Burns, Cuba and Food

We celebrate the day of Robert Burns farmer-poet with this short piece by Raj Patel:

Want to know what a sustainable climate-change-proof agricultural system might look like? Here’s an example from Cuba, in an academic paper written by my friend, comrade, and former boss, Peter Rosset, together with folk from Cuba’s peasant agriculture movement. The article’s free to download (for now), but the key parts from the abstract are:

Our key findings are (i) the spread of agroecology was rapid and successful largely due to the social process methodology and social movement dynamics, (ii) farming practices evolved over time and contributed to significantly increased relative and absolute production by the peasant sector, and (iii) those practices resulted in additional benefits including resilience to climate change.

Admittedly, there’s a bit more jargon here than I’d like, but the short of it is that there wasn’t a governmental grand plan to make sustainable agriculture flourish so much as a network of peasants communicating, sharing, and innovating. Most important, tagroecology is successful in Cuba because peasants know how to organise.

This is a finding that’s important outside Cuba but, here’s the surprise, also important within – the Cuban government is still a refuge for Green Revolutionaries, for civil servants wedded to the same ideas of top-down, technocratic twentieth century agriculture celebrated by Big Agriculture outside Cuba. The punchline to Peter’s article is this: if the Cuban ministry of agriculture loves Cuba so much – especially in a time of greater climate uncertainty – it ought to support, not hinder, the demands of its most productive, sustainable and resilient peasants.

  • Admin
    The Fife Diet February 14, 2011 at 08:37

    Hi Bernhard, thanks for the message, Cuba is almost entirely self-sufficient after the collapse of the USSR and the ongoing trade embargo of the USA.

  • Bernhard February 10, 2011 at 21:57

    I’ve found similar praising words elsewhere and quite often. So to say, I’d rather believe that Cuba has reached a sustainable and some kind of self- sufficiency than not believe it. But then I did some research (FAO and others) only to find that Cuba imports 80 percent of its food. That is a catastrophic situation if you ask me. Anyone who can provide differing information for me will be most welcome.