say that I'm a whimsical bush, but I try to explain to them that that plant needed nutrients from the soil to grow, develop, and bear fruit and when you cut it down, you're destroying the soil and I know from my own experience how much it takes to rebuild it."

"20 or 30 carts of organic matter used to cost very few, and now a single one costs around eight thousand pesos. Dainer says that it is more economical to take care of the soil, incorporate crop residues and organic matter, avoid erosion, look for the right slopes for water runoff, and beware of fire because it degrades mercilessly."

The Ecovalor Project came to him as an important strut. And not only because he now has a tractor, with front-wheel drive and even air conditioning, and he is the pilot farm for the work, but also because three neighboring farms benefit from it and even provide services to other neighbors when the rigors of the work and the scarcity of fuel allow it.

"Ecovalor" has trained them, they have advisors, recent literature at their disposal, and the not-inconsiderable benefits of the internet. All this makes them better prepared to counteract pests, to know the exact dosage and timing of fertilizer application, and to know how to deal with the soil and its nuances.

Dainer's farm already has electricity, three very deep artesian wells, and a well-made road, which they have polished themselves for the benefit of the neighbors, and even the street Julián Grimau, the one at the entrance to the Vázquez terminal, has been substantially improved by the men of the land.

"The formula for being a good farmer today is very easy: love", he says, and explains it with the determination in his voice that life gives you when you work hard, without half measures."

"We are living in very difficult times and you have to love the land, and take care of it, and if you don't like what you do, you won't get results. That is more than clear to me. The tendency now is myrrh for the city. And it can't be because Cuba is an agricultural country. We can't get tired of looking for ways to bring young people to the countryside."

"But we have to try to find the minimum conditions for that, because sometimes, for example, you find someone who wants to go and raise cows, but you send them to Piedra Hueca, with no roads, huge mosquitoes, no electricity, who's going to stay there? On the other hand, if you put solar panels, encourage them, and help them to fix a road. Then it is a different matter."

"The countryside has been left alone because we are neglecting the rural areas and, with such a hard life, many people are going to the cities and towns."

Dainer is no longer the little boy who one day began to break up the bush and make his threshing machines in the undergrowth. Nor does his image resemble the extreme shyness that is attributed to the Cuban guajiro almost out of conviction. His voice is strong, like his work; and life has hardened his body and his thoughts, fortunately, without taking the love from his eyes and the desire to do, from the earth, for all of us.