Sustainable Agriculture in Cuba The breadth of this course has ranged across many different perspectives on the state

of modern agriculture. Following the widespread prompts for change, it naturally follows that one assesses the prospects for bringing this change. Cuba’s agriculture represents one of particular relevance in this light, as it is the largest example of a working “sustainable agriculture.” This essay will chronicle Cuba’s journey to its current model, detailing why they’re pursuing alternative agriculture, what they’re doing to pursue it, and how alternative agriculture has affected Cuban society. Scrutiny of Cuba’s model reveals that current theories of sustainable agriculture do not offer a feasible substitute to modern agriculture. This discussion provides valuable contributions towards the discussion of organic food, taking armchair theories proposed by activists, scientists, writers, and farmers, and batting them into the playing field. While still in progress, the results of Cuba’s experiment could have wide implications on the future of sustainable agriculture.

Cuba's pursuit of sustainable agriculture arose from tumultuous sociopolitical and socioeconomic sources. Since the early eighteenth century, Cuba has maintained a comparative advantage in the production of sugar, which for many years brought prosperity to its economy (Clairmont). "Cuba is sugar and sugar is Cuba," wrote Cuban writer Jose Marti. However this quickly developed into an overreliance on the cash crop, bringing turmoil to the Cuban economy. As a large importer of sugar, the United States was an early beneficiary of Cuba’s dependency on sugar. Worried that its dependence on


Cuba's economy soon became stilted on Soviets' preferential prices and market space. All plans based on fuel availability must be cut practically in half. reaching its peak in 1973. “Our problems must be resolved without feedstocks. In 1963. Despite minor attempts to break away. who offered higher prices for Cuba's sugar crop. To fulfill the goal. and Cuba plunged back into debt." or "10 million tons sugar harvest. Castro announced that Cuba would produce 10 million tons of sugar annually by 1970 (Morenos and Fraginals). In 1991. The "Zafra de los Diez Millones. Cuba turned to socialism in 1959 and slashed many trading ties with the United States during the Cuban revolution. Sugar prices however suddenly began to fall. fertilizers or fuel. about 70% of Cuba's total trade was conducted with the Soviet Union (Leogrande). Cuba was suddenly plummeted into an era of extreme poverty and helplessness. and began its pursuit of alternative agriculture. Fidel Castro addressed the Congress of the National System of Agricultural and Forestry Technicians saying. In 1991. half of what the country consumed in normal circumstances.” 2 . By 1978. Cuba scattered to get back on its feet.2 [Type text] the United States would endanger its own economy. Cuba began to rely increasingly on the Soviet Union. the worst scenario for Cuba became a reality with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. as immediate losses to USSR's supply of oil translated into widespread failures in the production network and famine. This would be declared as the "Special Period" by Castro. Cuba however returned to its monocultural tendencies as a means to rebuild its economy. as well as aid towards Cuba's trade deficit." became an iconic target for progress. With Soviet aid. a guaranteed market for their exports. as a symbol of both political legitimacy and economic freedom (Leogrande). Cuba recovered at promising rates.

as a form of biological pest control. “agriculture is a function of the socioeconomic structure of society. can be planted with beans since the height of corn crops will provide shade and discourage weed plants from propagating successfully. One prime example of Cuba’s efforts can be found in the implementation of organipocos. The gardens employ many biological controls developed by Cuban researchers to combat plant pathogens. The Trichoderma prey upon the bacteria. Organipocos are farms based on sustainable farming techniques that provide local food for cities like Havana (Ewing). Researches released several colonies of the wasp Trichogramma as a predator to the parasitic fly Tachinidae that plagues sugarcane plants (Rosset). and eliminate them from the plant without causing damage to neither the host crop nor human consumers (Rosset). They are structured on several different levels.” Strange’s theories explain why organipocos 3 . a form of urban organic farming. In another example. crops like sweet potato with characteristics of dense ground coverage can be planted to ameliorate the situation (Rosset). an isolated strain of fungi. researchers used the biology of entomophages. Cuba has employed a combination of tactics that minimize use of chemicals and petroleum in the production of food. combats pathogens in tobacco plants causing root diseases. American organic agriculture proponent Marty Strange described in his article The Economic Structure of a Sustainable Agriculture. In areas with rampant weeds. for example. insects that eat or parasitize other insects. Corn. and pests. is accomplished through the use of crop rotation by setting up conditions that undermine the prime conditions for weed growth. For example. known as Trichoderma.To accomplish sustainable agriculture. Weed control. ranging from family owned and operated to state-organized. weed growth.

