Humberto Ríos Labrada was a graduate student in Cuba when the Soviet Bloc dissolved in 1991. Cuba lost a major trading partner and, as a result, lost its source of fertilizer, pesticides and fuel. Massive food shortages ensued and Cuba’s economy collapsed. When Humberto was forced out of his lab and into the fields, he did not turn to practicing unnatural and pesticide-dependent farming. Instead, as a way to promote crop and seed diversity, he cooperated with farmers and found them the most diverse seeds from across Cuba. Now, by working with farmers, he has started what’s recognized as the world’s largest organic farming experiment. Today, Cuba’s food production has increased dramatically. "My dream is that one day all scientific research institutions will make seed diversity accessible and recognize rural farmers’ knowledge," he says. "And that Cuba will definitely become an organic, agricultural island."
Humberto Ríos Labrada is one of six recipients of the 2010 Goldman Prize. Each year, the Goldman Environmental Prize honors one grassroots environmental activist from each of the six inhabited continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Island Nations, North America and South and Central America. Philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman created the prize in 1990 to give international recognition and financial support to the winners’ projects and to provide an inspiration for other environmental advocates.