by Raul Menchaca
MATANZAS, Cuba, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Mildrey Soca and Manuel Martinez always want to live a healthy life. This has led the Cuban couple to gradually build their agro-ecological garden, called "La Luz," which means the light, in the Perico municipality of the western province of Matanzas.
Six years ago, Soca, a veterinarian, and Manuel, an agronominal technician, started the project with their experience and knowledge as workers at a 240-hectare agricultural research center named "Indio Hatuey" Experimental Station of Pastures and Forages.
The couple owns a small plot where they placed a biogas digester powered by manure from a nearby pig farm, and provides the fuel for a four-burner stove, an oven, a rice cooker and a refrigerator.
This biogas digester is a vertical model, only two of which exist in the country, and it is capable of providing 3.5 cubic meters of gas, used by the family to prepare their food.
The organic waste generated in the gas production is later used to improve and fertilize soil, where they grow vegetables, beans and 14 types of tropical fruits.
Besides, the couple has a small orchid garden where they cultivate 137 plants, almost all of which are from Cuba. They also have an apiary that provides them with honey from the so-called "Bee of the Earth," also known as "Melipona."
"It is a life project that we have been building among the whole family for the past six years. Previously this piece of land was used for traditional agriculture," said Soca, 46.
The plot belongs to the family for almost 70 years, but only in recent years the amount of food it yields has significantly increased.
"For a long period, as professionals in the agricultural sector, we supported the policy of agrarian expansion. But at a certain moment, we wanted to reverse the process. We were given the possibility of transforming the yard," said Soca.
The veterinarian said that at present, the tiny farm provides almost 70 percent of the food consumed by the 12-member family.
"We produce all the vegetables and most of the meat, eggs, fruits and beans we need. We produce corn, which can cover 70 percent of what we eat yearly," she said.
The couple has three children, who also participated in the project, although none of them plans to dedicate themselves to agriculture as a profession.
"We are sure that they will not be farmers. They want to have other careers, but they are committed to agro-ecology as they are aware that healthy food is necessary and they are part of the project," she said.
Both researchers are proud that their organic farm has become a role model for the whole country, as it has been endorsed by the Ministry of Agriculture, which seeks to promote the use of ecological techniques and environmental protection among Cuban farmers.
"I feel that we live better than before. Not only because we can eat products of better quality, but because we have managed to build what we want," said Soca.