In the early 1990s, Cuba was faced with an agricultural crisis that demanded immediate action from the government that directed the agricultural sector away from an industrial, classic model of agriculture toward an outstanding community driven, sustainable food system. The changes in Cuba’s food system and agricultural industry revolutionised the country, and replaced its previous dependency on imports for food consumption with organic produce farmed through ecological horticulture methods that is completely locally sourced.
This series of essays will give a detailed account of Cuba’s food system through exploring historical, environmental and social issues, the agro-politics of the food system, and look toward the future of the current system in relation to food security.
CUBAS AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION
Currently in Cuba, over 50,000 hectares of urban land is used to produce 33% of the food that is consumed in major cities (Edible City: Grow the Revolution 2012). Alongside a healthy and dynamic urban production and trade system, the Cuban government transformed the way rural, state managed agricultural farms were managed and used in a response to a petroleum crisis and trade embargo. Famers were encouraged to set aside a significant amount of land on their farms; that would normally be used for growing specific specialized crops, for growing food for the population. These farmers were then supported financially and new infrastructure was implemented that heavily encouraged state farms to transport their produce not only to major towns, but where the demand was the highest (Enriquez 2000).
It was a dynamic mix of grassroots movements, such as the ‘Campesino a Campesino’ (farmer to farmer) movement and government policies and regulations that paved the path toward food sovereignty in Cuba. On October 18 2011, Robert Caballero from the ‘Cuban Association of Technicians on Agriculture and Forestry’ explained that the agro-ecology model; movement away from a heavy onus on industrial and technological usage in farming, toward a more complex mix of technology being used in conjunction with nature, society and resource management, has been successfully applied in Cuba. The success of the model shown in 2010 when 1,352,000 tonnes of food free from chemicals and genetically modified seeds was produced through the urban and peri-urban agriculture program, which equates to 16 to 20 kilograms per square meter per year productivity (Caballero 2011).
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CUBAN AGRICULTURE REVOLUTION
In the current global environmental and political setting, it is of utmost importance to establish food security for developing states that are still reliant on the classic model of agriculture. The current agricultural model is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions; with the looming threat of climate change it is vital to not only drastically reduce emissions from agriculture, but have reliable food sources that will be less affected by trade relations, change in temperature and the political climate. Cuba has shown that it is possible to produce food everywhere by everyone to feed the population at micro and national levels and provides the foundations of a food system that could revolutionise global food production and security.
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