Monthly Archives: August 2014

Cuban Special Period Part 4 of 4 and Presentation

Ecological pest management involves primarily preventative measures taken in order to protect your crop.  These measures include using crop rotations and intercropping.  Cuba has used integrated pest management as well as pest antagonists well.  Pest predators, pathogens, and natural enemies have had the greatest success for the Cuban population.  The cost of biological controls was 1,172,495 pesos compared to $6,175,345 for chemical management.  This is a significant savings coupled with the benefit of having the money spent on biological controls remain in Cuba instead of being sent to an international company.  Cuba produces these products in country at several facilities.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)

Intercropping is the practice of planting multiple crops in the same field in the same year.  Intercropping acts as a physical barrier to pest movement.  The different crops odors and colors confuse pests.  Cuba intercrops many crops, including medicinal crops. Cuba intercrops cassava, maize, and beans are intercropped at a rate of 40%, 60%, and 80% respectively.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)With the inability to access machinery, oil, and spare parts, animal traction has become a common sight in Cuba.  The older farmers were able to train the younger generation in this technique, both in training of the animals as well as in the use of the animals.  The benefits to animal traction have clearly been demonstrated.  These benefits include decreases in soil compaction and decreases in soil erosion.  Animals are more appropriate to small farms than large machinery.  The Cuban’s have also developed a “multi-plow” that does not invert the topsoil layer.  In fact, this plow opens the soil horizontally and is capable of plowing, harrowing, ridging, tilling, sowing, covering, and hilling.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)

The soil in Cuba took three to five years to recover from the damage of the green revolution in terms of fertility and production.  (Morgan, 2007)  Biofertilizers, bacteria, manure, compost, bioearth, earthworm humus, and green manures have been utilized in the production of crops.  Cuba is also using sugarcane reside as an organic fertilizer with great success.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)

All of these changes have affected the health of the Cubans overall.  The Cuban diet consisted of tubers, rice, and pork meat traditionally.  (Morgan, 2007)  The current diet consists of increased vegetable and fruit consumption as well as decreased fat consumption.  In addition to food changes, exercise increased throughout Cuba.  The lack of fuel led to the importation of 1.2 million bicycles from China and the manufacture of 0.5 million more bicycles.  The increased walking/biking as well as dietary changes has led to a decrease in heart attacks and strokes.  (Morgan, 2007)
Organic produce and the proximity of the producer and consumer led to Cubans eating and cooking fresh produce daily.  (Morgan, 2007)  The increase in vegetable consumption led to a more nutritious diet over tubers.  Organic produce has several advantages over conventional produce as well.  These advantages include reduced exposure to toxins, increased consumption of micronutrients (especially minerals when raised in good soils), safeguards to the environment, and protection from potentially harmful GMO foods.  (Murray N.D., Pizzorno N.D., & Pizzorno M.A., L.M.T., 2005)  (Nestle, 2006)

The Cuban special period, while forced, is instructive in several ways.  It is clear that conventional agriculture is harmful to the environment.  The Cubans have demonstrated that free market principles, redistribution of land (from the state), as well as the reclaiming of potential agricultural land in cities have had a positive impact.  Populations are capable of feeding themselves through sustainable and mostly organic practices.  The healthier produce and diversified diet, as well as increased exercise has led to healthier individuals that should lead to a decrease in healthcare costs.  The prevention of disease is far more efficient and cost effective than the management of disease with pharmaceuticals and frequent hospital visits.  On a larger scale, healthier individuals and a decreased dependence on foreign oil could lead the United States to a position of greater national security and increased health for all.

Citations on Cuban Special Period post 4 of 4

cuban special period – presentation.pdf

Cuban Special Period Part 3 of 4

The non-state agricultural sectors are the Agriculture Production Cooperatives (CPA), Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC), and the Credit and Services Cooperatives (CCS).  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)  The CPA, CCS, UBPC, and lands in usufruct enjoy the benefits of private property.  22% of productive land was farmed by CPA’s and CCS’s in 2002.   CPA’s are independent from the state and are economic and social organizations that own all of the materials and lands that members contribute or purchase. The members are paid based on number of days worked as well as a share of the annual profits.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)  CCS’s are independent farm holders who own their own assets and work their own land.  Landowners may pass this land onto a family member who has assisted on the farm over the 5 years prior.  These farmers join a CCS in order to benefit from the groups knowledge, technologies, and access to financial benefits.  These farmers work for their own profit.

