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Cuban Agriculture and Food Sovereignty: Beyond Civil-Society-Centric and Globalist Paradigms

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Abstract

Civil-society-centric and globalist conceptions of food sovereignty neglect the fact that food sovereignty depends not only on the counterhegemonic conquest of civil society but also on (international) political society. A comprehensive analysis of the restructuring of Cuban agriculture shows that food sovereignty policies in Cuba are built on a fourfold strategy emerging out of a state/civil-society partnership at the local, national, and regional levels: the collectivization of land through agrarian cooperatives, the socialization of urban agriculture on the basis of participatory methods, the guaranteeing of local access to food through the establishment of free agricultural markets, and the transnationalization and solidarity of agroecological movements. Los conceptos de soberanía alimenticia centrados en la sociedad civil y global descuidan el hecho de que dicha soberanía depende no sólo de la conquista de dicha sociedad sobre poderes hegemónicos sino también de la sociedad política (internacional). Un análisis exhaustivo de la reestructuración de la agricultura cubana muestra que las políticas de soberanía alimenticia en Cuba están construidas sobre una estrategia cuádruple surgida de un pacto entre el Estado y la sociedad civil a niveles local, nacional y regional: la colectivización de la tierra a través de cooperativas agrarias, la socialización de la agricultura urbana en base a métodos participativos, el acceso local garantizado a los alimentos mediante el establecimiento de los mercados agrícolas libres, y la transnacionalización y solidaridad entre movimientos agroecológicos.
LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES, Issue 197, Vol. 41 No. 4, July 2014, 129–146
DOI: 10.1177/0094582X13518750
© 2014 Latin American Perspectives
129
Cuban Agriculture and Food Sovereignty
Beyond Civil-Society-Centric and Globalist Paradigms
by
Efe Can Gürcan
Civil-society-centric and globalist conceptions of food sovereignty neglect the fact that
food sovereignty depends not only on the counterhegemonic conquest of civil society but
also on (international) political society. A comprehensive analysis of the restructuring of
Cuban agriculture shows that food sovereignty policies in Cuba are built on a fourfold
strategy emerging out of a state/civil-society partnership at the local, national, and
regional levels: the collectivization of land through agrarian cooperatives, the socialization
of urban agriculture on the basis of participatory methods, the guaranteeing of local access
to food through the establishment of free agricultural markets, and the transnationaliza-
tion and solidarity of agroecological movements.
Los conceptos de soberanía alimenticia centrados en la sociedad civil y global descuidan
el hecho de que dicha soberanía depende no sólo de la conquista de dicha sociedad sobre
poderes hegemónicos sino también de la sociedad política (internacional). Un análisis
exhaustivo de la reestructuración de la agricultura cubana muestra que las políticas de
soberanía alimenticia en Cuba están construidas sobre una estrategia cuádruple surgida
de un pacto entre el Estado y la sociedad civil a niveles local, nacional y regional: la colec-
tivización de la tierra a través de cooperativas agrarias, la socialización de la agricultura
urbana en base a métodos participativos, el acceso local garantizado a los alimentos medi-
ante el establecimiento de los mercados agrícolas libres, y la transnacionalización y soli-
daridad entre movimientos agroecológicos.
Keywords: Agrarian reform, Agroecology, Campesino-a-campesino movement, Civil
society, Cuba, Food sovereignty
The global food crisis set off in late 2007, having driven an estimated 75 mil-
lion people to hunger and another 125 million people to extreme poverty (Bello,
2009: 1), is but one particular instance of a far more general phenomenon: the
breaking up of the neoliberal agri-food order (McMichael, 2009; Otero and
Pechlaner, 2010), itself in a perpetual state of emergency. The true nature of the
crisis becomes especially apparent in an examination of its sociocultural aspects
and repercussions. An increase of about 83 percent in global food prices between
2005 and 2008 led to violent food riots in more than 20 countries (Mittal, 2009;
Parmentier, 2009: 269–270). These riots reflected an opposing current emerging
Efe Can Gürcan (M.A. in International Studies, University of Montréal) is a Ph.D. student in soci-
ology at Simon Fraser University and holds an SSHRC-Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Doctoral
Scholarship—Category A. His research interests lie in the areas of Marxism, political sociology
(social movements and the state), Latin America (Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina), agrarian studies,
and Turkish politics and society.
518750LAPXXX10.1177/0094582X13518750Latin American PerspectivesGürcan / Cuban Agriculture and Food Sovereignty
research-article2013
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130 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES
from the grassroots since the 1990s (Gorelick, Merrifield, and Norberg-Hodge,
2002: 1–2) that came to be known as the “food sovereignty alternative.”
As framed by Vía Campesina, one of the world’s most influential transna-
tional social movements, “food sovereignty” is “the right of nations and peo-
ples to control their own food systems, including their own markets, production
modes, food cultures, and environments” (Wittman, Desmarais, and Wiebe,
2010: 2). The concept of food sovereignty places special emphasis on “how,
where, and by whom food is produced” (3), and therefore it promotes the
rethinking of our relationships not merely with food, agriculture, and the envi-
ronment but also with one another with reference to democracy and social
justice (Wittman, Desmarais, and Wiebe, 2010).
The years since 2008 have witnessed a veritable outpouring of scholarly
works on the rise of food sovereignty alternatives as a response to the global
food crisis and in opposition to the neoliberal food regime. However, much of
the interest in the emerging field of food sovereignty studies is concentrated on
the central role of civil society and transnational social movements in bringing
about a change in the organization of peasant communities and of food produc-
tion and distribution. In line with Otero’s (2010; 2011) work and my own
(Gürcan, 2011), this paper maintains that civil-society-centric and globalist
understandings of food sovereignty tend to neglect the fact that food sover-
eignty depends not only on the counterhegemonic conquest of civil society but
also on (international) political society. In addition to the important contribu-
tions of Desmarais (2007) and Wittman (Wittman, Desmarais, and Wiebe,
2010), Bello’s (2009) Food Wars is emblematic of these accounts. Criticizing this
classic work, Otero (2011: 315) says, “But apart from Vía Campesina, there are
extremely few actual, sustained organisations that struggle in ‘global civil soci-
ety’—another myth. Vía Campesina’s main accomplishment has been to con-
tribute to derailing WTO [World Trade Organization] negotiations, but the
most tangible—and positive—successes for its constituency must take place at
the level of the state.” Elsewhere Otero (2010: 499) writes:
A most critical insight . . . is contained in this sentence: “A confrontation with
the global capitalist system beyond the nation-state, moreover, requires
national state power” [quoting Robinson, 2008]. I could not agree more with
this formulation: rather than focusing on building a transnational civil society—
the globalist implication—the main priority for subordinate groups and classes
is to firmly root their struggles locally, while promoting internationalist solidarity.
Bello (2009) seems to be so occupied with discussing failures that he forgets
to address the success stories of countries such as Cuba and Venezuela and the
importance of international organizations such as the Alianza Bolivariana para
los Pueblos de Nuestra América (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our
America—ALBA) in the context of the rise of the “new left” in Latin America.
Examination of the Cuban case, which represents the most successful agroeco-
logical praxis in human history (Benjamin and Rosset, 1994: 5), can provide a
better grasp of contemporary alternatives to the neoliberal agri-food regime.
Departing from a comprehensive analysis, drawing on unstructured direct
observations, informal conversational interviews, and secondary sources, of
the restructuring of Cuban agriculture, this paper seeks to generate a concrete
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Gürcan / CUBAN AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SOVEREIGNTY 131
and detailed understanding of the ways in which food sovereignty policies
based on state/civil-society partnership are implemented at the local, national,
and regional levels. Those interviewed included the presidents and members
of administrative committees of the Unidad Básica de Producción Cooperativa
(Basic Unit of Cooperative Production—UBPC) Organopónico Vivero Alamar,
the Cooperativa de Créditos y Servicios (Credit and Services Cooperative—
CCS) Camilo Cienfuegos, and the UBPC Organopónico La Riviera and regional
leaders of the Asociación Nacional de Agricultores Pequeños (National
Association of Small Farmers—ANAP).
