History of the Canada-Cuba Farmer to Farmer Project

In ten years, 33 delegations have travelled to Cuba with The Holm Team:  487 Canadian farmers in 26 delegations and 86 students, scientists and chefs in 7 delegations.  In 1999, a delegation of 27 Cubans (farmers,agronomists) visited British Columbia.  These Delegations - the relationship-building component of the work - continue. 

The Project began Phase Two of its work - cooperative capacity building - in December 2004 with its first Project: Enhancing Sustainable Dairy Production Capacity in Cuba.  Our Canadian partner in this work is Sustainable Cities.    Th
e Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) supported the Pilot Project with $75,000 in funding.   Project costs to date have been $225,000.  The remaining funds have been donated by farmers, other Canadians and Canadian agri-business.  We are fundraising to complete this work.

Here's how it all began!

June 1998
On holiday in Cuba, Holm meets in Havana with Juan Jose Leon Vega, MINAGRI CUBA, idea of farmer to farmer exchange is first raised.

August 1998
Holm's Country Life Column introduces idea of Exchange to BC farmers.

September - November 1998
Farmer interest strong, exchange planning process begins, funding brief prepared and circulated, first BC farmer Delegation confirmed, tour/travel arrangements completed, farmers briefed, funding brief circulated.

January 1999
20 BC farmers travel to Cuba for five province, 10 day farm tour and meeting in Habana with Juan Jose Leon Vega to mandate the Canada-Cuba Farmer-to- Farmer Project.

February 1999
Development of Project Framework, Strategic Plan. Holm flies to Ottawa to seek support for Phase Two.

March 1999
Presentation to Organic Crossroads conference, presentation of BC's organic insp./certif. system to Cuban Trade Minister at Van. Board of Trade; Cuban Minister of Agriculture invites BC Ag. Minister Evans to Cuba to formalize Project; BC's academic/scientific community invited to tour Cuba's agricultural universities/research facilities.

April - June 1999
Circulation of 100 copies of PHASE TWO FUNDING BRIEF to support Phase Two (Arrival of Cuban Delegation in Aug.). June - July 1999 No funding. Phase Two announced June 6th at Havana Cafe, Cuban farmer's visit confirmed, $80,000 raised from farmers, farm cooperatives, communities, churches, credit unions, labour, universities, Agrologists and government to support $90,000 to bring 27 Cuban farmers to BC.

August 21-September 10, 1999
Twenty Seven Cuban farmers, scientists and senior policy makers visit over 70 farms, agri-processing facilities, universities and research stations throughout BC (from Delta to Peace River to Vancouver Island) over a 3 week period.

September - October 1999
Wrap-up of Phase Two. Brief prepared recapping Phase 1/2 and requesting seed funding to develop a Phase Three proposal. Phase Three Brief widely circulated. Holm flies to Ottawa to seek support for Phase Three; attends two conferences at Carlton on Cuba.

November and December 1999
Holm flies to Havana for 2 weeks of meetings with MINAG/NGO's to discuss priorities for Phase Three, prepares bilateral Project One (Cdn support to Cuban dairy sector in return for Cuban expertise in commercial organic and urban agriculture). Holm organizes 2 Winter 2000 Exchanges to launch Phase Three. Delta Municipality contributes $15,000.

January and February 2000
Thirty-five Canadian farmers (2 delegations) spend two weeks touring Cuban farms from Ciego de Avila to Santiago de Cuba. Jan. 17 - 31 and Feb. 7-21.

March 2000
Holm presents Project to Simon Fraser University's School of Resource and Environmental Management and Queens University's Forum on International Relations; travels to Ottawa to meet with CUSO, IDRC (International Development Research Council). CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency). DFAIT (Dept Foreign Affairs International Trade), AAFC (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), and CSIH (Canadian Society for International Health).

April, May 2000
Holm travels to Ottawa to meet with Physicians for Global Survival, Cdn Society for International Health, others, Project endorsed by Canadian and Cuban chapters of Physicians for Global Survival, Cdn. Society for International Health, Cdn. Association of Physicians for the Environment. Advisory Board appointed :
Moura Quayle
Former Dean, Fac. of Agric. Sciences, Univ. of British Columbia;
Dr. Evelyn Pinkerton
Sch. of Res. & Environ. Mgm't, Simon Fraser Univ..
Dr. Ian MacPherson
Head, BC Inst. for Co-Op Studies, Univ. of Victoria;
Dr. Susan Babbitt
Department of Philosophy, Queens University; AND
Dr. Warren Bell
Pres., Canadian Assoc. of Physicians for Environment.

