Social Design and the Agroecological Approach. The example of Cuba


Academic Paper, 2018

15 Pages, Grade: 10/10


Free online reading

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Abstract

Introduction

Social sustainability

Lesson from Cuba

The exemple of Cuban garden

Conclusions

Bibliography

ABSTRACT

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991 that changed the world's geopolitical balance, and after the strengthening of the block against Cuba by the United States, many experts have predicted the imminent collapse of the Cuban Revolution. However, the Cuban Revolution survived despite the fact that all socialist regimes had fallen one by one in the face of the advancement of the neoliberal globalization.

No sector of the economy escaped the crisis, but without a doubt, the food shortage was the biggest problem. Until 1989, the regime had managed not to miss the Cuban people off the basics food necessities. Domestic production and foreign imports had been able to meet the nutritional needs, providing 2,845 calories and 76.5 grams of protein per day, superior to the minimum required by the FAO which indicated 2,310 calories and 35.5 grams of protein as a daily amount. Before that period, the Cubans had access to a more diversified diet, not just rice and beans, as the traditional diet, but also meat, fruit and vegetables. Since 1989, the food of the first necessity, like oil, were impossible to find, the milk was guaranteed only for children aged 0 to 7 years. For Cubans of all classes and conditions, rice and beans returned to be the only source of food.

Cuba used a new model of social knowledge named “Campesino a Campesino” - Farmer to Farmer, a practice already used in some Latin American countries. Farmers share their results and ideas with one another and with scientists. The entire country started a cooperation for a sustainable agriculture that protects land, environment and the future of the citizens.

By the mid-90s, Havana was already self-sufficient in the production of fruit and vegetables thanks to the creation of urban gardens in which 80% of production was organic. It is clear that the viability of fruits and vegetables does not imply self-sufficiency, but it is a remarkable achievement. The method was applied to the entire territory and Cuba became an agricultural model for the world. Word 4331

INTRODUCTION

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991 that changed the world's geopolitical balance, and after the strengthening of the block against Cuba by the United States, many experts have predicted the imminent collapse of the Cuban Revolution. However, the Cuban Revolution survived despite the fact that all socialist regimes had fallen one by one in the face of the advancement of the neoliberal globalization. Cuban society, based on the concept of equality and freedom, was designed to assure social solidarity and mutual support of all members of society who are viewed as equals. It is considered the fundamental value of the socialist humanism. The Cuban Revolution not only survived, but became notable and widely acknowledged with regards to its achievements in social and human development, particularly in education, health and international solidarity.

Between 1989 and 1993, the most rigid year of the crisis called Special Period, gross domestic product was reduced by 50%, and the national debt tripled. The Cuban economy was, until then, largely dependent on exports, exports decreased by 75%.1

No sector of the economy escaped the crisis, but without a doubt, the food shortage was the biggest problem. Until 1989, the regime had managed not to deprive the Cuban people of the basic food necessities. Domestic production and foreign imports had been able to meet the nutritional needs, providing 2,845 calories and 76.5 grams of protein per day, superior to the minimum required by the FAO which indicated 2,310 calories and 35.5 grams of protein as a daily amount.2 Before that period, the Cubans had access to a more diversified diet, not just rice and beans, as the traditional diet, but also meat, fruit and vegetables. Since 1989, the foods of first necessity, like oil, were impossible to find, the milk was guaranteed only for children aged 0 to 7 years. For Cubans of all classes and conditions, rice and beans returned to be the only source of food.3

Following an important period, when Cuba lost its access to the supply of oil from the Soviet Union, the nation faced an emerging crisis of feeding its population. Therefore, the first objective became to sustain a low energy society. Scientists in Cuba studied how to farm without fossil fuel and without fertilizer, upon which the country's agricultural system was dependent.

Agro-ecology uses nature's far more complex systems to do the same thing more efficiently and without the chemistry set. Nitrogen-fixing beans are grown instead of inorganic fertilizer; flowers are used to attract beneficial insects to manage pests; weeds are crowded out with more intensive planting. The result is a sophisticated polyculture—that is, it produces many crops simultaneously, instead of just one.4

Cuba used a new model of social knowledge named “Campesino a Campesino” - Farmer to Farmer, a practice already used in some Latin American countries. Farmers share their results and ideas with one another and with scientists. The entire country started a cooperation for a sustainable agriculture that protects land, environment and the future of the citizens.5

By the mid-90s, Havana was already self-sufficient in the production of fruit and vegetables thanks to the creation of urban gardens in which 80% of production was organic. It is clear that the viability of fruits and vegetables does not imply self-sufficiency, but it is a remarkable achievement. The method was applied to the entire territory and Cuba became an agricultural model for the world.