In Cuba the food sovereignty movement has led to the world’s largest con-
version from conventional agriculture to organic and semiorganic agriculture
(Benjamin and Rosset, 1994: 5). Cuba has shown that it is possible to shift
emphasis from global food to local agriculture in line with the needs of people,
communities, and the environment (Gorelick, Merrifield, and Norberg-Hodge,
2002: 112). With policies built on a vast network of cooperation and interactions
between domestic and transnational actors, the Cuban experience has become
a model for the formulation of food sovereignty policies by newly emerging
left-leaning governments and social movements in countries such as Venezuela
(Koont, 2004). In that model, food sovereignty policies are built on a four-pillar
agrarian strategy: the collectivization of land through agrarian cooperatives,
the socialization of urban agriculture on the basis of participatory methods, the
guaranteeing of local access to food through the establishment of free agricul-
tural markets, and the transnationalization of domestic agroecological move-
ments. In Cuba this strategy is implemented through the ANAP, the UBPCs,
and many other projects involving supra-state and transnational actors such as
the ALBA, the Latin American campesino-a-campesino (farmer to farmer) move-
ment, and Vía Campesina. The implementation of this strategy depends on a
combination of local, nationwide, and international efforts undertaken through
decentralized decision-making processes, vibrant societal structures, and con-
sensual policy networks in the countryside. The following sections will address
the four pillars of Cuban agriculture and the broader lessons that can be drawn
from the Cuban experience for other Latin American countries.
The ColleCTivizaTion of land
and CooperaTive produCTion
In 1993, relying upon the principles of food sovereignty, Cuba accomplished
a radical land reform that revolutionized its entire agrarian structure. The
reform was a by-product of the Special Period conditions under which Cuba
had no choice but to undertake agroecological restructuring. Prior to that
reform the Cuban agrarian structure was dominated by the state sector, which
greatly depended on the activities of large state farms controlling 74.3 percent
of agricultural land (Alvarez, 2004: 44). Capital-intensive and large-scale agri-
cultural practices had had serious socioeconomic and ecological consequences:
overspecialization, monocropping, excessive intensification and dependence
on external inputs, large-scale deforestation, salinization, erosion, compaction,
fertility loss of soils, and heavy rural-urban migration. This model of agrarian
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132 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES
development suffered from high levels of inefficiency and dependency on the
international socialist system, which in turn aggravated the dependence of the
Cuban economy on massive amounts of food imports. In the prereform era,
57 percent of the country’s total consumption of calories depended on imports
of petroleum, equipment, agricultural inputs, and foodstuffs. More than 30
percent of arable land was reserved to the production of sugarcane, which had
both reduced Cuba’s agricultural diversity and contributed to the dependency
on food imports (Benjamin and Rosset, 1994: 3; Cruz and Medina, 2003: 3;
Mansata, 2008: 10). Similarly, before the collapse of the international socialist
system, 69 percent of the domestic consumption of cereals, 99 percent of grains,
21 percent of meats, 94 percent of fats, and 38 percent of milk and its derivatives
originated in Cuba’s economic relations with the Council for Mutual Economic
Assistance (COMECON). Following the demise of the international socialist
system, Cuba experienced a decline of nearly 30 percent in the volume of its
foreign trade, with a drop of more than 60 percent in the import of pesticides,
77 percent in the import of fertilizers, and 50 percent in the availability of oil for
agriculture. Food imports dropped by more than 50 percent (Benjamin and
Rosset, 1994: 3–4, 20; Lopez, 1999: 23), and, in consequence, daily calorie con-
sumption per capita declined from 2,728 in 1990 to 1,863 in 1993 (Cruz and
Medina, 2003: 4). According to Miguel Angel Salcine López, the head of the
UBPC Organopónico Vivero Alamar, while 80 percent of the Cuban population
lived in urban areas only 12 percent of the rest of the population were involved
in agricultural activities when the crisis erupted, and the scarcity of farmers
contributed significantly to the deepening of the crisis. Given the high levels of
urbanization, urban unemployment, and food insecurity in cities, Cuba had to
adopt a new land policy promoting local agriculture.
After the agroecological restructuring, 92 to 94 percent of Cuban agricultural
production would depend on low-input agricultural practices that to a great
extent immunized the Cuban peasant communities against price drops in food,
oil, and raw materials and against environmental contamination (Botella-
Rodríguez, 2010: 28). The balance of power in the Cuban countryside shifted
with the establishment of UBPCs in favor of the small peasantry.
The UBPCs are in essence local agrarian organizations that rely on their own
revenues and function according to the principles of self-management and self-
sufficiency (Gonzáles, 1999). Their expansion has led to the diversification of
Cuban civil society by bringing to the fore the ideas of sustainable rural devel-
opment, decentralization of the economy at the local level, and promotion of
the participation of producers in decision making. Beyond their role in agricul-
tural production, they assumed a key role in community development. In 1996
alone the expansion of UBPCs contributed to 73 percent of the newly created
jobs in the country (Martinez, 1999: 97). (The Alamar UBPC has created 170 jobs
so far.) Similarly, some UBPCs became involved in the resolution of Cuba’s
chronic housing problem by creating special funds for the improvement of
communities’ housing conditions (Vilarino, 1998).
As Pierre Raymond (2002) points out, the speed and extent of the expansion
of UBPCs were astounding. Between September and December 1993, 1,576 sug-
arcane UBPCs with a total of 146,524 members were created on 87 percent of
the land previously owned by the state (Raymond, 2002: 15). By August 1994,
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2,643 UBPCs, with over 257,000 members, had been established on 2,960,000
hectares (50 percent of the land under state control). In February 1995, 1,440
non-sugarcane UBPCs with 126,723 members were established. With an aver-
age size of 1,125 hectares and an average membership of 97, UBPCs assumed
80 percent of sugarcane production, 33 percent of meat production, 13 percent
of vegetable production, 24 percent of coffee production, 8 percent of tobacco
production, and 46 percent of milk production (Alvarez, 2004: 76; Raymond,
2002: 15).
The Alamar UBPC, established on 10 hectares of land in the west of the city
of Havana, is considered an “agroecological center” that exemplifies the suc-
cess of food sovereignty policies in Cuba (Koont, 2009: 60). The project’s repu-
tation has extended beyond Cuba’s borders to become a source of inspiration
in the international arena. It constantly receives visitors from over 60 countries,
most of them peasants and scholars seeking to exchange ideas on agroecology
and food sovereignty. It relies on broad transnational cooperation, with inter-
national partners such as German Agro-Action and the Food Security and Aid
Program of the European Union. Its origins go back to 1997, when Miguel
Angel López Salcine quit his position as an agricultural economist in the
Ministry of Agriculture in order to “cultivate the land directly” and launched
the project with four colleagues.
The La Riviera UBPC was established in the mid-1990s by Anastacio García
Capote (El Capote) on 1 hectare. Retired from the army after 37 years of service,
El Capote had accepted an invitation from the local secretary of the Partido
Comunista de Cuba (Communist Party of Cuba—PCC) to build an organic
garden in Santa Clara. At first the duration of La Riviera project was expected
to be five years, but the growing success of the garden allowed it to continue.
El Capote believed that “to become a good master, one should first master
pedagogy,” and therefore, before building his garden, he joined the Cuban
campesino-a-campesino movement and traveled around the country learning
about agroecological methods. He regularly participates in the meetings of
Asociación Nacional de Productores Orgánicos (National Association of
Organic Producers), which take place once every two years and bring together
the best producers in the country to share their experience and expertise.
The UBPCs were developed on the basis of the experience of Cooperativas
de Producción Agropecuaria (Agricultural Production Cooperatives—CPAs).
Established after the First Congress of the PCC in 1975, the CPAs brought
together small-scale farmers and their families who wanted to gain greater
access to electricity, housing, education, and medical care. The structure of the
UBPCs is similar to that of the CPAs. A general assembly made up of all mem-
bers is the highest organ of the cooperative, and it elects nine board members
as managers for terms of five years. Normally the board consists of the general
manager, the senior engineer, and the chiefs of economy, production, services,
machinery and land, as well as two other members of the cooperative.
Members have the right to vote on the admission of new members and the
expulsion of members who are not performing their duties properly. In con-
trast to the CPA experience, which relied on the principle of private owner-
ship of land, land ownership remains communal in the UBPCs, although the
members may cultivate their land in perpetuity (Alvarez, 2004: 77, 80;
Enríquez, 2010: 129; Royce, 2004: 23–24, 30–31).
