HAVANA, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) — Formerly considered as tough low-paid work that held interest for only the poorest peasants, small-scale vegetable coal production is gaining ground in Cuba thanks to its growing export potential.
Cubans first became aware of how difficult it was to make charcoal after the 1959 Revolution, when they learned poor peasants in the countryside employed the most rudimentary methods to make vegetable coal.
Sadly famous were the coal men of Zapata Swamp, Cuba’s largest wetland, in the central province of Matanzas, where Fidel Castro became an almost daily presence upon his arrival in power.
Now, more than half a century later, the production of vegetable coal has taken off again due to marabou, or sickle bush, an invasive plant that spread like wildfire over thousands of hectares of former cropland.
A national campaign to rid Cuba of marabou led to the rebirth of vegetable coal production, with cooperatives and state-owned companies keen to make the most of the low-cost and pervasive raw material.