Hurricane Maria was a devastating climatic event in the Caribbean region that affected the food and agriculture sector of many small islands. In Puerto Rico, the local government estimated that 85 per cent of agriculture was lost. Prior to hurricanes Irma and Maria, Puerto Rico already imported 85 per cent of its food supply; following these events it is estimated Puerto Rico must import 98 per cent of its food supply. Such high percentages raise concerns about the resiliency and food sustainability of Puerto Rico. This means that to build self-reliance and sustainability, Puerto Ricans must work effectively to rebuild and improve the islands’ food production systems.
One method growing in popularity is agroecology, which focuses on a systems approach to achieve food sovereignty. Agroecology involves diversified farming practices that promote soil health, improved natural resource management, community health, and food sovereignty. Agroecology is considered an interaction between agronomy and ecology. According to the UN Special Rapporteur Olivier De Schutter’s report on “Agroecology and the Right to Food,” agroecology can be viewed as the “application of ecological science to the study, design and management of sustainable agroecosystems.”
This approach has been shown to build resilience in agriculture against climate change-related events (such as droughts, flooding, hurricanes, etc.), with evidence suggesting that farms using an agroecological approach recover faster than those utilizing monoculture practices. In Cuba, the Campesino a Campesino (CAC) (“farmer to farmer”) movement is often used as the best example of this farming method. The farmer to farmer movement addresses the problem of food and resource scarcity at a national level with a bottom-up approach.
Young small-scale farmers are already utilizing these techniques and changing current food systems. In addition, youth-based non-profit organizations like the Caribbean Youth Environment Network Puerto Rico Chapter are working to promote environmental regeneration by distributing organic seeds and fruit trees, as well as assisting on farms after hurricanes. Watch the video here.
Dariana Mattei-Ramos grew up in a small town in Puerto Rico. She attained a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography from the University of Puerto Rico. She also completed a Master’s Degree in Food and Agriculture, Law and Policy (Vermont Law School). Dariana is currently working for the Caribbean Youth Environment Network on sustainable food and agriculture issues in Puerto Rico.