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134 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES
López insisted that Alamar has an independent management that allows
members to have their own bank accounts and individual contracts and
includes a special mechanism for the distribution of revenues according to
work experience and age. While newcomers hold a single share each, experi-
enced members may hold up to five. However, share ownership does not pro-
vide the more experienced members with the privilege of working less than the
others or imposing their ideas on others. Decisions are made at the monthly
meetings of the general assembly, in which all members have equal rights to
vote. Weekly meetings are held to discuss benefits, costs, and complaints. The
general assembly is responsible for electing the board of directors by secret
ballot and forming a general development plan and triannual plans. The
board’s role is limited to the execution of development plans approved by the
general assembly.
Some 50 percent of the net surplus revenue is shared among members, while
the other half is mainly used for the repayment of equipment loans and other
expenses related to production issues such as the purchase of inputs. Anything
remaining after these expenses is devoted to the development of services such
as housing, recreational facilities, health care, and technical training. In addi-
tion, the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank of Cuba— NBC) provides the
cooperatives with credits for basic community activities such as housing. For
housing loans the NBC offers an interest rate of 2 percent in mountainous areas
and 3 percent in other areas of the country (Alvarez, 2004: 80, 77–78). Alamar
prioritizes the social development of the cooperative and the improvement of
the living conditions of its members based on collective funds from its own net
revenues. López says, “We cannot succeed if the workers are unhappy.”
Meanwhile, the cooperative provides interest-free loans to members and often
distributes products such as daily soap and detergent. The cooperative serves
its members free morning coffee, breakfast, and lunch. The collective funds also
permit the provision of free services such as hairdressing and manicures on a
regular basis. López holds that membership in the cooperative therefore
remains highly competitive. Newcomers undergo a trial period of 90 days dur-
ing which they must prove their discipline and skills and express some degree
of belonging to the community.
The La Riviera UBPC, employing 18 farmers, grows 13 types of vegetables
for a large community whose members enjoy buying fresh produce every day
right on their street. The cooperative sells its products at the garden gate but
also participates in regional agricultural markets. However, 40 percent of total
production is devoted to social consumption, which means that it is usually
sold to schools, day-care centers, and hospitals at low prices. Each month, El
Capote presents a report to members on monthly production and sales. Once
the production goals are achieved, net revenues coming from the sale of excess
production are shared. During the months of February and March of 2010,
members shared a sum of more than 18,000 pesos from the sale of surplus pro-
duction. Besides the income from surplus production, members receive a regu-
lar wage every two weeks. Funding for the UBPC is completely independent;
the government does not contribute to the cooperative’s budget. Government
enterprises provide it only with gardening tools. The cooperative also has a
reserve fund that is used to repair the machinery and to pay the salaries of
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members during extraordinary events like hurricanes. Thus, despite two recent
hurricanes that have completely destroyed the garden, the cooperative has
managed to survive and renew its infrastructure and workforce by resorting to
the reserve fund.
Cuba’s agroecological restructuring was not limited to the creation of UBPCs.
The reform also introduced the Granjas Estatales de Nuevo Tipo (New-Type
State Farms—GENTs), which have more administrative autonomy than the
traditional state farms. Although the farms remain under state ownership,
worker cooperatives run them, and workers themselves share 50 percent of the
net revenues. One could argue that the GENTs constitute an important transi-
tional step in the expansion of UBPCs with government support: the govern-
ment actively encourages successful GENTs to become UBPCs (Alvarez et al.,
2006: 235; Wright, 2009: 139–140).
Similarly, the agroecological reform also reorganized CCSs, made up of indi-
vidual producers who want to acquire greater access to credit, machinery, fer-
tilizers, and technical assistance (Forster and Handelman, 1985: 184; Valdés,
1990: 84). The main objective of CCSs is facilitating the sharing of irrigation and
other installations, services, and means of production, as well as collective
arrangements for credit (Royce, 2004: 23). In 1995, the ANAP decided to
strengthen the CCSs by improving their management and providing better-
quality services (Peter et al., 2011: 58). In parallel, the agroecological reform in
Cuba encouraged the consolidation of CCSs by merging small cooperatives
into larger units for greater efficiency. The new CCSs have a higher quality of
professional services and have become capable of developing production plans
on a collective basis with the state food collection and distribution agency
(Wright, 2009: 140).
The Camilo Cienfuegos CCS is located in Jagüey Grande, an agrarian munic-
ipality of Matanzas province that specializes in the production of citrus and
other fruits. The municipality has over 60,000 residents, of whom 2,100 are
members of cooperatives. About 80 percent of the food consumed in the munic-
ipality comes from these cooperatives. Having recently won the Flag of the
Fiftieth Anniversary of the Revolution and the National Vanguard Award, the
Camilo Cienfuegos CCS is one of the oldest and most successful cooperatives
in the region. It has 256 members (with an average age of 54 years) of whom
138 (38 of them women) are landowners. The administrative committee of the
cooperative is made up of members from a peasant family background except
for one from a working-class family who became a landowner after the third
land reform. Sergio Correa, the president of the cooperative, said that the third
land reform had led to a dramatic increase in membership. The cooperative
aimed to produce 39,000 quintals by the end of 2011. Production plans are
made through close coordination between government institutions and coop-
eratives and take into consideration both the needs of the nation and those of
the peasants. According to Correa, the success of the cooperative is mainly due
to its interaction with government institutions and scientists and the develop-
ment of agroecological expertise through the campesino-a-campesino move-
ment. Eleven members are actively involved in the movement. Members
agreed that the greatest obstacle to the expansion of the agroecological move-
ment was the difficulty of persuading farmers of the benefits of agroecological
practices.
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136 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES
Although the structure of the Camilo Cienfuegos CCS rests on the principle
of private property and net revenues are considered individual, this coopera-
tive has a collective fund dedicated to community development that amounts
to 2 percent of individual net revenues. The general assembly, which is held on
the second Saturday of each month, decides how the funds will be used.
Members do not see the collective fund as a reduction of their individual
incomes. Board members believed that the cooperative arrangement had
affected their work in a positive way, allowing them to establish closer links
with the government and to receive better services and better representation.
Community needs are determined by interactions with other community mem-
bers through channels such as the Consejos Populares (People’s Councils).
Several members participate in the People’s Councils, voicing their concerns
when necessary. The contribution of the cooperative to community develop-
ment is also channeled through voluntary donations to day-care centers and
schools and to maternity, seniors’, and veterans’ associations.
In contrast to the two UBPCs, the CCS relates to external actors through com-
munication channels tied to the ANAP. José Morales, a peasant leader of the
ANAP in Villa Clara, a key province in the development of the campesino-a-
campesino movement in Cuba, asserted that the third land reform had led to
the creation of over 10,000 private associations in the province. The immediate
effects of the reform found expression in peasants’ increased sense of belonging
to the land, the expansion of low-input agriculture, and an increase in produc-
tivity. Morales associated the success of the cooperative movement with the
development of close coordination with government institutions and the pres-
ence of grassroots dynamics within the ANAP. The ANAP’s Department of
Science and Technology collaborates with government scientists and coordi-
nates relations between them and the peasant movement. When a farmer
develops an agroecological technique, the department provides him with a
patent while ensuring the expansion of the technique among farmers through
their cooperatives. The use of new techniques is not imposed from above but
subject to the decision of the general assembly of each cooperative. Relations
between farmers and the state can also take a more direct form when the rep-
resentative of the ANAP or the peasant himself attends the sessions of Poder
Popular (Popular Power), the supreme organ of the state, to report a problem.
Poder Popular is expected to provide a direct response.
Morales added that the ANAP promotes the development of various grass-
roots dynamics that function according to the principle of “production for the
people.” In addition to such grassroots movements as the “movement for 1
million liters of milk,” the “movement for 100 tons of pork” and the “move-
ment for 25 tons of lamb,” the ANAP has an agroecological movement that has
5,000 members in Villa Clara. Not all the farmers who practice organic methods
are necessarily involved in this movement, which generally consists of farmers
who are “organically conscious” and aim to achieve 100 percent organic pro-
duction. There is an emerging awareness of the importance of organic con-
sumption among consumers in places where agroecological practices are
predominant, but the trend is still far from spreading to the rest of the country.
