Study abroad students learn about Cuban agriculture in immersive course
Students currently studying abroad as part of the Cuba program have had the chance to experience unique course options that allow students to learn about agriculture and coastal management in Cuba in an immersive environment.
In early January, 16 students from the University of Alberta departed for Santiago de Cuba, Cuba to take part in a unique study abroad program at the Universidad de Oriente (UO).
According to Cuban agriculture professor Belyani Vargas Batis, the purpose of the course is to promote an evaluative approach to the development of the agro-productive process in Cuba, its perspectives, current trends and its importance to achieve food security and sovereignty.
Students have had the opportunity to visit farms and coastal areas to observe and experience the Cuban perspectives on farming and coastal health.
Kaytlin Lee, third-year global and development studies student at Augustana, said that she enjoys how her experiences in Cuba are different from Canada. “This is my first time studying abroad,” said Lee.
Lee said that the environment is more immersive and based on experiencing the material. “After learning a lot about agriculture and farming in Canada,” said Lee. “It’s interesting to compare the countries.”
Lee has visited permaculture farms in Canada and observed the parallels between the two systems. “I like seeing that they limit their use of chemicals and pesticides and focus on the well-being of the environment. They also treat their animals better,” said Lee.
“I think Canada has a lot to learn from Cuba’s methods,” said Lee. Lee added that this course is the most unique she has ever taken. “We get to learn about pest management and then we actually go and see it happening – it’s a very valuable learning experience.”
Kazmir Haykowsky, a fifth-year human geography major at North Campus came to Cuba to learn about the agriculture. “I didn’t want to pass up any opportunity to study everything,” said Haykowsky.
Haykowsky is interested in the permaculture methods that are present in Cuba. As a part of the course, students visited the San Juan permaculture farm. “It was incredible – we got to see practices that I’ve heard about and read about back home.”
“For instance, the farmers use pig manure to produce methane gas to offset natural gas costs,” said Haykowsky. “They use waste to add nutrition to the soil so it is better than when they found it.”
Haykowsky also said it was interesting to see how they capture and care for water. “They reduce erosion and evaporation – they do most of their farming without irrigation systems.”
Haykowsky said that he appreciates this type of immersive course because it “turns the abstract to something practical and tangible.”
“It’s easy to watch documentaries or read articles. But, you miss so many details. Being here in Cuba allows us to engage with researchers and academics to study agriculture,” said Haykowsky. “I’ve gained an immense amount of knowledge through this course.”