The practice "Campesino a Campesino" became a social model not only in agriculture but also in everyday life. The problem of the lack of oil also spread to the transport sector, where the idea of the collective car immediately became a great success. The United States blockade and the scarcity of goods played a primary role in the practice of social cooperation.

Yet, as noted by Saney in "Cuba: A Revolution in Motion", in spite of the substantive achievement at the level of human development, “Cuba continues to be ignored by both development theorist and technocrats in charge of implementing and administering programs that are supposedly designed to lead to the improved well-being of the world's people.”6

Henry Veltmeyer states in book The Cuban Revolution as Socialist Human Development, it is argued that two features of this model, namely the construction of a socialist ethic (revolutionary consciousness) and popular participation in public policy formulation (people power), were critical factors in Cuba's successful navigation of the turbulent sea of global capitalist development and the survival of the Revolution in the face of unprecedented economic and political challenges.7

SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY AND THE AGROECOLOGICAL APPROACH

Within the sustainability discourse, the social pillar is considered of utmost importance, alongside the other two pillars of sustainable development—environmental and economic. Social sustainability is focused on the development of programs and processes that promote social interaction and cultural enrichment. It emphasizes protecting the vulnerable while respecting social diversity and is related to more basic needs of happiness, safety, freedom, dignity and affection.8

Social sustainability, according to Khan, includes equity between people, empowerment, resources accessibility, participation, cultural identity. These variables place attention on a socially equitable distribution of costs and benefits derived from the way in which man manages the environment, a way to be diversified, because it has to enhance the cultural identity and biodiversity, taking into account design systems' participatory and non-hierarchical organization, supporting diversity, equity, democracy and the conservation of resources in order to achieve a higher quality of life. According to the sociologist Sherri Torjman “human well-being cannot be sustained without a healthy environment and is equally unlikely in the absence of a vibrant economy”.9 10

In many countries, defined by the Western world as "other countries", have been created farmers groups based on the local community. Those models offer examples of efficient and sustainable agriculture, promoting biodiversity, ecology and helping to support the local economy.

Following the social sustainability principles, several alternative initiatives are growing across the world, to develop ecological agriculture, preservation of the livelihoods of small farmers, production of healthy, safe and culturally diverse foods, and localization of distribution, trade and marketing.

Agroecological principles used to implement production preserve biodiversity, enhance community, and stimulate the economy. The capital takes on considerable importance. The locals use a development process based on local knowledge and organization. Using experiences, this is emphasize the research and scientific capability of the rural communities around the world.

The development of human resources became an important strategy for community in particular resource-poor increasing.11

Since the early 1980s, more than 200 projects promoted by NGOs in Latin America have concentrated on promoting agroecological technologies which are sensitive to the complexity of peasant farming systems. This agroecological approach offers an alternate path to agricultural intensification by relying on local farming knowledge and techniques adjusted to different local conditions, management of diverse on-farm resources and inputs, and incorporation of contemporary scientific understanding of biological principles and resources in farming systems. Second, it offers the only practical way to actually restore agricultural lands that have been degraded by conventional agronomic practices. Third, it offers an environmentally sound and affordable way for smallholders to sustainable intensify production in marginal areas. Finally, it has the potential to reverse the anti­peasant biases inherent in strategies that emphasize purchased inputs and machinery, valuing instead the assets that small farmers already possess, including local knowledge 12 and the low opportunity costs for labor that prevail in the regions where they live.

In central and South America, over ten thousand farmers are part of the Campesino movement and use the agroecological practices for develop community. Roland Bunch describes the principles of the people-centered agricultural approach: - Experiment and use of new technologies on a small scale;

- involvement of all farmers in the process, including the poorest and those with fewer possibilities;
- the use of technology that rely primarily on inexpensive, locally available resources;
- spread all new knowledge nurturing a community-based multiplier effect. This last principle is called “farmer to farmer” (campesinos to campesinos).12 13

The Campesinos to Campesinos project involved several states, linked by a close cooperative relationship. These countries are: Cuba, Nicaragua, Mexico, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mozambique, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Brazil. Very intense was the cooperation between the Cuba and Venezuela, through the implementation of "Proyecto de Formacion Integral para Campesinos y Pueblos Indigenas con Enfoque Agroecologico" that involved 11,000 farmers, 200 cooperatives and 7 schools of agriculture.14

According to the agronomist Sosa, the main goals of Campesinos practice are:

- Finding new solution using local resorces
- Sharing new solutions
- Exchanging knowledge

LESSON FROM CUBA

Since the late 80s the Cuban agrarian technological and organizational model has shown signs of economic and ecological unsustainability. The agricultural sector has been severely hit by the crisis, both for the lack of resources, driven mainly by external factors (deterioration of the economic blockade and the collapse of Eastern European socialism), both from problems derived from centralized planning model based on excessive specialization of state agricultural enterprise. 15 In this context, it makes its way to the movement Campesinos to Campesinos.