The agroecological reform appears to have been successful in terms of
enhancing agricultural diversity, increasing small farmers’ contribution to
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Gürcan / CUBAN AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SOVEREIGNTY 137
agricultural production, and increasing farmers’ income and well-being. The
production of sugarcane was reduced by one-third in the first half of the 2000s,
and the land reserved to sugarcane production had fallen to 397,000 hectares
by 2006—representing a considerable reduction in comparison with the 1.3
million hectares devoted to this purpose during the 1980s and 1990s (Wright,
2009: 232). Small-farmer productivity increased by almost 200 percent between
1988 and 2009, with small peasants contributing nearly 60 percent of vegetable
production, over 75 percent of corn production, almost 95 percent of bean pro-
duction, about 30 percent of rice production, over 95 percent of fruit produc-
tion, over 50 percent of cows’ milk production, over 60 percent of meat
production, 75 percent of pork production, and over 50 percent of cattle pro-
duction (Peter et al., 2011: 93–94). Between 2001 and 2006 the income of farmers
working in the nonstate sector increased significantly, by 42 percent, and the
monthly average agricultural wage went up by 62 percent. Farming became
one of the highest-paid professions in the country (Wright, 2009: 233).
The SoCializaTion of urban agriCulTure
wiTh parTiCipaTory MeThodS
Agroecological reform also led to the socialization of urban agriculture,
which emerged in 1989 as a grassroots movement in Cuba. Following the col-
lapse of the Soviet Union the movement was considerably expanded (Cruz and
Medina, 2003: 3–4; Mansata, 2008: 45). Broadly speaking, the practice of urban
agriculture in Cuba was built on three basic principles: the use of environment-
friendly organic methods, the rational use of resources, and the direct market-
ing of produce to consumers (Companioni et al., 2002: 220). López of the Alamar
cooperative emphasized that while the majority of organic food production in
the world is for the wealthy elite, in Cuba it is for broader consumption. He
explained that the Alamar project draws its motivation not solely from the aim
of increasing organic food consumption but also from other social principles
such as community development, job creation, reduction of working hours,
development of social services for cooperative members, and increased sus-
tainability and agricultural diversification. In his opinion the project has had a
“great social impact” on communities in the region and has influenced the
mind sets of Cuban families in favor of a healthier diet and eating habits.
Drawing on these principles, the Cuban government’s Departamento de
Agricultura Urbana (Department of Urban Agriculture) has organized numer-
ous workshops and educational programs in organic gardening with the motto
“Produce While Learning, Teach While Producing, and Learn While Teaching!”
(Koont, 2009; Mansata, 2008: 47). Urban farmers have formed garden clubs
with the aim of encouraging the sharing of experience and knowledge of urban
gardening. These clubs have provided urban communities with greater access
to workshops, larger farmer networks, profitable markets, and public rewards
(Mansata, 2008: 47–48; Murphy, 2008: 116).
The socialization of urban agriculture has also been facilitated by extension
services whereby organizers, teachers, and experts help farmers by ensuring
communication among them, encouraging participation in workshops, and
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138 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES
guaranteeing access to knowledge and other resources. By 1998 over 30,000
people had participated in training sessions and seminars organized by exten-
sion services and research institutions in the city of Havana. The socialization
of urban agriculture has also been maintained through public-private “seed
houses” that specialize in the sale of gardening inputs such as seeds, tools, and
bio-fertilizers (Murphy, 2008: 117–120).
The expansion of urban agriculture through participatory methods has
greatly contributed to the strengthening of Cuban civil society. The People’s
Councils have encouraged local initiatives for urban agriculture on the basis of
citizen participation with a community spirit (Cruz and Medina, 2003: 24, 26–
27). The Fundación Antonio Núñez Jiménez de la Naturaleza y el Hombre
(Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Humanity—FANJ) offers
assistance to urban farmers in developing production techniques and provides
increased access to information (Premat, 2009: 34).
Cuban urban agriculture may take one of the following forms (Mansata,
2008: 48–50): huertos populares (kitchen gardens), privately cultivated small
urban gardens that are mostly for self-provisioning; huertos intensivos (inten-
sive gardens), mostly raised-bed gardens with a high ratio of compost to soil,
usually private but sometimes cooperative-, state-, or collectively run; autocon-
sumos, owned and run by the staffs of workplaces and institutions, which may
sell their surplus at market prices; campesinos particulares, mostly privately
owned in the outlying greenbelt of the city; empresas estatales, semiprivate urban
or suburban farms with a more or less autonomous structure compared with
state enterprises; and organopónicos, employing raised-bed and organic farming
techniques that are particularly suitable for infertile soils or paved surfaces
(Mansata, 2008: 48–50). Although it is difficult to specify the exact number of
urban gardens because of their fragmentation and decentralization, in 2007
there were 3,861 organopónicos on 1,700.53 hectares and 7,070 huertos intensi-
vos on 9,171 hectares (Luis, 2007: 27–28).
By the first decade of the twenty-first century, then, urban agriculture in
Cuba had become an extensive practice. Between 1995 and 1999 popular par-
ticipation in urban agriculture increased significantly, from 3,966 to 26,604
urban farmers. In the early 2000s urban agriculture occupied 12 percent of the
land of the city of Havana, involving more than 22,000 urban and periurban
producers who had ceased to produce only for subsistence and shifted to com-
mercial production. By 2003 urban agriculture had created more than 326,000
jobs. By 2006 about 90 percent of the agricultural produce consumed in Havana
came from urban agriculture (Cruz and Medina, 2003: 4–5; Stricker, 2007: 42).
The reopening of free agriCulTural MarkeTS
The efforts to decentralize the agricultural sector and democratize decision
making also led to the reopening of free agricultural markets in 1994 with the
promulgation of Decree Law 191, which authorized the sale of farmers’ surplus
at prices determined by supply and demand (Botella-Rodríguez, 2010: 11).
Drawing on the free-market experience of 1980–1986, the reopening of free
markets was intended to undermine the black market, increase peasant
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Gürcan / CUBAN AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SOVEREIGNTY 139
productivity, and reduce the high levels of monetary liquidity caused by lim-
ited supply. It also aimed to reduce the budget deficit caused by social expen-
ditures by taxing the small farmers who participated in the markets (Alvarez,
2004: 134; Bas, 2006: 58). The free agricultural markets, jointly managed by the
ministries of agriculture and internal trade, were not exempt from certain reg-
ulations. UBPCs were allowed to sell 20 percent of their production goal and
20 percent of their surplus in free markets as long as they were meeting the
minimum 80 percent of their monthly production goals (Alvarez, 2004: 98, 78–79).
By December 1994 more than 200 markets had been established with broad
popular support (Abbassi, 1998: 32). Within the first year, free-market sales
amounted to more than 20,000 tons of agricultural produce and meat, represent-
ing 25–30 percent of the total production sold to the public and from a quarter
to a third of the total calories consumed by the Cuban population. By 1999 the
sales volume had tripled, and the annual fees collected by the government
reached over 5 million pesos. In the long run, free markets proved to be more
effective than the black market in offering lower prices and increasing access to
food, although they are still subject to serious controversy related to their ten-
dency to be focused on relatively high income-earners (Bas, 2006: 58–59).
The CaMpeSino-a-CaMpeSino prograM
and The TranSnaTionalizaTion of
The agroeCologiCal MoveMenT
After the land reform, the ANAP called for the agroecological transforma-
tion of the country from the bottom up. Adopting the encouragement of agro-
ecological methods among farmers as its primary task, it established new goals
based on agroecological principles: to promote sustainable small-farming prac-
tices based on farmer-to-farmer exchanges; to support horizontal and sustain-
able technology transfers relying on participatory methods; and to emphasize
research and development activities for successful agroecological extension,
public education, and appropriate technology transfers (Funes et al., 2002: 85).
Building on its crucial role in deepening the agroecological agrarian reform,
the ANAP expanded its scope through the development of the campesino-a-
campesino program on a national scale. The program aims to promote and
improve the production systems so as to stimulate both sustainability and
peasant participation, initiative, and empowerment (Peter et al., 2011: 66). At
the grassroots level the latter are ensured through the mobilization of agroeco-
logically conscious and well-educated political cadres known as promoters,
facilitators, and coordinators. Promoters, the movement’s most basic actors, are
chosen among volunteer farmers with outstanding agroecological production
results who are dedicated to the development of their community and the pro-
tection of the environment and nature. Facilitators are cooperative members or
people working under contract for their cooperatives to facilitate the promo-
tion and spread of agroecological methods by conducting training sessions and
organizing workshops. They are selected for their vocation, communication
skills, and availability, and in contrast to promoters some of them are paid by
their cooperatives. Coordinators are qualified executive cadres who are directly
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140 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES
related to the ANAP leadership and responsible for the formation of agroeco-
logical working groups. In contrast to facilitators, who work within their coop-
eratives, they contribute to the establishment of links among various allied
agencies on a national scale (Peter et al., 2011: 85–86, 88–89).