June 2000
Holm addresses CUSO AGM; with Cdn Society for International Health presents Project to government/NGO representatives; travels to Havana to meet with Cuban government/NGO's. CIDA application to measure human/ecosystem health effects of sustainable agriculture submitted.

November 2000 - March 2001
Holm leads five more Canadian delegations to Cuba. Eighty-five farmers participate from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

May to July 2001
Wendy Holm is named Agrologist of the Year 2000 by the 1000+ member BC Institute of Agrologists in part for her Canada Cuba work. Holm presents Project at BC Centre of Co-Op Studies conference, Univ. of Victoria, meets with CIDA, IDRC, CUSO in Ottawa to encourage support for Project One (dairy), presents Project to Co Development Canada.

Winter 2002
Holm leads 3 Winter 2002 Delegations of Canadian farmers (67 in all) to Cuba, ANAP (Cuba's 41 year old national farmer association to which all farmers belong) and ICAP (Cuban Institute for Friendship with the People) become our formal Project Partners in Cuba

Fall 2003
Holm is awarded the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal for her work in Cuba and on behalf of Canada's farmers.
Winter 2003
Holm leads 2 Winter 2003 Delegations of Canadian farmers to Cuba.  This brings to 245 the number of Canadian farmers who have travelled to Cuba with the Project since its inception in 1999.  CIDA presents Project One Proposal (diary) to MINVEC (Cuba's International Ministry of Economic Cooperation), MINVEC accepts project and refers to ANAP for potential partnership, a Spanish translation is provided; in Canada, Holm meets with CIDA, Canadian Project One team is drawn together.
Summer 2003
Through introductions facilitated by UBC's Liu Centre, a partnership is struck with International Centre for Sustainable Cities (Sustainable Cities, www.icsc.ca) to bring Project One forward for funding consideration by CIDA.

Fall 2003
Holm meets with CIDA, ICSC, ANAP.    Dr. Nola-Kate Seymoar, CEO of Sustainable Cities, writes to CIDA on behalf of the Project.  A ICSC-authored proposal - Enhancing Sustainable Dairy Production Capacity in Cuba - is developed and submitted for CIDA consideration.  

Winter 2004 
Holm leads two more Winter 2004 Delegations of Canadian farmers to Cuba.  CIDA's Projects and Innovations Branch puts out a call for agricultural proposals.  Holm meets with ANAP and agreement is reached on budget and approach.  The proposal Enhancing Sustainable Dairy Production Capacity in Cuba is accepted by CIDA and commences in November 2004.

2005 - 2008
Farmer delegtions continue, bringing to 432 the number of Canadian farmers who have travelled to Cuba with the Project in twenty four Delegations since its inception in 1999.  In 2005 our Cuban tour partners become ANAP.  A Cooks' Tour of Cuba is added in 2005 at the request of Cuisine Canada and is repeated in 2007.  A Students' tour is added in 2005 at the request of the University of British Columbia (AGSC 302 International Field Studies in Sustainable Agriculture Cuba, an accredited UBC course) and is offered in 2005, 2006 and 2008.  A custom tour is organized  for a group of Entomologists in 2006.  On the Dairy Project front, Gallagher Canada donates our solar powered fencer and in August 2005, 16 ha of micropastures are constructed.  Our one year pilot ends December 2005, segueing into The Completion Project to continue the inevitable "next steps".  In 2007, our Project wins the AMEC Award for Sustainable Development of Natural Resources or Protection of the Environment at CIDA/CME's 15th Annual Canadian Awards for International Cooperation.   In August 2007, 15 additional hectares of rotational pastures are built and a 100 HP verticle turbine installed to support on-farm ration capacity.  Farm and student tours continue in 2008.      

2009 - 2010
Two more farmer delegations bring to 487 the number of Canadian farmers who have travelled to Cuba with the project.  A strategic planning session in January 2009 sets a project completion date of Dec 2010 for the Dairy Project.   In July 2009, CPA President Juan Sanchez Martell and Marta Suarez Rodriguez come to Canada for 3 weeks to train at the farm of Gladys and Jim Millson, Landomills Holsteins.  Fifteen more students travel to Cuba for 3 week field studies course of sustainable agriculture (AGSC 302), bginging to 50 the number of students who have participated from 13 universities in Canada, the US and South America. 

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