Farmers report that Maria destroyed almost all of this season’s crops while contaminating much of the soil, providing yet another opportunity to reimagine a system that was broken before the storm. Today, far too much of Puerto Rico’s fertile land goes uncultivated, leading islanders to import roughly 80 percent of their food. Before the hurricanes, there was a growing movement to break this cycle by reviving local agriculture through farming methods, such as “agroecology,” that draw on both indigenous knowledge and modern technology (and include the added bonus of carbon sequestration).
Farmers’ groups are now calling for the proliferation of community-controlled agricultural cooperatives that would grow food for local consumption. Like the renewable energy micro-grids, it’s a model that is far less vulnerable to supply-chain shocks like hurricanes — and it has the additional benefit of generating local wealth and increasing self-sufficiency.
As with the solar-powered generators, Puerto Rico’s farmers aren’t waiting for the emergency to subside before beginning this transition. On the contrary, groups like Boricuá Organization for Ecological Agriculture have “agroecology brigades” traveling from community to community to deliver seeds and soil so that residents can begin planting crops immediately. Katia Avilés-Vázquez, one of Boricuá’s farmers, said of a recent brigade: “Today I saw the Puerto Rico that I dream being born. This week I worked with those who are giving it birth.”
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