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Jessie Breslau

Organization:  FAO Cuba program  
Dates:  5/25/2014 - 7/04/2014

In Jessie's own words

How I contributed:  I wrote a report analyzing the transformation of Cuban agriculture from the fall of the Soviet Union up until present day.

What I felt most challenged by: I had a lot of freedom regarding the content of my project, however due to certain government restrictions it was difficult for me to do primary research.

What I enjoyed most: I enjoyed getting to explore Havana and the surrounding areas of the country.  Cuba is unlike any other place that I h ave been to before and it was amazing to experience living in a country so completely opposite of the United States.

Would I recommend this experience:  This is a tough question to answer.  As things are starting to change between the US and Cuba it is possible that this internship opportunity could change as well.  The staff at the FAO was very accommodating; however there were many restrictions (whe ther due to lack of funding or government restrictions) that prevented me from being able to do primary research.  That being said, I am grateful for my time in Cuba and found it rewarding just to be able to experience the city.

Elizabeth Feldeverd

Organization: Food and Agriculture Organization in Cuba
Dates: 15-Jul-13 - 21-Aug-13

In Elizabeth's own words

How I contributed: I was given a project from the president of the FAO in Cuba to work on with another intern from Cornell. I was responsible for writing a proposed synthesis of two agricultural methodologies that could be applied to rice production. The paper will be used as a guideline for future rice cultivation in Cuba. The goal is to give farmers the opportunity to grow rice in a more environmentally sustainable way without drastically increasing labor costs.

What I felt most challenged by: The lack of regular supervision meant that our project was very open-ended. Initially, I found it difficult to begin the project because I felt unsure of what my supervisor wanted. However, once we began working, I found the freedom to be a positive. We were able to focus the project on what we found most interesting and most important.

What I enjoyed most: From my perspective, brainstorming potential solutions with the other interns was the most enjoyable aspect. We were able to discuss what might work, how it could be applied in Cuba, and possible barriers to adoption. This required extensive reading on the subject, from which I learned a lot. Getting to propose a new idea for rice cultivation was an exciting, new opportunity for me.

Would I recommend this experience: I would recommend working with the FAO in Cuba. I found the office atmosphere to be welcoming and not too stressful. Havana is an exciting place to live in. Being in Cuba, which has a unique political and economic system, was eye-opening in itself. It was good to see how an intergovernmental organization like the FAO functions.

Sidney Madsen

Organization: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Dates: 14-Jul-13 - 28-Sep-13

In Sidney's own words

How I contributed: My final product attempts to address as much of the Cuban agricultural and political context as it can to properly evaluate CA's possibility in Cuba. I used national statistic databases to present the distressing reality of Cuba's fast deteriorating natural resource base, looking at soil degradation rates and over-exploitation of freshwater.

What I felt most challenged by: The language barrier when writing my paper was especially difficult.

What I enjoyed most: The cultural exchange that occurred daily with employees at the FAO office, my host family in my casa particular, and friends and acquaintances added hugely to my stay in Cuba.

Would I recommend this experience: I would recommend this program to my peers. This internship gave me the opportunity that few Americans can have- to live and work in Cuba. My evening and weekend activities helped me to begin to understand what it means to be a Cuban under the current administration, as well as allowing me to enjoy the vibrant culture and natural beauty of this country. Overall, I found this experience extremely rewarding and it was a key factor in my decision to apply to international development graduate programs for the coming year.

Andrea Carter

Organization: System of Rice Intensification
Dates: 1-Jun-11 - 1-Aug-11

In Andrea's own words

How I contributed: Based on my work with the SRI promoter, Dr. Rena Perez, I was able to provide a report regarding the status and areas of potential development for SRI in Cuba for the staff back at Cornell. Interviews with farmers as well as the Rice Conference provided useful insight into the particular constraints of Cuban farmers and how the method could be made more feasible for Latin American producers.

What I felt most challenged by: Arriving alone and not knowing the language was intimidating at first, however by making an effort to learn and speak the language I was soon able to connect with people.

What I enjoyed most: I enjoyed the freedom of not being constrained by the agenda of a study abroad program.

Would I recommend this experience: Though this was not an organized program, I would highly recommend students travel to Cuba if they have the opportunity. There exists a good deal of misinformation and biases regarding the country due to the political nature of things, so I recommend traveling there to see for yourself. For those interested in urban agriculture, the oganiponico model is a great example of institutionalized support for localized production. Additionally, the exposure to a different social and political paradigm is invaluable.