These numbers raise alarming concerns on whether sustainable agriculture is succeeding against the standards that it is raised to. Proximity of local farming promotes responsibility in part of farmers and general receptivity to local market needs. The agriculture of Cuba since the 1990s has maintained a trend of decline. with figures showing that in 2007. Despite cities like Havana being mainly self sufficient through organipocos farms. sustainable agriculture does not necessarily benefit society. Cuba continues to import 80% of its food from other countries (Economist). USDA). Cuban citizens still live in a state of relative poverty. Under the changes made by organic farming. the scarcity of beef or pork. 75% of Cuba’s farmland was in a state of degradation with 45% low in fertility and 69% low in organic matter. meanwhile maintain systems of agriculture that are not degrading to the environment (Ewing). and biological forces maintains that sustainable agriculture is an added benefit to society. Although Cuba is surviving on its current model. with reporters describing meager rations. and subsistence on mainly green vegetables (Snow). in which 41% of farmlands had fertility deficiencies and 64% had organic matter deficiencies (Cuba. technological. economic. When considered in perspective of developed countries’ living standards. 4 . This symbiotic relationship between social. These statistics are higher than previously recorded in 1997. However as the results of Cuba’s efforts show. Farmers of organipocos keep 50% of the sales they make thus are motivated to maintain high yields. Cuba has seen little improvement or recovery. it is in no state of luxury or complacency.4 [Type text] should theoretically function successfully in Cuba.

000 (CIA). This conclusion is based upon several assumptions comparing Cuba to other countries of the world. In contrast. Application of science is not affected by differences in political ideology because political ideology cannot skew data or outcomes. the United States favors privatization over nationalization. invests its entire agricultural economy towards sustainable farming and still needs to import 80% of its food. If small country such as Cuba. organic farming involves an understanding of biology and interactions with the environment. the model is an unsustainable model.000 as of 2011. Ideology should not affect the outcome of sustainable agriculture because modern theories of organic farming involve more than anything an application of alternative science. a condition that human nature is bound to work away from. This has its own benefits. This next paragraph will address these arguments concerning the differences between Cuba and other nations. such as providing individuals the incentive to work harder towards progress because they reap the benefits directly. given their political and historical differences. It is infeasible to expect that the rest of the world be willing to maintain standards of living at this level. the GDP per capita in Cuba is at about $10.the annual GDP per capita in the United States is about $48. First is the question of political ideology. Current theories on sustainable agriculture manage to succeed only enough for subsistence. These assumptions may come under attack by opponents questioning the analogy between Cuba and other countries. 5 . As a capitalistic society. considering the levels of luxury that many citizens across the globe enjoy today. Whether the theories surround biopesticides or crop rotation.

Cuba’s experiment provides valuable feedback on the current model of sustainable agriculture. the more cash strapped society could afford more resources or better research. Food is the most visceral drive for human progress. and can be built on for future development and progress. However. Yet the bottom line that must be realized. 6 . An agricultural system rampant of pesticide overuse and corporate GMO abuse is also straddled with the looming threat of world hunger. because both still need the food. new solutions for the twenty first century. “to meet food requirements in 2020… food production worldwide must increase by at least 1. people will try just as hard in any system to feed themselves.5% to 2% a year. the current ideas behind organic farming are rudimentary at best. or political filters that are placed on the situation. As Robert McNamara wrote in 1999 in Food Security. Therefore no matter the social. is that within the scope of agriculture. and the success of one society’s attempts at it is just as telling as another’s.6 [Type text] One may argue that in the context of sustainable agriculture. There is no denial that modern agriculture needs to be changed. People need to eat. However there is still immense research that needs to be completed. Organic farming is a route to obtaining food. there is not much room for differentiation. As Cuba’s model of agriculture shows. because it forms the basis of human survival. struggling to maintain self-sufficiency.” Sustainable agriculture offers promising ideas that may very likely be incorporated into future farming techniques. historical.

jstor. The Washington Post. Rosset. Wes Jackson. Clairmont. 13 Dec.Works Cited "Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook. Anita. 14 Dec.: USDA. Moreno Fraginals.>. Meeting the Expectations of the Land: Essays in Sustainable Agriculture and Stewardship. Foreign Agriculture Service. Web." Journal of Latin American Studies 34. 2012. Peter. 1994. San Francisco: North Point P.2 (2002): 325-63. Frederic F.40 (1995): 2487+.d. and Medea Benjamin. Web. Manuel R. 14 Dec. JSTOR. 2008. “The Economic Structure of a Sustainable Agriculture. <http://www. Melbourne.p. 1984: 115-125. "Cuba's Organic Revolution." Washington Post. 14 Dec. Ewing.d. Wendell Berry.. 2008. Web. 2012. 7 . William M.(Statistical Data Included). 02 July 2007. Snow. Strange. 14 Dec. Miami Dade College. 14 Dec. CUBA'S FOOD AND AGRICULTURE SITUATION REPORT. Web.” Ed.jstor.. 2012. n. 06 Aug." Miami Dade College." Economic and Political Weekly 30. 2012. Rep. "The Ten Million Ton Sugar Harvest. "When Two plus Two Equals Three. The Greening of the Revolution: Cuba's Experiment with Organic Agriculture. n. Australia: Ocean. "Cuba's Quest for Economic Independence." Central Intelligence Agency. and Teresita Pedraza Moreno. USDA. 14 Dec. 2012. 2012. Cuba’s Food & Agriculture Situation Report. "Cuba: The Renewal. Thomas.. Leogrande. Guardian News and Media. 13 Dec. and Julie M. Vic." The Economist. Web. Print. N. 2012. CIA. Web. The Economist Newspaper. 03 Apr. "Living on Cuban Food Ration Isn't Easy. Web.>. Bruce Colman." The Guardian. Ed. <http://www. Marty. Print. Web. 2009.

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