The Nation or Marabou / 14ymedio, Elvira Fernandez

Marabou weed invades the fertile plains of Cuba. (14ymedio)
Marabou weed invades the fertile plains of Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio,ELVIRA FERNANDEZ, Ciego de Ávila, 21 November 2014 – Seven years after Raul Castro, in a speech, criticized the spread of the marabou weed, this thorny plant continues to gain prominence in our fields. On that occasion, marking the 26th of July, the General said, “Arriving here by land I was able to see if everything is green and beautiful, but the most beautiful, which I could confirm with my own eyes, was how beautiful the marabou weed is all along the entire highway.” Today he could repeat these identical words.

The invasion of what is scientifically known as Dichrostachys cinerea has set off all the alarms. In the middle of the country, its dominion extends across the planes that once served to cultivate cane, the planting of vegetables, or the pasturing of cattle. Nothing is safe from its dense thorny bushes that defy the most intrepid peasants.

Two months ago a troop of men was gathered in Ciego de Avila, armed with rustic tools to fight the marabou weed. The new “Battle of the Revolution” takes place in very fertile lands, but ones which have suffered long neglect from their only owner: the State. Thus they now are drowned under the thorns that have led to enormous weedy thickets.

Something more than 400 men, with axes and machetes in hand, have the arduous mission as their charge. The objective is, that at the end of 2014, all the lands in the upcoming sowing plan will be ready for planting cane. An undoubtedly difficult task, because of the 50,000 acres needed, 32,000 are greatly affected.

Leaders of the territory have promised that the campaign will be recorded in history as “The Epic Against Marabou.” They are unaware, perhaps, of all previous attempts to eradicate a plant that was introduced into our country in the mid-nineteenth century, a plant with the great capacity to reproduce in our country’s climate and natural conditions.

The only advantage of the undesirable marabou is its wood – very hard – which is extremely suitable for firewood, as it burns well and creates little smoke and ashes. However, its collection for these purposes requires strict protection for the farmworker who may be subject to frequent wounds and punctures.

The cost of any collection or eradication of marabou tends to be very high. However, in the new battle against the plague, begun in the center of the country, the savings to the State are guaranteed with the sacrifice of the men who must sweat and bleed, with no right to expect mechanical reinforcements. The directors of the Sugar Company Group have clarified that “because of objective economic conditions we can’t use bulldozers in this confrontation.”

Those who remember, recall that there was no lack of heavy equipment to address other initiatives. Among them two campaigns that have indeed been recorded in history for their disastrous consequences, while opening the way to any plague that invaded the Cuban countryside. The first of these was in the 1970s when the forests were bulldozed and dynamited to sow sugarcane in abundance, with the intention of satisfying the demand from Communist Europe. More recently, many of the sugar mills were dismantled and exported piece by piece to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the cane fields were left to the mercy of the plagues.

The great results of such “socialist epics” — in addition to villages and towns left lifeless, dead — is the health enjoyed by the marabou weed. In their branches is concentrated our economic collapse, in the abundance of their thorns is the result of the excessive nationalization of our lands.

Blessed be filtered water / 14ymedio, Elvira Fernandez

The lines are getting longer. Watting for water in nearby doorways
Watting for water in nearby doorways

14ymedio, Ciego de Avila, Elvira Fernandez, 26 September 2014 – “This water will satisfy you for today. Jesus will satisfy you for eternity, do you accept him?” it reads above the two taps, in one of the most useful and widely appreciated places in Ciego de Avila today. It is the people’s filtered water service point opened by the Pentecostal Evangelical Church in its Voice of Jubilee Assembly of God Church in the La Guajira neighborhood.

It rains frequently here, but the city suffers a scarcity of potable water. People are afraid to drink the water from the aqueduct network because it is almost always contaminated with sewage waste, due to the abundance of cracks and leaks in the pipes. For the people, in addition, in an environment where hygiene isn’t front and center, this water is one of the few chances to prevent contagious diseases such as cholera, which seems to be here to stay.

The modern filtration equipment has been donated by an evangelical congregation in the United States, which is dedicated to providing this type of assistance to countries facing humanitarian crises, such as Haiti. In Cuba they keep about forty similar pieces of equipment running. In Ciego de Avila province there is another in the Pentecostal church in the Venezuela municipality.

The modern filtration equipment has been donated by an evangelical congregation of the United States

Four days a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday) the doors of the side yard of the church open to all, believers and non-believers, between 2 pm and 11 pm. At first they came with small bottles, but most have already made tanks, tanks and big jugs because, with a single trip and after waiting so long, they are trying to accumulate the water for several days. And the lines are getting longer again. The people waiting when the sun shelter in the doorways all around.

The church can not cope and, lately with very little water falling in the tank, they have to pay for water from the Communal Company’s pipes. A woman carrying several bottles says: “I have two children and I feel very safe when I can be assured of this water. In my house, no one wants to drink any other. But I’m worried, what if this disappears?”

Sign asking people to limit the water they take.
The demand is such that rationing is imposed. (EF)

Given the shortage, the increasing demand and the difficulties, expands fear of a reduction in service. A new sign has appeared on the church gate has caused general concern, as it heralds drastic rationing:

“We have little water, but we want to continue helping with filtered water, therefore, during this situation, we can only give you 5 liters per person. We expect your cooperation, thank you. God bless you.”