Gladys: Many farmers decided to leave agriculture after Maria. According to the census, and that's the only official data that we can have, 2012, we had 13,000, let's say 13,000 farms. After Maria in 2018, we had 8000 farms. We got some help from Puerto Ricans leaving out of Puerto Rico, what we call Puerto Rican diaspora. They help us by sending food and also by sending seeds to Puerto Rico and then farmers could start to plant again. When I started working with women in agriculture back then in 2007, it was because I found out that even though some women were doing farming, and also they were doing ranching, they did not either identify themselves as farmers or entrepreneurs. Whenever asked about who owns the farm, who is the farmer, they said that it was a male figure in the family, they said it was the husband or the father or even the son. So I started working with women and I found out first that the government didn't keep statistics or data about women in agriculture. That was a fact. It was until the Census of Agriculture started collecting data by gender that I could find data. But in Puerto Rico, there was no data about women. So they did not have a face. And they did not have a voice in policymaking and policy implementation, because they actually, they did not exist. For the government, women did not exist in agriculture. So what I found out about these women when I started teaching them about entrepreneurship, and management, and all those things that they needed to know, to be successful, to have a successful business, is that they were very conscious of the issue of justice, justice for the people, justice for the community, justice for women, justice for the family. So they actually tended to favor agroecological, and even organic practices. But they didn't have the training. They didn't have the education. Some of them did, but not the majority. So I started bringing to the classroom faculty members that work with organic agriculture, and that work with agroecological practices, and they were very prone to incorporate those practices into their farms, into their activities. Why Because I think that rather than talk about food security, we should talk to women and farmers in general, about food sovereignty or food independence. And that is their right, right To define by ourselves, agricultural and food policies, and to have the right to produce and consume what we decide What is our basic diet When we talked to them about those concepts, they were very receptive. So I think that in my experience working with Puerto Rican farmers, especially with female farmers, the agroecological movement has found very productive ground. Now, there has been a rebirth of agriculture and especially women and young farmers are starting you know, there's a new generation of farmers in Puerto Rico, and I think that they will succeed.
Katia: In short, very short version, when section 936 which was the tax exemption or incentive law, actually was taken out, our government started taking out bonds. I think it's important to make the distinction between the Puerto Rican people and the government elites that are currently in power. In order to make up for the difference in gross domestic product that was lost because of section 936 being eliminated, they started taking out a whole bunch of bonds and loans. Finally, it came to a head under the Obama administration. And obviously, those people that hold the bonds want to be paid, and our government has no way no way to pay, because those funds have been already expended and not invested in what they were supposed to be invested. Obama imposes the oversight board, which is an economic control board, that establishes how the Puerto Rico government is going to function for however long the board is in place. And they have the sovereign mandate over how we distribute our budget. And the Puerto Rican people have no representation, we didn't have representation with the U.S. government before. And now even whatever semblance of democracy we could say that we had by voting for government representatives is absolutely subsided and gone with PROMESA. The people, who were the ones that had the least to do with the debt and who were the ones that least used the funding that was taken out in loans are the ones that are being asked to sacrifice the most. And so that's a quick way to cheapen services. So we have worse public health, we have almost a choked public education system. What's been amazing, and one of the things that's the threat, specifically to agriculture, and to any island nation would be devastating, is that then land is the commodity. And construction, just planting cement and buildings everywhere becomes the economic engine of the economy. What's been happening in recent years is that they focused on this incredibly large scale, one-stop-shop type of mega project for construction. One of the main ones are solar, what are called solar farms. The dark side of the solar farms is that it continues centralizing the energy production system, and it is taking up a whole bunch of our most productive farmland. And if that were not enough, because it's not being constructed as something that's compatible with farmland or farming, because that is happening at such a speed and it is so right now economically incentivized, this is one of the fastest ways to make profit for those that are building these solar farms. We have farmers getting eviction notices and farmers getting letters saying we're not going to rent to you, because that's going to build a solar farm in the next five years. And those are the types of projects that are kind of like fast tracked through PROMESA. Unfortunately, if economy, if dollars and cents is your only goal, and it is not the wellbeing of your people, of your community. If it's not getting healthy food to everyone, then of course, these are the things that are going to go by the wayside. I think one thing that needs to be recognized is that agroecology in its full implementation, and when we're thinking about campesino a campesino as a practice when we're thinking about the science of it, and how we are currently living on an exploitation system that just wants to consume and grow and consume and grow, and the justice components, agroecology cannot fully be implemented in the current economic system that we have. So that's the first distinction that should be made. However, within the system that we're living in, agroecology is the only way that we have survived, and the only way that we can survive. So it is, it behooves us, it is to, to our survival as Caribbean islands to actually implement and continue spreading agroecology throughout the archipelago. And this is just not even spreading it just because it's a new thing, but also documenting the taxes that our farmers already were using and seeing, Okay, this one works really well, this one doesn't work as well. How do we teach it to the next farmer over How do we adopt even more of these agroecological practices, understanding that for it to be fully implemented, then we would have a different system that doesn't depend on exploitation.
Katia: When you think about shifting one policy, you have to think about all the repercussions and ramifications that it has throughout that system. To give you an idea and this was research done by Amy Guptill in the early 2000s. Amy Guptill found that the actual U.S. and then obviously, by extension, the Puerto Rican policy towards agriculture, what it did is that, because its focuses on increasing production, large scale farms, it actually led or created a cycle of poverty or poverty treadmill that farmers couldn't get out of. When you think about those policies, then we need to start thinking about scale. The fact that here, a small-scale farm, it's probably zero to 10 acres. So that's on average small for us. That's like, micro in the U.S. So when you're comparing apples to apples in the U.S., you're not necessarily doing that in Puerto Rico. We need to have policy that can adjust to that. And not just because U.S. policies like Oh, farms that are less than 100 acres, all of this applies to them the same way, because they don't function the same way. And that's a very important part of policy there. Another one that is really important in terms of the incentives, so you have to be recognized as a farmer. And even though this is not implemented through a U.S. agency, it comes from a U.S. policy, which is to be recognized as a farmer, you get certain aid packages that include chemical fertilizers, and include pesticides and a whole bunch of other things. And you have to document and swear basically, or you know, sign off that you have taken the package and that you're going to use it and it has been proven time and time again, especially for small-scale farms, fertilizers decrease the natural fertility of the soil. So once you start with a fertilizer package, and you continue on that, you create a dependency that cannot be sustained if next year, that same package is not available or is available with a lot less fertilizer, so you're creating a dependency rather than liberating people with these aid packages. Recently, with the COVID-19 pandemic, there were a list of products that were given out that were products that were either prioritized or given economic support because of the pandemic. Plantains, coffee, bananas, which are three of the main products in Puerto Rico were not included, because it's not one of the top products at the U.S. level, but it is the main product locally. Farmers insurance is another one. Farmers insurance requires you to have a minimum of one acre of the same thing planted. That is not survival within our system. That's just you are you're condemning that farmer to death or to extreme poverty for the rest of however long that person decides to farm. Looking into how these policies, how policies can be more flexible, and how they can be more applicable to distribute funding to a greater number of people on farms would be an important goal, I believe. 59ce067264