Change in farmgate prices and markets

In the 1990s, changes were made to the system of planned production for the ration, operated by Acopio. Traditionally, the state collected an agreed quantity of produce from each farm or cooperative, at an agreed, low price. Changes were introduced whereby basic prices for produce were still determined at the time of planning, but any surplus production by the farmer now received a slightly higher price from the state (sugar was an exception to this). The farmer also now had the choice to sell...

Driving forces behind current levels of agricultural sustainability

Several foreign reporters have commented on Cuba's pro-organic policy. 'Organic agriculture has been adopted as the official government strategy for all new agriculture in Cuba, after its highly successful introduction just seven years ago' (The Pesticides Trust, 1998) 'Cuba is perhaps the best example of large-scale government support to organic agriculture It is an integral part of agricultural policy' (Scialabba, 2000). In reality there was, up to 2000, no legislation on organic agriculture,...

An ineffective food system

The aim of any food system, one might suppose, would be to feed people with an adequate, or even abundant, supply of nutritious foods. As it happens, this is a human right. As with previous agricultural innovations throughout the centuries, industrial agriculture - and its tropical counterpart, the Green Revolution - has produced significant yield increases. Between 1950 and 1984, world grain production increased by 250 per cent (Kindell and Pimentel, 1994). Yet the industrial food system has...

Characteristics of a postpetroleum food and farming system localized and organic

What would a farming and food system look like, one that is both based on renewable energy and is more energy efficient, one that might be in operation in Cuba If it is to deliver on food needs, the changes in energy source and quantity would necessitate the scaling-up of more localized and organic systems. The concept of localization is characterized by community self-reliance as far as practicable, diversified local economies, and living in harmony with nature (Schuman, 2000 Norberg-Hodge,...

Petroleumbased food systems and food security

Over the next few decades, nations will be experiencing fluctuations and increasing scarcity of fossil fuel supplies, and this will affect food prices. Alternative farming and food systems are required. Industrialized countries in particular have been over-consuming fossil fuels by two-thirds, and their agricultural sectors have contributed this with their heavy dependence on cheap fossil energy for mechanization and as a basis for agrochemical inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers. The...

Degradation of the natural resource base

There is little contestation over the degradation of the natural resource base. Industrial practices result in vast tracts of degraded land, yield declines, loss of plant and animal species diversity, increase in susceptibility to disease, and other serious side-effects over the medium to long term, and have led to a loss of livelihoods (Tansey and Worsley, 1995 FAO, 1997 Conway, 1998 Pingali and Rosegrant, 1998 Oldeman, 1999 Sustain, 2003 Hole et al, 2005). This is particularly so for marginal...

Urban versus rural agriculture

Cuba's transition towards greater food security has been built on a patchwork approach to agriculture in which organic techniques have played a significant, but not exclusive, role. Throughout the Special Period, Cuba adopted several characteristics of a localized, organic farming system. These included more location-specific strategies, a relative increase in participatory extension approaches and institutional decentralization, the promotion of organic inputs, and more localized...

Pest and disease control coping strategies

As well as chemical controls, almost all farmers were using or had used a range of other pest and disease control methods. These methods included selecting resistant crop varieties where possible, using natural weather patterns to disrupt pest lifestyles, applying the natural pest control Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)2 and rotating crops. Biological control products came from the CREEs. A large number were also applying other biological pest controls, and using a mixture of simple, good...

The inevitable decline in fossil fuels and transition to alternatives

Cuba has pre-empted what many industrial countries will experience. By their finite nature, there is no debate over whether fossil fuels - oil, gas and coal -will run out, but rather when this will occur, whether alternative energy supplies will meet the ever-increasing demand, and how best to oversee such a transition. Hubbert, the father of the peak oil concept, predicted that US oil production would peak approximately 30 years after the peak of oil discovery (Hubbert, 1956). He was proved to...

Cubas challenges the health imperative

Despite the sustained increases in production and food availability, ten years was too short a period to rebalance the substantial deficit in supply or to end the dependency on imported foodstuffs. The new UBPC cooperatives confronted several teething problems in their development, and cooperatives in general lacked training in the new types of marketing channels on offer. Owing to the paternal legacy, as well as to the substitutive nature of industrial agriculture, farmers continued to look...

The Cuban food system in crisis

Ever since its Socialist Revolution of 1959, Cuba has maintained restricted and selective contact with non-socialist countries. From an international perspective, this has resulted in a relative dearth of knowledge on all aspects of Cuban life, and a heavy reliance on anecdotal evidence. Nevertheless, there was no doubt that the dissolution of the Socialist Bloc of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in 1989 had brought an abrupt end to the support it had provided Cuba, and with this went the...

Glossary and translations

Agro-ecology the scientific basis of alternative agriculture, synonymous in some circles with collective social action on the eco-management of the natural resource base common usage in Latin America bagasse fibre remaining after the extraction of the sugar-bearing juice from sugarcane cachaza sugarcane waste campesinos traditional, peasant, small-scale, autonomous farmers canasta basica basic state ration comercio retail trade network minorista consejos People's Councils industrialized farming...

The further industrialization of Cuban agriculture

Given the hierarchical structure of pre-Revolution agriculture, Cuba found itself with few agronomists or technical specialists, most of them having fled the country. Traditional farmers still existed, but the prevailing political outlook placed greater trust in science and technology than local knowledge, and so Cuba developed a national agricultural system using imported technical expertise mainly from Eastern European countries. This led to the development of modernized, large-scale systems...

References

A. 1993 'The implications of Cuba's agricultural conversion for the general Latin American Agroecological Movement', Agriculture and Human Values, vol 10, no 3 Summer 1993 , pp91-92 Altieri, M. A., Rosset, P. and Thrupp, L. A. 2000 The Potential of Agroecology to Combat Hunger in the Developing World. www.cnr.berkeley.edu agroeco3 accessed in August 2008 Alvarez, J. 1994 Cuba's Infrastructure Profile, International Working Paper Series IW94-4, July 1994. Food and Resources Economics...

Farmers experiential evidence on the performance of organic agriculture

Farmers were clearly aware of the benefits as well as the negative impacts of the decrease in agrochemical use benefits to their own health as well as that of the soil, to livestock and the natural environment. Since agrochemical use had been limited, incidences of poisonings, allergies and skin diseases had disappeared. According to one CPA farmer, 'Those who work in fumigation can only work for five years maximum in that job and then have to change, because of illness - vomiting, nausea and...

Subsequent trends and challenges to the food system

The overall impact of all these changes was dramatic, according to one of the few contemporary accounts available, that of Oliveros Blet et al 1998 at the Faculty of Geography of the University of Havana. Food supply increased, and the influence of the black market was diminished, with black market prices falling by some 40 per cent. Urban agriculture also made a significant impact by providing competition to the farmers' markets so that prices in these markets decreased by 30 per cent between...

Scientific evidence on the performance of organic agriculture

Economic evaluations of organic production were indicating substantial cost benefits. Early evaluation of the CREEs showed the production costs of the cottage-industry manufacturing of biological pest and disease controls to be less than 1 per cent that of importing agrochemicals to do the same job, and the money spent stayed in Cuba and helped build up the local economy Maura, 1994 . The use of green manures was found to save 31 to 75 per hectare 623 to 1503 Cuban pesos , depending on the...