The campesino-a-campesino program relies upon activities such as work-
shops, visits, and meetings and several forms of cultural communication. Most
ANAP activities take place in the organization’s regional and provincial offices,
and this decentralized structure has proved effective in maintaining strong
relationships with members and the equitable distribution of agricultural
information, thereby increasing the scope of the program (Alvarez et al., 2006:
243). Workshops are organized with the aim of socializing the agroecological
experience and collectively building new knowledge. The socialization of agro-
ecology is not confined to technical meetings but also includes the use of testi-
monies, demonstrations, songs, poems, socio-drama, poster art, exhibitions,
and photography (Peter et al., 2011: 70–74).
The ANAP’s campesino-a-campesino program became a mass movement
after the first national meeting, which took place in February 2001 with the
participation of about 5,800 peasant families and 200 promoters, facilitators,
and other leaders. By 2008 the program was taking place in 155 municipalities
(85 percent of the country), involving 3,052 facilitators and 9,211 promoters. By
2011, while the number of facilitators had decreased slightly, to 3,031, the num-
ber of promoters had reached 11,935. Similarly, the number of coordinators had
reached 170, and the participation of peasant families had climbed to 110,000
(Funes-Monzote, 2008: 31; Peter et al., 2011: 17, 75–76, 92). While the
Mesoamerican campesino-a-campesino movement gained only 30,000 mem-
bers in 30 years, the movement in Cuba gathered more than 100,000 members
in only a decade (Peter et al., 2011: 61). The success of the movement is further
apparent in its transnationalization through the regional initiatives of the
ANAP and the Cuban government.
The movement’s transnationalization dates to 1993, when some member
cooperatives of the ANAP established contacts and exchanges with Mexican
and Nicaraguan campesino-a-campesino movements. In summer 1995 the
ANAP hosted Bairon Corrales and Marcial López, leaders of the Unión
Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos de Nicaragua (National Farmers’ and
Ranchers’ Association of Nicaragua—UNAG), to discuss improving agroeco-
logical methods and increasing the effectiveness of sustainable agriculture.
During this visit the ANAP was invited to the sixth regional meeting of the
campesino-a-campesino movement, which took place in Honduras in
November 1995. In November 1996 Cuba was the host country for the seventh
regional meeting of the movement, with about 90 delegates from Central
America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. At the meeting the ANAP was elected to
the movement’s liaison and monitoring committee. The Cuban program was
established after this meeting. After 1996 the program was supported by a long
list of transnational actors, including Bread for the World, Vía Campesina, the
Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First, the Consorcio
Latinoamericano sobre Agroecología y Desarrollo, the Instituto Sindical de
Cooperación al Desarrollo, the Centro de Estudios Rurales y de Agricultura
Internacional, Oxfam, the Group of Civilian Volunteers of Italy, the Red
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Internacional de Agricultura y Democracia, Norsk Folkehjelp, Terre des
Hommes, the Centre National de Coopération au Développement, the Centro
Cooperativista Uruguayo, and the Asociación para la Cooperación con el Sur
(Licea, 2001: 86–88; Peter et al., 2011: 62–63).
As a member of Vía Campesina, the ANAP occupies a key position in the
transnationalization of food sovereignty policy; it coordinates the International
Commission of Work on Sustainable Agriculture, a commission responsible for
developing strategies of resistance and defense for peasant and family agricul-
ture and constructing alternatives for the expansion of food sovereignty. The
commission works to create a lively synergy among the members of Vía
Campesina in order to establish a basic agroecological knowledge structure
that recognizes the importance of traditional farmer and indigenous knowl-
edge. To this end, it documents and systematizes agroecological experiences
among Vía Campesina members as a means of socializing and facilitating the
implementation of horizontal learning among different countries (Peter et al.,
2011: 27). As the movement’s policy documents (International Commission for
Sustainable Peasant Agriculture, 2013: 12–13) state: “The experiences of many
Vía Campesina member organizations, most notably that of ANAP in Cuba,
have demonstrated that the ‘Campesino a Campesino’ methodology is the best
way for peasants and family farmers to develop and share their own agroeco-
logical farming technologies and systems.” In its international relations, the
ANAP pays special attention to the development of peasant movements in
Venezuela. Within the context of the “project of integral training for peasants
and indigenous peoples with an agroecological approach,” 34 ANAP staff
members are working in 22 states and 205 municipalities of Venezuela. They
have opened 565 agroecological classrooms and seven regional schools of agro-
ecology with the participation of 10,744 people. They have also educated 641
Venezuelan peasant leaders at the ANAP’s Niceto Pérez Learning Center in
Cuba (Peter et al., 2011: 115).
The international aspects of food sovereignty policy in Cuba were widely
expressed throughout my interviews with various peasant leaders. López said
that the Alamar project had faced major technical and practical difficulties: “At
the beginning, we had no idea what to do and where to start, but one thing was
clear as day: either we produced biologically, or we would all die of hunger.”
López said that the biggest obstacle for the development of the project was the
lack of experience and technology and admitted that the contribution of inter-
national actors to technological progress had been immense. He emphasized
that the initiators of the project relied on the technical know-how of countries
such as the United States, Russia, Spain, and Germany. He also noted that inter-
actions with academics from Berkeley, California, had been very useful for the
development of the project despite the troubled state of relations between Cuba
and the United States. The La Riveira UBPC has become an international player
through its cooperation with peasants, particularly in Venezuela. El Capote
reported that he had been invited to Venezuela years ago and stayed there for
three years sharing his experience and know-how with other farmers. During
the interviews, he never removed his hat, on which was printed the flag of
Venezuela and the logo of its Special Program for Food Security. He described
Venezuela as a beautiful country with a strong “spirit of struggle and change.”
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142 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES
Regarding the international relations of the Cuban peasant movement, he
argued that relations with international nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs) are of paramount importance in developing the technological struc-
ture of the country. He noted that Cuban peasants often hosted farmers from
different countries in their homes to share their expertise and that four mem-
bers of the Villa Clara section of the ANAP were in Venezuela at the time to
promote the “Cuban model of agriculture” among peasants there.
The transnationalization of Cuban food sovereignty policy is not confined to
the activities of the ANAP. The close collaboration between Cuba and Venezuela
in the field of agroecology has been a determining factor in the increased role
of the Cuban agroecological movement in the context of the ALBA, one of the
most powerful tools for the transnationalization of food sovereignty in Latin
America. Not surprisingly, as De La Barra and Dello Bruno (2009: 255) note, the
ALBA’s fundamental goals include land distribution and food security. After
the global food crisis of the mid-2008, food sovereignty became a ruling norm
for the ALBA nations. In 2008 the ALBA announced the construction of a
regional alliance to tackle the food crisis through a food security fund of US$100
million, and ALBA members signed an agreement for cooperation in the area
of food security and food sovereignty. In addition, the ALBA’s food program
has initiated an agricultural project of US$9 million in Haiti and developed 10
projects amounting to about US$13 million in various Caribbean countries
(ALBA-TCP, 2008; Marquez, 2009; SELA, 2008). In February 2009 ALBA mem-
bers signed an agreement for food security and sovereignty and decided to
create a supranational food company, ALBA Alimentos, aiming to ensure food
sovereignty in Latin America, with an initial investment of US$49 million. In
2010 ALBA invested more than US$831,000 in Cuba for the realization of Project
Endógeno, aiming to install an irrigation system and pig-raising units, con-
struct repair shops, and distribute tools and parts for trucks and tractors
(ALBA-TCP, 2009; Radio Rebelde, 2010; Suggett, 2009).
