Monthly Archives: July 2014

Cuban Special Period Part 2 of 4

Prior to 1990, state run farms and conventional agriculture using chemical fertilizers and massive monocultures dominated agriculture in Cuba.  This was the result of the “Green Revolution.”  After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the government took over 70% of the large estates in order to produce enough food for the population, generate exports, provide raw materials, and reduce poverty in the countryside.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)  80% of the lands of Cuba were state owned, 90,000 tractors were in use and 1,300,000 tons of chemical fertilizers, 600,000 tons of feed concentrates, and $80 million worth of pesticides were in use yearly.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)  As early as 1970 the Cuban government was attempting to reduce external inputs required for farm production because of rising prices of imported goods.  At that time, Cuba relied upon outside resources for fuel and food.  (Morgan, 2007)  It is common to believe that outside sources of food is the only way to feed a small country.  Cuba has proven that incorrect. 

The collapse of trade with the soviet bloc that led to the dramatic decrease of farm inputs led to a drastic decrease in food production.  The decrease in farm inputs as well as large conventional state farms, which a small cadre of individuals with tractors farmed, led to a requirement of a drastic change in policy.  The intent was to switch to a low input system and to increase production.  

Cuba accomplished this through the following measures

:- Decentralization of the state farm sector through new organizational forms and structures

– Land distribution to encourage production of crop varieties in various regions of the country

– Reduction of specialization in agricultural production

– Production of biological pest controls and biofertilizers

– Renewed use of animal traction

– Promotion of urban, family, and community gardening movements

– Opening of farmers’ markets under “supply and demand” conditions (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)

The Cuban Special Period required a change in social organization as well as a change in ecological and farming practices.  The dissolution of large state run farms and the dissemination of lands to the people required this change.  In order to increase production, the government created several Land Tenure Structures  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)   These structures are the Agriculture Production Cooperatives (CPA), Credit and Services Cooperatives (CCS), Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC), Lands in usufruct – rural sector, Urban Agriculture, GENT, and state enterprises.  Cuba also reintroduced the supply and demand system which was had only been a brief experiment in years prior.  Image 1 depicts the amount of state control from the most (top) to the least (bottom).  (See image 1)

Of the state sector, the workplace/public institution sector is of particular interest.  After the Cuban Special Period, the Cuban government expected major institutions such as government buildings, hospitals, and schools to supply their own food supply.  This led to food sourcing from local gardens directly outside of the buildings in order to supply lunches (mostly) for the inhabitants of those offices.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)  It would be interesting to determine if this process was more economically efficient in terms of food sourcing compared to ordering food items from an outside source.

Sources cited in Cuban Special Period 1 of 4

Cuban Special Period Part 1 of 4

The Cuban Special Period in Peacetime began in 1991 and lasted approximately ten years.  The special period consisted of a wartime economy-style austerity program during peacetime.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)  This period consisted of dramatic changes in the food production of Cuba.  The dissolution of the former USSR coupled with the continued economic blockade of Cuba by the United States forced dramatic changes in the conventional farming techniques common to industrialized nations.  These changes forced Cuba to radically change food production techniques due to the drastic reduction of imports. These import reductions included: 53% in oil, 50% in wheat and other grains, <50% in other foodstuff, resulting in an overall 70% decrease in fertilizer, pesticide availability as well as a 50% decrease in fuel.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)  Large-scale state farms were prohibitive in this environment.  This dramatic decrease in imports coupled with energy intensive agricultural practices led to a 30% reduction in caloric and protein intake compared to the 1980’s.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)  Rolling blackouts were routine as well.  (Morgan, 2007)  Cubans were more prepared than one would expect.  Cubans are fortunate in that while the Cuban nation has only 2% of Central America’s population they have 11% of the scientist.  The Cuban scientists were in the process of looking at alternative agricultural practices prior to the special period.  (Morgan, 2007)  

The little known Cuban special period is an important, albeit forced, experiment in transition.  Cuba is the only nation to have successfully navigated the waters of peak oil.  Peak oil, in brief, is the idea that as developing nations harness the benefits of cheap oil, the supply will begin to be unable to maintain previous outputs.  Peak oil places the world in a position of oil scarcity.  The forced transformation of Cuba’s food system and the subsequent acceptance of agroecology may be viewed as proof that the green revolution of the 1960’s, while important, is not the capstone of agriculture.  In fact, Cuba has witnessed gains in organic production over and beyond what the green revolution witnessed.  Agroecological principles also combat the problems of the “Green Revolution” agricultural model.  These problems include risks to the environment, human health, environment, and decreased security for the poorest farmers.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)  The combination of farmers who held onto past knowledge and scientists researching sustainable technologies along with an aggressive educational program of nearly the entire nation have dramatically changed the agricultural environment of Cuba.  