Much of the food produced from CCS’s and CPA’s are sold to the state.  These foods are either exported or distributed by ration to those in need.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)  Cuba sets minimum prices for fresh produce and determines prices while accounting for production costs.  The remaining food can be sold at farmers markets at prices determined by supply and demand.  The system of supply and demand is important in terms of greater efficiency and production.  Supply and demand also promotes local markets and the system promotes a profit for farmers.  Farmers are one of the highest paid industries in Cuba at this time due to Cuba’s farm system.  

CPA’s and CCS’s differ in terms of being a collective or individual venture.  The CPA is essentially the system that preceded the UBPC.  The CCS is more of a collective in terms of being an association of individual farmers and landowners that unite in order to reap the benefits of a group.  These individuals are able to pool their money and resources in order to purchase equipment and materials in bulk.  The individuals then run their operations as they normally would without the interference of the other landowners, but with the benefit of being able to use the equipment and materials that the collective purchased.  This allows these farmers to use equipment that would otherwise be out of the reach of the individual farmer.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)
The reemergence of the supply and demand system is intriguing.  Historically all distribution and marketing of agricultural products had been performed by the state.  After a brief from 1980-1986, supply and demand reemerged in 1994 in order to increase food production.  (Morgan, 2007)  The system allowed the opening of agromercados (farmers markets) and was intended to be a short term solution only.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)  As of 2010 private producers produced 71% of the value and 70% of the volume in agromercados.  (Morgan, 2007)  The system led to greater food availability and in 2009 Cuba permitted 45,500 new land grants.  While initially a short-term solution, the addition of the new land grants in 2009 demonstrates the effectiveness and vitality of the free market system in terms of food production and availability.  (Torres, Nelson, Momsen, & Niemeier, 2010)

The non-state sectors of particular interest to me are those individuals in usufruct and with private property.  The Cuban government distributed a significant amount of land to the Cuban people.  In 1993, Cuba distributed 27 hectares of land to the rural people and 0.25 hectares of land in the cities for crop production.  This land produced specialty crops such as coffee, tobacco, and cocoa.  Any production over the quota was permitted to be sold at farmers markets.  By 1996 the amount of farmers in usufruct grew from 0 – 43,015.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)

The extreme effects of the downfall of the USSR as well as the devastating effects of the US embargo on Cuba forced individuals into private food production.  The population very quickly converted all of the arable land in the cities into food production.  There were orchards and gardens throughout the cities vacant lots, backyards, and balconies.  In Oct. 1993, two Australian permaculturalists traveled to Cuba to assist with these programs and the permaculturalists discussed rooftop gardens.  The two individuals assisted with the development of the train the trainer program as well.  This program educated individuals in urban gardening techniques and trained them to the point that those individuals could become community trainers themselves.  (Morgan, 2007)By 2006, urban gardens were a major source of food for the Cuban population.  Havana, a city of 2.2 million, was capable of supplying 50% of their food production.  Small town and cities were capable of supplying 80%-100% of the fruit and vegetable needs.  Urban agriculture in Cuba is any agriculture within 5 km around the city and as of 2007 employed 140,000 individuals as of 2006.  (Morgan, 2007)  Local, fresh, organic produce on this scale is an accomplishment that not only nourishes the individual, but also decreases transportation distances dramatically.  The decrease in transportation distance correlates directly to a decrease in fuel costs.

While the restructuring and distribution of farms and agricultural land made significant changes in Cuba’s agricultural landscape, the transition to agroecological systems may be the greatest contributor to food production in light of the decreases in oil supply.  The now broken up major farms required greater human investment and this led to greater income equality amongst farm workers and farm owners.  Agroecological principles include ecological pest management, intercropping, animal traction, and organic soil management.  Scientists have researched these practices and the memories of older generations of farmers have increased the knowledge of these practices.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)

Source cited in Cuban Special Period 3 of 4