ConCluSion: learning froM The Cuban experienCe
The establishment of a close relationship with the Soviet Union helped Cuba
to experience the highest growth rates in Latin America and to acquire a high
degree of social equity and welfare but at the cost of becoming a mono-exporter
and multi-importer extremely dependent on the commercial privileges pro-
vided by the international socialist system (Benjamin and Rosset, 1994: 3;
Forster and Handelman, 1985; Rosset, 2000). When the collapse of the Soviet
Union revealed the vulnerability of Cuba’s agrarian structure, Cuba undertook
a radical agroecological agrarian reform in 1993 and went on to experience the
largest transition from conventional and industrial farming to organic and
semiorganic farming in the history of humankind. Indeed, as Koont (2004)
would argue, the Cuban experience of revolutionary agroecology can show the
way for other developing countries that are striving to establish food sover-
eignty on the basis of their own resources.
Thanks to the successful implementation of food sovereignty policy, the con-
tribution of the Cuban peasantry to domestic food production has rapidly
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increased, and farming has become one of the highest-paid occupations in the
country. The collectivization of land led to the establishment of workers’ con-
trol and cooperative democracy by diversifying and consolidating Cuba’s
social structure. In parallel with the rise of the cooperative movement, partici-
patory urban agriculture became a popular agroecological practice based on
the principles of organic production, rational use of local resources, and direct
marketing. The growth of this grassroots movement was ensured through the
establishment of garden clubs, extension services, seed houses, and People’s
Councils seeking long-term solutions to community problems. The reopening
of free agricultural markets helped decentralize agriculture and democratize
decision making in the context of agroecological reform. Finally, the reform led
to the development and transnationalization of the Cuban food sovereignty
movement through the initiative of the ANAP and the experience of the ALBA.
Cuba has thus emerged as a leading actor in the transnationalization of food
sovereignty and agroecology in the developing world, occupying key positions
in major transnational peasant organizations such as Vía Campesina and the
international campesino-a-campesino movement. Because of its support for the
development of agroecology in Venezuela, it has established food sovereignty
as a ruling norm in that country and in the ALBA, which has set up a food
security fund, a food bank, a food multinational, and numerous food programs.
Having experienced the highest dietary energy supply level by 2007 and the
best food production performance in the region between 1996 and 2005, along-
side an annual growth rate of 4.2 percent in per capita food production as
opposed to the 0 percent rate of the regional average (Altieri and Funes-
Monzote, 2012), Cuba provides a shining example for other countries in Latin
America and the Caribbean of what can be achieved with a knowledge-inten-
sive model (Rosset, 1994) of agrarian development prioritizing small-scale agri-
culture and agroecological techniques. Furthermore, Cuba’s food sovereignty
policy has contributed to the diversification of its international relations
through the ALBA and its cooperation with Venezuela, reversing its isolation
from the rest of the continent.
The agricultural transformation in Cuba roughly conforms to the start of a
“democratic socialist transition,” as suggested by Otero and O’Bryan (2002).
Despite their pessimistic view of the future of Cuba’s current transition, which
they believe is hampered by the state’s containment of the civil sphere, they
argue that the economic and political crisis of the Special Period paved the way
for the emergence of a civil sphere and that this process should be combined
with a market-based democratic and socialist transformation that preserves the
human development component of the Cuban Revolution (30–31, 53): “If Cuba
could move toward both political democratization and efficient economic
decentralization while maintaining its egalitarian thrust, it could then become
a truly desirable model for many countries in Latin America.” Although one
could say that the jury is still out as to whether Cuba will succeed in imple-
menting a truly socialist-democratic transition under Raúl Castro, its agroeco-
logical restructuring is an important prelude to such a transition.
The theory and practice of the Cuban agroecological movement indicate that
food sovereignty is not solely a local issue, nor is it limited to the sphere of civil
society. Rather, the genuinely emancipatory potential of food sovereignty
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144 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES
policy emerges only if local struggles can be tied to both nationwide and trans-
national solutions that rely upon a progressive alliance between social move-
ments and left-leaning governments. This requires decentralized
decision-making processes that balance individual initiatives and institutional
control and a social structure that ensures the development of a diversifying
civil society and of consensual policy networks based on an agroecological
political culture. Moreover, food sovereignty requires, in the first place, a
national and regional rather than a transnational approach.
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... Many groups and activists used this momentum to increase calls for independence and sovereignty from the US, especially to counter growing sentiment within the US that Puerto Rico should become a state . However, as happened when Cuba continued defying the US after the collapse of the Soviet Union, if Puerto Rico were to ever achieve sovereignty there would likely be severe sanctions from the US in retaliation, which would gridlock Puerto Rico's economy and threaten the welfare of those on the islands (Garfield & Santana, 1997;Gordon, 2016;Gürcan, 2014) . As calls for Puerto Rico's sovereignty amplify, it is imperative that the islands take preemptive steps towards food sovereignty and the security of other sections of the socioeconomic fabric. ...
... Everyday discussion around food sovereignty is becoming more common, especially as climate change creates a looming anxiety around our food futures, with food sovereignty work giving people hope about our futures as well as inspiration and insight for how we can achieve these better futures (P. Allen, 2010;Altieri & Toledo, 2011;Condra, 2011;Gupta, 2015;Gürcan, 2014;Holt-Giménez & Altieri, 2012;Phillips & Wharton, 2016;Sage, 2014;Shiva, 2016 (Brown, 2017;Chambers-Letson, 2018;Combahee River Collective, 1983;Piepzna-Samarasinha, 2018) , cultures of nurturance, community, and anarchist care (Chambers-Letson, 2018; ...
... Winter & McClatchey, 2009) . Then, I use Taíno culture and insight from the pre-colonial Taíno social-environmental system to discuss the shortcomings of food sovereignty, at least in its current conception, and delve into the other aspects of material and social sovereignty (Altieri & Toledo, 2011;Brears, 2018;Buchmann, 2009;Dresang et al., 2005;Galluzzi et al., 2010;Ghisellini et al., 2016;Gürcan, 2014;Holt Giménez & Shattuck, 2011;Méndez et al., 2016) . I build on this to explore what Taíno culture illuminates in regards to how relationships can change culture and build sovereignty, as well as the various sociopolitical barriers to be faced in the charge towards sovereignty for Puerto Rico (Boggs, 2012;Chambers-Letson, 2018;Davis, 2003;Hunt & Holmes, 2015;Kimmerer, 2013;Samudzi & Anderson, 2018;Schenwar et al., 2016;Tuck & Yang, 2012) . ...
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Thesis
Puerto Rico’s food systems are dangerously precarious, with the islands importing about 90% of its food, a consequence of five centuries of colonialism prioritizing foreign profit over local welfare. Particularly in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, though, there has been a swelling movement towards food sovereignty on the islands, often aligned with overlapping movements towards the resurgence of Taíno identity and culture. Bringing these movements together, this dissertation focuses on Taíno social-environmental systems, using the recorded Taíno language as the primary vantage point in order to understand the dynamics of pre-colonial social-environmental systems on the islands, the cultures that shaped such systems, and how that can guide us to food and material sovereignty on the islands. This dissertation is grounded in a decolonial research methodology, which I develop and provide as a generalized framework such that other researchers can make use of it as well. Delving into Taíno ecolinguistic ontologies – or the worldviews and relations revealed by the nexus between language and the environment – demonstrates a high degree of naming multiplicity in the Taíno lexicon, particularly for plants and animals with which there was greater intimacy in Taíno cultures. Additionally, redundancy was a prominent feature in pre-colonial Taíno bicultural systems, contributing to socioecological resilience, although there were several categories, especially related to spiritual functions, for which certain biota are simply irreplaceable. Although there are numerous critical barriers obstructing food and material sovereignty for Puerto Rico, the lessons gleaned from Taíno culture, particularly Taíno ecolinguistic ontologies and pre-colonial social-environmental systems, indicate several promising opportunities for cultivating sovereignty: research towards decolonization, mass (re)education, land reclamation, land cultivation & restoration, establishing constellations of care, and building a Pan-Caribbean coalition.
... Although protected from the speculative fluctuations of the sugar price on the international market, the return to sugar perpetuated the country's external dependency. With sugar cane production at the centre of the new development strategy, Cuba launched the ambitious project of a zafra de los diez millones (10-million-tonne sugar harvest) for 1970 that required great efforts in harvest mechanisation (Gonzalez 2003;Perez Villanueva 2008;Gürcan 2014). The new agriculture development strategy drove considerable financial efforts toward technological modernisation for export-oriented monocultures. ...
