There are a lot of misunderstandings regarding the legal restrictions of Cuban travel. Here’s a break down of what you need to know to be able to legally travel to Cuba:
- Everyone traveling to Cuba from the USA (regardless of citizenship) is regulated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Each traveler must obtain a ‘general license’ to be allowed in the country.
- There have, historically, been 12 categories one can request a general license to travel to Cuba; however recent restrictions have taken it down to only 11. You will need to do a bit of reading up to ensure you meet the requirements of whichever category you choose to use.
The new political restrictions now prevent educational, people-to-people travel, which most tours, such as the Cuba Agreocology Tour, have historically used. And, they also prevent cruise ships as well as private vessels (such as boats, yachts, private aircraft) from entering the country. In the case of Organic Growers School’s upcoming tour of Cuba, we will be using the “Support of the Cuban People” general license. This type of license requires full time engagement in activities that directly support the Cuban economy. These activities include:
- Supporting local casa particulares and accommodations
- Meeting with local farmers, farm workers, and other business owners
- Mutual educational exchange
- Exploring independent markets, museums, and restaurants
We do not anticipate legal regulations preventing us from continuing to use this license to access the invaluable sustainable agriculture education that exists with the growers and legislature in Cuba.
Why is Cuban Agriculture Important for Small Farmers?
For those less familiar with Cuban agriculture, here’s a breakdown on why Cuban Agriculture is an important model. The country has had a focus on organic production methods since the 1970s. When the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 ended Cuba’s access to agricultural inputs overnight, it propelled them into what is now known as the “Special Period”—a crisis of reduced resources and increased hunger. At this point, the country embarked on a massive and rapid conversion to agroecology in an attempt to boost food production. This tour will focus on small farmers, sustainable food systems, and national security. The lessons and insights for the development of a secure and sustainable food system worldwide are many.
Be sure to check out this reflection from a farmer in Mars Hill, NC who traveled with us in 2018 to hear about the impact that the trip had on her.
The Purpose of Our Trip To Cuba
“The purpose of this tour is not to romanticize or glorify Cuban agriculture,” says Sera Deva, the trip organizer. “But it is instead an opportunity to learn about what a country-wide commitment to sustainable, local agriculture can look like. It will broaden and deepen our region’s wisdom in creating alternative food systems.” Our goals are to:
- Show our participants the importance of cooperative farming models and sustainable farming techniques
- Encourage participants to think critically about practical and governmental structures that could support a thriving growing community
Questions about the trip? Please email Sera Deva, Trip Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Sera Deva
Sera Deva has a B.S. in Microbiology & Agroecology from The Evergreen State College. She is the former Director of Programs & Systems Design at OGS, is the President of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) Board of Directors, and is the Administrative Director for The Firefly Gathering. When she’s not geeking out over genetics, systems theory or soil hydrology, she spends her time growing and eating food in the South Toe Valley in Burnsville, NC.