Water Collection and other Innovations on a Small Havana Farm

HAVANA, June 30th  IPS Cuba  Located on the capital’s outskirts, the plot is innovating with recycled materials to make the most of the water which used to be wasted.

Known for rescuing land where there was once a garbage dump and for his organic fertilizer production, farmer Liuvar Ojeda in Havana is also developing good practices which are linked to recycling and making the most of water on his plot on the outskirts of the Cuban capital.

In the Habana del Este (East Havana) municipality, Ojeda and another three people oversee 0.22 hectares of land, dedicated to organic fertilizer production above all else, although they have other different crops such as vegetables, they rear some animals and grow ornamental plants.

The former Physical Education teacher who also studied Commerce and Food Service told us that he leased this land back in 2008. “The ground was just piles of rubble, it was in a terrible state,” he remembers.

Taking the philosophy of making the most of waste and contributing towards the development of agroecology, Ojeda decided to turn to use manure and vegetable cover, in order to produce organic fertilizer: 200-300 tons of compost and approximately 36 tons of worm castings per year.

But, other innovations have raised the profile of his small farm, which is greatly limited in terms of land space.

IPS-CUBA: What projects did you undertake in order to manage and recycle water?

Liubar Ojeda (LO): There are two types of wastewater in the home: black water (sewage water) and grey water (sinks, baths, washing machines). We digest black water and fecal sludge from the pigs and using an anaerobic digestor generate natural gas which would benefit the family.

Water Collection and other Innovations on a Small Havana Farm

With a rain wall, made out of single-use plastic bottles, the farm collects significant amounts of rainwater for irrigation. Photo: Jorge Luis Banos IPS

With regard to greywater, we have invented a system of pipes with a grease trap, made out of a recycled battery. A filter is placed on this and it catches, for example, grains of rice and hair, as well as a cooking oil and body grease. Bear in mind the fact that a liter of grease can contaminate up to 10,000 liters of drinking water.

Then, the water passes through five rubber tires which are connected to each other, where we will plant aquatic plants, which can purify the water. Then. the liquid passes through a tank where we plan to grow ornamental or edible fish.

We can also use this filtered water to water ornamental plants and compost. The above just goes to prove that the water that was once wasted, can be taken advantage of for different things, a more efficient practice that benefits the environment.

 

IPS Cuba:  What other technologies do you use to recover water?

LO: Before, we used to collect rainwater in receptacles, tanks, and cisterns. In a video downloaded off the Internet, we saw how you can build what’s called a “rain wall”, with bottles and screws. A square meter can collect a liter of water for every millimeter of rainfall. We have 80 square meters, which allows us to recover the same number in liters of water.

Our 10-meter long rain wall will use 2400 x 1.5 single-use plastic bottles. This will allow us to collect 3600 liters of water. When we finish off this recycled water system, the collective well we use to get our water supplies will thank us and might even make us self-sufficient, or at least depend a little less, on supplies from the Aguas de La Habana city water company.

IPS CUBA You endorse schools that also try to raise awareness about agroecology, recycling and the responsible handling of soil and resources. Can you talk to us a little bit more about this, please?

LO: We go to hobby clubs at neighboring schools, such as the Martires de Tarara school. We have been working directly with the Tupac Amaru Vocational School, over the past four years. In 2017, we accepted five graduates to come and work here as qualified agronomists.

We incorporated them into our “Three As” project, which takes its name from the three areas it deals with: Farming (all types of crops and production, and including attention to the elderly); Healthy food (following up from the state-run Finlay Institute’s Macrobiotic project, and includes people aged between 60-70 to come and work, feeling more empowered.

Handmade Arts, where we use waste to create rope.

We also used single-use plastic such as bottles to grow vertical gardens, as well as water fountains, irrigation channels and reservoirs to recycle them.