The farmers are organized in an association called ANAP (Asociacion Nacional de Agricultores Pequenos) and they have to experiment with different methods of cultivation and production, and then share their knowledge with other farmers. The farmer becomes the protagonist of the Cuban economy and he actively participates in its development. Cuba, after a long period in which migration from the countryside to the city was very high, rediscovers the importance of agricultural life. Many citizens come back to live in the countryside.

The Cuban government, since 1994, has contributed to this reverse process, with the land delivery in usufruct to more than 140,000 families, mainly to increase the production of food and other crops of economic interest for the country, such as tobacco, coffee and cocoa. The farmers start to rediscover the benefits of country life that goes from air quality to food quality, with new technologies to increase crop yields, and the farmers' standard of living increases.

The Cuban government tried, therefore, to transform agriculture from a land-use system and human capital to a low-impact system. This has favored self-sufficiency agriculture, paying particular attention to ecological land reclamation. The chemicals were replaced with crop rotation, the exploitation of microbial antagonists was reintroduced along with grazing and cultivation of nitrogen herbs, as well as worms and green manures and organic fertilizers. Technological changes in the Cuban agricultural sector, during this period, were characterized by a mixture of traditional methods of agricultural extension and projects that promoted the individual initiative of farmers, a move that scientists have tried to generate using more green technologies and a series of measures are inserted by the state in terms of sectorial policies.15 16

The practice of Campesinos Campesinos spreads a sustainable model that values the local needs and opportunities, and finds its input within communities. The participatory methods take into account the needs of individuals and the community, and the culture and the environment.

[...]


1 Iglesia, C. Punto en inflextion en la crisis cubana. Economistas n 64 . Extra. 1995. 64.

2 Compés, R. Crisis de los alimentos y reformas en la agricultura cubana. Agricultura y Sociedad. 1997. 187.

3 Marin, P. Agricoltura y alimentacion en cuba. Editorial de Ciensas Social. 1991.

4 Agroecology lessons from Cuba on agriculture, food and climate change.. Accessed November 26, 2016. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/future_tense/2012/04/agro_ecology_lessons_from_cuba_on_agriculture_ food_and_climate_change_.html

5 Rosset, Peter Michael, Braulio Machin Sosa, Adilén Maria Roque Jaime, and Dana Rocfo Âvila Lozano. "The Campesino -to- Campesino Agroecology Movement of ANAP in Cuba: Social Process Methodology in the Construction of Sustainable Peasant Agriculture and Food Sovereignty."Journal of Peasant Studies 38, no. 1. 2011

6 Saney, Isaac. Cuba: A Revolution in Motion. Black Point, N.S.: Fernwood Pub, 2004.

7 Henry Veltmeyer and Mark Rushton. The Cuban Revolution as Socialist Human Development. Leiden: Brill. 2012.

8 Khan, Rakhshanda. "How Frugal Innovation Promotes Social Sustainability."Sustainability 8, no. 10. 2016.

9 Torjman, S. The Social Dimension of Sustainable Development, Ottawa. Caledon Institute of Social Policy, 2000.

10 Torjman, S. The Social Dimension of Sustainable Development, Ottawa. Caledon Institute of Social Policy, 2000.

11 Altieri, Miguel A., Clara I. Nicholls, Alejandro Henao, and Marcos A. Lana. "Agroecology and the Design of Climate Change-resilient Farming Systems."Agronomy for Sustainable Development 35, no. 3. 2015.

12 Altieri, Miguel A., Clara I. Nicholls, Alejandro Henao, and Marcos A. Lana. “Basic Textbooks for Environmental Training."Agronomy for Sustainable Development 35, no. 9. 2005.

13 Lutz, Ernst, and Hans P. Binswanger. Agriculture and the Environment: Perspectives on Sustainable Rural Development. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1998.

14 Sosa, Braulio. Revolution Agroecologica: El Movimiento de Campesino a Campesino de la ANAP en Cuba. La Havana, Anap, 2010.

15 Guevara, Maria. Cuba*: reforma y transformaciön agraria. La crisis de los noventa y el proceso de desestatalizaciön de la agricultura. La Havana. Ideas, 2009.

16 Sosa, Braulio. Revolution Agroecologica: El Movimiento de Campesino a Campesino de la ANAP en Cuba. La Havana, Anap, 2010.

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Details

Title
Social Design and the Agroecological Approach. The example of Cuba
College
University of Iceland
Grade
10/10
Author
Year
2018
Pages
15
Catalog Number
V1064667
ISBN (eBook)
9783346476838
ISBN (Book)
9783346476845
Language
English
Tags
social, design, agroecological, approach, cuba
Quote paper
Anna Giudice (Author), 2018, Social Design and the Agroecological Approach. The example of Cuba, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1064667

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