... Despite great investments in machinery, chemical inputs and irrigation system, the results were not proportional to the investments made and brought low productivity along with problems of labour shortage and indiscipline. Moreover, the country registered loss of biodiversity, soil erosion and compaction, salinisation and deforestation, that in turn led to increased consumption of fertilisers and use of pesticides to compensate for the loss of fertility and the increase of pest resistance (Gonzalez 2003;Gürcan 2014). ...
... The caloric and protein intake of the people decreased, and many animals were sacrificed to satisfy immediate needs for food while others were used to replace the machines affected by the shortage of fuel and spare parts. The crisis revealed the inadequacy of an agriculture model, intensive in energy, heavy in capital investments and strong consumer of external inputs, designed for commodities production and capital accumulation instead of food and social needs satisfaction (Deere 1992;Rosset and Benjamin 1994;Gürcan 2014;Palma et al. 2015). ...
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Article
The article develops a critical analysis of the work and thought of Moishe Postone. First, I highlight his main contributions to the understanding of the mode of production of capital, the way the categories of value and abstract labour shape the labour process, and the ongoing reconstitution of socially necessary labour time. Second, I expose his contradictory proposal to free workers from capital, while considering Cuban socialist experience in the agrarian sector as starting point for the critique.
... Emerge también un movimiento de recuperación de conocimientos tradicionales campesinos y procesos más horizontales y participativos de innovación social y producción colectiva de conocimiento desde las propias comunidades y actores implicados en el proceso de producción agrícola. Asimismo, la producción agrícola se reorienta hacia la producción de alimentos para el mercado local en lugar de monocultivos de exportación (Arias Guevara, 2006;Gürcan, 2014;Palma et al. 2015). ...
... Fundado por 5 cooperantes en 1997 en las afueras de la ciudad de La Habana sobre 800m2 de tierra, veinte años después, el vivero estaba compuesto por 170 miembros sobre una superficie ligeramente superior a 10 hectáreas. La particularidad del Vivero de Alamar radica tanto en su orientación hacia la satisfacción de necesidades sociales, como sus técnicas de producción más respetuosas del medio ambiente y los principios democráticos, participativos y cooperativos que la rigen (Gürcan, 2014;Fernández Divulgatio. Perfiles académicos de posgrado, Vol. 4, Número 12, 2020, 107-123 Domínguez, Cruz Reyez y Arteaga Hernández, 2007). ...
... De esta manera, tanto los principios de organización democrática y autonomía de gestión que gobiernan el Vivero de Alamar junto a las prácticas agroecológicas implementadas han jugado un rol fundamental en el éxito de esta UBPC, permitiéndole no solo incrementar los niveles de productividad y eficiencia sino también aumentar el bienestar de sus miembros a través de una mejor repartición de los tiempos sociales y otras ventajas laborales (Gürcan, 2014). Así, por ejemplo, a las vacaciones pagas equivalentes a un mes de acuerdo con la legislación laboral cubana, el Vivero de Alamar otorga a sus miembros un día franco adicional por mes cada 15 días para ir al banco, dentista, y realizar otros trámites administrativos. ...
Article
El presente artículo tiene como objetivo analizar la trayectoria cubana en el sector agrario y los cambios ocurridos en el sistema de producción agrícola durante el llamado “Periodo Especial” tras la caída de la Unión Soviética, con un énfasis particular en la experiencia del Organopónico Vivero Alamar. De esta manera, se busca entender a partir de la experiencia agrícola de la Revolución cubana la incompatibilidad del modo de producción del capital con una estrategia socialista, el rol de la autogestión y la importancia de la reestructuración de las fuerzas productivas para la consolidación de un proyecto socialista, destinado a la satisfacción de necesidades sociales bajo formas de trabajo no alienado y en armonía con la naturaleza.
... Le rendement des fermes d'État est faible et les coûts environnementaux -déforestation, érosion et salinisation des sols, perte de biodiversité, contamination des eaux souterraines -sont élevés, de même que la dépendance externe, l'inefficience productive et la vulnérabilité alimentaire. À titre d'exemple, seules 33 % des fermes d'État sont rentables en 1987 (Gürcan, 2014 ;Rosset et Benjamin, 1994). Mais les dirigeants cubains ne prendront ces questions en compte qu'au moment de l'éclatement de l'URSS, quand l'île n'aura d'autre choix que d'entreprendre une véritable transformation de son agriculture face à la contrainte extérieure. ...
... À cela s'ajoute enfin la perte du principal partenaire commercial de l'île au sein du Comecon, l'URSS, qui représentait 80 % des échanges commerciaux du pays (Rosset et Benjamin, 1994). De fait, la disparition de l'Union soviétique fait chuter de 77 % les importations d'engrais chimiques, de 60 % celles des pesticides, de 50 % celles de pétrole et de 70 % celles des aliments pour l'élevage (Gürcan, 2014 ;Palma et al., 2015). Le manque d'intrants entraîne une baisse des récoltes de canne à sucre de 8 millions de tonnes en 1990 à 4 millions de tonnes en 1993 et 3 millions en 1998, mais aussi d'autres produits d'exportation tels que le tabac et les agrumes, sources essentielles de devises pour financer les importations du pays, ce qui aggrave la situation (Douzant-Rosenfeld, 1999). ...
... C'est seulement lors de la « Période spéciale » que le gouvernement, guidé par l'urgence de la situation et le constat des limites du modèle agricole moderne, a posé les premiers jalons d'une transformation du mode de production avec l'émergence de nouvelles forces productives allant dans le sens d'une plus grande participation des producteurs au processus productif, du développement de technologies plus respectueuses de l'environnement, d'une diversification des acteurs participant à la production agricole, avec la promotion de l'innovation sociale communautaire, la démocratisation du processus de création de connaissances, l'autonomie de gestion et la revalorisation des savoir-faire paysans. De même, cela a permis l'émergence d'un travail agricole plus créatif et stimulant que la simple récolte de canne à sucre, en mobilisant les dimensions manuelles et intellectuelles du processus de travail (Gürcan, 2014 ;Hanon, 2015 ;Clausen, Clark et Longo, 2015). En guise de considération finale, nous pouvons dire que les réflexions de Mészáros nous permettent non seulement d'éclairer la relation entre mode de production et construction du socialisme à partir de l'expérience agricole cubaine, de ses ruptures et continuités avec le système du capital, et leurs contradictions, mais aussi de nourrir les débats théoriques sur l'autogestion dans le champ de l'économie sociale et solidaire d'un élan socialiste, surtout si on envisage l'ESS comme un projet au-delà du capital. ...
... Numerous ingredients of the Indian diet were brought to India by the Portuguese who, during their voyages of colonization around the world, introduced India to wonderful Latin American ingredients that have now evolved to be elemental and intrinsic to the Indian diet. Potatoes, tomatoes, chillies, corn, and pineapples are just a few in the long list of names in the historical India-LAC food tradition (Nogueira & Nassar, 2007;Gürcan, 2014). LAC could organically emerge as India's answer to food security. ...
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Book
Este libro tiene por objetivo analizar la relación comercial y de inversión entre India y América Latina. Para ello se desarrollan trece capítulos donde se analizan las relaciones actuales, se reconocen los vínculos sostenibles, y se presentan las nuevas oportunidades de cooperación entre el país asiático y la región latinoamericana. En este orden, el vínculo comercial y de inversión entre India y América Latina constituye una oportunidad para impulsar encadenamientos productivos mediante el desarrollo de nuevas estrategias de internacionalización empresarial, promover la solidaridad sur-sur asignando un mayor rol a India en el marco de la integración regional latinoamericana, lograr soluciones colaborativas a los problemas locales, diversificar socios comerciales, intercambiar experiencias en el uso de nuevas tecnológicas y promover una mayor inversión en innovación, investigación y desarrollo tecnológico. Aspectos fundamentales para consolidar una relación dinámica que facilite el crecimiento económico en un contexto de fraternidad, libertad y beneficio mutuo. The purpose of this book is to analyze the trade and investment relationship between India and Latin America. To this end, thirteen chapters analyze current relations, recognize sustainable links, and present new opportunities for cooperation between the Asian country and the Latin American region. In this order, the trade and investment link between India and Latin America constitutes an opportunity to promote productive linkages through the development of new business internationalization strategies, promote South-South solidarity by assigning a greater role to India in Latin American regional integration, achieve collaborative solutions to local problems, diversify trade partners, exchange experiences in the use of new technologies and promote greater investment in innovation, research and technological development. These are fundamental aspects to consolidate a dynamic relationship that facilitates economic growth in a context of fraternity, freedom and mutual benefit.
