AR-News: (Cuba) Disturbing picture:Farmers count cost of Cuba's
Animalara2003 at aol.com
Animalara2003 at aol.com
Tue Jun 22 13:50:36 EDT 2004
Worst in memory; formerly fertile land near Holguin unrecognizable
Felipe Leon / NBC News
Starving cow in the Holguin region of Cuba. Up to 90 head of cattle are dying
a day as a result of the crippling drought.
By Mary Murray
Updated: 11:22 a.m. ET June 22, 2004
HOLGUIN, Cuba - Miguel Baez, 77, has farmed the land here his whole life, but
Cuba’s rural heartland is no longer what he remembers.
The fields were so fertile, he boasted, they could grow enough sugar to
sweeten every cup of coffee in the world. There was enough crops and cattle to make
a man rich and a nation fat.
Now, after a 15-year drought, the land looks like the handiwork of arson — as
if someone took a torch and set fire to all the pastures and meadows in sight.
Driving along the Central Highway, just 20 minutes outside the provincial
capital of Holgiun, the devastation is inescapable.
The air is as dry as the acres of sunburnt sugar stalks snapping in the wind.
Shriveled cattle pick through a few brittle weeds poking through the rocks.
Bridges rise over dried streams and rivers of stones.
Cuba’s Civil Defense has placed the entire zone under a state of alert, which
means some government relief. Caravans of trucks bring water every day for
both the people and the livestock.
Drought has spared humans, cattle haven’t been so lucky
Ninety head of cattle are dying a day, robbing the area of much of its dairy.
“The cows once gave milk. Now, all they give is misery,” Baez said.
Since January, the drought consumed close to 4,000 acres of Holguin’s best
grazing land, forcing farmers to sacrifice for food more than 13,200 cattle too
weak to stay alive. They scramble to save the survivors.
Legna Ravelo, 28, is the chief veterinarian for the Jose Merceron UBPC, the
largest dairy farm in the town of Calixto Garcia. She hasn’t seen any real rain
in nine months so her cattle are dying at almost triple the natural rate.
“Most starve to death. Others die from infectious diseases or an ailment
caused from stress related to hunger.”
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