Some of the agroecological principles are:  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)

-Optimization of local resources and promotion of within-farm synergisms through plant

-animal combinations

-Reliance on the ecological services of biodiversity in order to minimize the use of external inputs, whether organic or conventional

– Matching of cropping systems with existing soil and climatic potentials

-Conservation and use of crop and non-crop biodiversity within and around farms to  maximize utilization of biological and genetic resources

– Reliance on the knowledge and wisdom of locals and farmers as a key input

– Promotion of participatory methods in research and in the extension and implementation process

Furthermore, the principles of this transition may be beneficial to the majority of individuals.  Beyond wellness for the individual and the earth, agroecological principles “run counter to the vicious globalization promoted by neo-liberalism, and are more in favor of a socially just and solidarious, more human globalization, without dependency on transnational corporations and in favor of self-sufficiency.  Agroecology does not harm the environment, reduces the role of middlemen and intermediaries, develops the consciousness of farmers, and applies knowledge rather than crude technological recipes.  It is an ally of nature and considers the farmer as a cultural and not just production unit” according to Fernando Funes.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)


Funes, F., Garcia, L., Bourque, M., Perez, N., & Rosset, P. (2002). Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba. Havana, Cuba: Food First Books.

Morgan, F. (Director). (2007). The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil [Motion Picture].

Murray N.D., M., Pizzorno N.D., J., & Pizzorno M.A., L.M.T., L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria Books.

Nestle, M. (2006). What to Eat. New York: North Point Press.

Torres, R. M., Nelson, V., Momsen, J. H., & Niemeier, D. A. (2010). Experiment or Transition? Revisiting Food Distribution in Cuban Agromercados from the “Special Period”. Journal of Latin American Geography , 67-87.

Patriot: an unscheduled break in your regularly scheduled blog.

To this date I have avoided politics in this blog. I am a former Marine. The base of my decision making is freedom. Honor is admirable and rare. As is courage and commitment. Difficult standards in the best of times. Look seriously at your world. It is not what you think. I am a patriot…for myself, my love, my family, and my future progeny. I sent the below to my family. We all have motives in life. Mine is freedom, liberty…brilliance for all.

A patriot I am. For those that pay attention it is a fascinating and scary time. This is a message to my friends.

I’ve never been more clear, never more confident, never more concerned. I expect nothing of my future. The future is for those younger. We are the beginning. The base of a long downturn. Everything is up from here. We won’t experience all of it. All we can do is stand strong and send them off. Be an example to the future. We are the only example of this day and age. One day our progeny will be free once again. Let us instill in them the lessons learned from a brilliant experience hijacked by the international bankers (federal reserve is a private instruction). Let us alter the prescribed course of the technocrats to that of true freedom. This is our mission, for there is none other. We must care for our progeny.

We live in a time of concealed tyranny. Without a struggle danger consumes. Let us fight so that our progeny prosper in a time of freedom.

The major issue is whether or not we as a nation choose to abide by a set of rules which were codified in the Constitution of the United States. This document, and those freedoms, allowed the US enormous prosperity in a relatively short period. Since the adoption of this document many of the protections have been circumvented or completely ignored. Look at the amendments to the constitution. Many of them directly attack the original system of federalism by changing the way that elections should be done. The states were intended to have power over the federal government through the senate as well as the electoral college. The US was never intended to be a pure democracy. And it worked well. Now, a nation with immense capabilities in terms of information gathering, had been dumbed down ad subverted by the ruling elite. They are not required to follow the same laws as us and they refuse accountability or even transparency. This is obvious to anyone. Yet we sit here doing nothing. Hell, most don’t even understand why they should be upset. It is not an issue or right verse left, which is a false paradigm (the true paradigm is totalitarianism and anarchy with people’s law in the middle slightly skewed towards anarchy). The basic belief system of this nation has been eroded away over decades by a very intelligent criminal elite. What are you going to do about it?


Check out the National Center for Constitutional Studies for some great books for more information.  

Well worth the watch.

Happy Fourth of July

“I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural.”

Thomas Jefferson