Enhancing Sustainable Dairy Prouction Capacity in Cuba

"Perfect Pedestals" - CPA 26 Julio, January 1, 2010

This project received the 2007 AMEC Award for Sustainable Development of Natural Resources or Protection of the Environment at CIDA/CME's 15th Annual Canadian Awards for International Cooperation Fredericton, New Brunswick...   CLICK HERE for MEDIA RELEASE

How the Canadian Dairy Farmers felt about their participation.


Cuban Farmers visit Southern Ontario

In food stores, farm markets and pharmacies, through discussions at Tim Horton’s, twilight meetings and the neighbour’s farm, many readers in Southern Ontario met the two Cuban dairy farmers who arrived July 5th as guests of Solina dairy farmers Jim and Gladys Millson, Landomills Holsteins.  

Juanito Sanchez Martell and Marta Suarez Ramirez are in Canada as part of a cooperative project to increase sustainable dairy production in Cuba.

Jim Millson, Durham Region’s representative to the Board of Directors of Dairy Farmers of Ontario, is one of three Canadian farmers who volunteered their time in December 2004 to support a dairy project at Agricultural Cooperative 26 Julio in Havana Province.

At the end of the one-year pilot, Jim found the potential so intriguing he “just couldn’t walk away.”   As a result, the Millson’s have adopted the project.

For the past four years, Jim and Gladys, daughter Morgan and son-in-law Darryl Donneral, together with BC Agrologist and Project Leader Wendy Holm, have worked closely with their Cuban counterparts to create a sustainable dairy model based on rotational pastures, irrigation, solar-powered electric fencing, on-farm ration production, and hand rearing of calves that will help Cuba become more self-sufficient in milk production.

The Project won the 2007 AMEC Award for Sustainable Development of Natural Resources/Protection of the Environment at the 15th Annual Canadian Awards for International Cooperation. Pilot funding of $75,000 was provided by CIDA.  A further $175,000 has been donated by farmers, farm suppliers and supportive Canadians through Sustainable Cities Foundation.

With another 18 months remaining in the project, Juanito and Marta were here to improve their skills in calf rearing, herd management and nutrition. When not shadowing the Millsons in their daily farm chores, Juanito and Marta also had time to visit a Junior 4H Show in Orono, tour Brighton’s environmental sewage treatment wetlands, attend two area Twilight Meetings (Vale O’ Skene Holsteins in Little Britain and Alona Holsteins in Millbrook), visit a rotational pasture (Tim Prior, Brussels), drop in on two livestock auctions, visit Oeds Geertsma’s dairy and egg farm in Lucknow, tour Kawartha Dairy plant and a milking goat operation (Lloyd Wicks’ Grass Hill Farm) in Bobcaygeon, and spend a morning at Martin Littkemann and Lori Smith’s water buffalo dairy in Stirling.  A visit to Tyrone Mills topped off their program.

A meeting was also arranged with the Cuban Consulate in Toronto, and local MP Bev Oda, minister responsible for international cooperation, visited the farm to learn more about the project and explore avenues for further support.

READ: A helping hand for Cuba.  Ontario Dairy Farmer Magazine, October 2009

READ: Report on Juanito and Marta's Visit to Canada, July 2009

For Canada, this renewal of our long-standing relationship with Cuba’s dairy farmers can only result in more positive outcomes on a trade level. Dairy production is a high priority for Cuba – half her milk supplies are imported. As tourism pushes the Cuban economy, demand will increase for improved genetics, improved inputs and a wider range of consumer products (e.g. specialty cheeses, ground beef).   This Project builds the international relationships that will stand Canada’s dairy farmers in good stead as opportunities emerge.  

This project is but the first step along the path of more meaningful farmer-to-farmer engagement that will have as its mandate the ethical sharing of capacity in support of sustainable farming communities, food security and the environment.

ENVIRONMENTAL/CLEAN ENERGY NOTE:  This project harnesses Cuba’s abundant solar energy reserves to power cattle fences that encircle sustainable, rotational pastures.