... Numerous ingredients of the Indian diet were brought to India by the Portuguese who, during their voyages of colonization around the world, introduced India to wonderful Latin American ingredients that have now evolved to be elemental and intrinsic to the Indian diet. Potatoes, tomatoes, chillies, corn, and pineapples are just a few in the long list of names in the historical India-LAC food tradition (Nogueira & Nassar, 2007;Gürcan, 2014). LAC could organically emerge as India's answer to food security. ...
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Chapter
Abstract: India-Latin America engagement has revolved around the idea of south-south solidarity, a fact that continues to be of great importance even today. However, with the turn of the century, the relationship has been marked by pronouncements of its potential. Even as trade has grown and business relationships improved, the numbers do not explain these pronouncements of potential. It begs to be asked then, what are the factors that prompt analysts to continue to stress this potential? The answer lies in the historical resource richness of Latin America. The ever-growing character of Indian economy underlines the expectation of growing demand for resources and search for energy security. This chapter studies India’s energy interests in LAC. It situates these investments in the historical context of social, political and economic relations between the two and projections for the future trajectory of the relationship in a post-pandemic world. Keywords: India, Latin America, energy cooperation, Indian foreign policy, south-south cooperation.
... The author has significantly analysed these recent developments in Botella-Rodríguez (2019, 2020 and shows that the positive trends within the peasant sector that this paper documents have continued since that time. For further developments on Cuba's agriculture, see also and Mesa- Nova González & Figueroa Alfonso (2018) on recent transformations in Cuban agricultural policy and impacts on markets and production; Gürcan's (2014) analysis of Cuban agriculture restructuring shows that food sovereignty policies are built on a multidimensional strategy emerging out of a state/civil-society partnership at the local, national, and regional levels. For comparative studies, see also Enríquez (2010) As Vergara-Camus (2017: 426) points out, 'considering the diversity and fragmented nature of the subaltern classes, we must recognise that there are all kinds of 'alternatives' to neoliberalism. ...
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Article
Cuban peasants had a significant role model in the past as they returned to the political agenda after the Revolution, and with particular emphasis during the Special Period, to confront the lack of food imports. The fall of Communism in the wider world forced Cuba to implement an alternative agriculture model that revolutionised production patterns and decentralised land structures and commercialisation. Did these changes create opportunities for small farmers during the 1990s and early 2000s? And if so, what kinds of opportunity were created? This article assesses the initial effects of re-peasantisation in terms of increasing small farmers’ incomes and significance in numbers, and their contribution to national food production (considering production and productivity levels), from 1990 to the end of Fidel Castro’s administration. Keywords: Cuba, small farmers, re-peasantisation, Special Period, agriculture.
Article
The persistence of the peasantry challenges conceptualizations of smallholders on both the left and the right. It also highlights the vital role that smallholders play in socio-ecosystems. This paper uses the Cuban agroecological transition to re-think the role that smallholders play in development discourse and practice. By analyzing the public policies that Cuba enacted after the Special Period, this article derives several public policy lessons – including securing land tenure, localizing food production and regulating market development – to inform smallholder-driven transition elsewhere. These lessons provide important points of departure for efforts to improve the social, economic and ecological dynamics of smallholder agriculture.
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This paper aims to analyse the trajectory and dynamics of Cuban agriculture since the Revolution. It examines the main challenges, divergences and contradictions of its socialist strategy in the agrarian sector, stressing the limits of the industrial and agricultural models and the forces of production inherited from the capitalist world. For this purpose, I examine changes and continuities in terms of land management, crop production, the technological model and agricultural policy. Finally, I look at Cuban agriculture transformations in the 1990s from a social and solidarity economy perspective, signalling their contributions to the renewal of Cuban socialism.
Article
The concept of moral economy can be applied to all types of economies as they all involve conceptions of the ‘common good’ that determine who gets what, why and how, and who is responsible for this distribution, eg state or private actors. In this paper, we use the concept of moral economy to demonstrate how particular morals and logics shape public health governance in Cuba, comparing these with market liberal contexts. The paper draws from ethnographic and interview data from Cuba to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of Cuban agri-food governance, against the backdrop of market liberal approaches. While Cuban interviewees justified their activities in terms of Cuba’s moral economy of collective need, there were also instances when the socialist moral economy conflicted with individual needs and aspirations. We conclude that, despite its faults, Cuba’s holistic approach to food and agriculture illustrates how ecological approaches to public health might work in practice.
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Article
We undertake a comparative investigation of how neoliberal restructuring characterizes the third food regime in the three North American countries. By contrasting the experience of the two developed countries of the United States and Canada with that of the developing country of Mexico, we shine some empirical light on the differential impact of neoliberal regulatory restructuring on the division of labor in agriculture within the North American Free Trade Agreement region. In particular, we investigate these countries' agricultural production markets, trade, and food vulnerability—with an emphasis on Mexico—as analytical points for comparing and contrasting their experience with this neoliberal restructuring. We start with a synthesis of food-regime theory and outline the key features of what we call the “neoliberal food regime.” We then discuss our case-study countries in terms of food vulnerability and resistance in Mexico, their differential relationships to trade liberalization, and what these trends might mean for the evolution of the neoliberal food regime. We conclude that, while dominant trends are ominous, there is room for an alternative trajectory and consequent reshaping of the emerging regime: sufficient bottom-up social resistance, primarily at the level of the nation–state, may yet produce an alternative trajectory.
Book
Toward a Culture of Nature is a comprehensive study of Cuba's environmental policy, specifically the response of the Cuban government to the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent shortage of petroleum products. Pamela Stricker analyzes Cuba's transition to sustainable models of agriculture, efforts toward energy independence using renewable resources, the adoption of "green" medicine, a framework law on environmental protection, the impact of tourism and foreign investment on the island, incorporation of environmental education, and the crafting of a culture of nature, that is, a Cuban environmental ethics of sustainable development. Going beyond the standard accounts of formal legislation and executive institutions, Professor Stricker pays special attention to the scientists and activists who worked in all capacities (governmental and non-governmental) to bring about change to the environmental policies. Spanning the second half of the twentieth-century, Toward a "Culture of Nature" is an important case study of environmental policy, ethics, and sustainable development.
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In 2006-08, food shortages became a global reality, with the prices of commodities spiraling beyond the reach of vast numbers of people. International agencies were caught flatfooted, with the World Food Program warning that its rapidly diminishing food stocks might not be able to deal with the emergency. This article can also be found at the Monthly Review website, where most recent articles are published in full. Click here to purchase a PDF version of this article at the Monthly Review website.
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India embraced liberal economic policies in 1991, and since has dismantled trade barriers, encouraged privatization, and promoted activities that are supposed to lead to economic growth. Such open economic policies have been mandated by the Structural Adjustment program of the International Monetary Fund, as a response to the budget deficits, currency crisis, and rising foreign commercial debt crisis. The post liberalization era has seen strong economic growth in India. At the same time, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of farmers who committed suicide, mostly due to rising and unmanageable debt burden. A staggering 190, 753 farmers have taken their lives between 1995 and 2006. This has created quite a political stir, leading to the government's Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme (2008). This paper explores all the direct and indirect channels through which the structural adjustment program affects farmers' lives. I argue that the cook-book approach of debt waiver programs cannot be sufficient unless the reasons behind farmer indebtedness are addressed. © Common Ground, Arpita Banerjee-Chakraborty, All Rights Reserved.
Article
Over the last fifteen years, Cuba has developed one of the most successful examples of urban agriculture in the world. Havana, the capital of Cuba, with a population of over two million people, has played a prominent, if not dominant role, in the evolution and revolution of this type of agriculture. The phrase "urban agriculture in Cuba" has a somewhat different meaning, simultaneously more and less restrictive than might appear at a first glance. It is more inclusive, as it allows for large expanses, urban fringes, and suburban lands. For example, the entire cultivated area of the Province of the City of Havana belongs to urban agriculture. This article can also be found at the Monthly Review website , where most recent articles are published in full. Click here to purchase a PDF version of this article at the Monthly Review website.