The Concept of Farm Cooperatives in Agroecology: The Case of Cuba and Food System Sustainability in Transition

Authors: Tyneshia Griffin*, Department of Geography, Virginia Tech, Kim Niewolny, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education, Virginia Tech
Topics: food systems, Agricultural Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Cuba, agroecology, food systems, food sovereignty, agroecological, food security, farm cooperatives
Session Type: Guided Poster
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Roosevelt 3.5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Cuba is a complex seedbed for the development of agroecological approaches to
farming and food system sustainability. Agroecology, as both a science and social
movement in Cuba, is characterized by the application of ecological and food
sovereignty principles to the design and management of food systems that are
community-driven and organized. Historically, agroecological transitions in the Cuban
agricultural system are deeply connected to shifts in the state’s socio-political paradigm
and socialist economy over the past 60 years. For instance, one of the principles of the
Cuban revolution was safeguarding food for the population and thus combating food
insecurity and dependence on external resources. With the fall of the Soviet Bloc,
external inputs for green revolution style agriculture were no longer available; therefore,
the Cuban government launched a series of agrarian policies that resulted in more
localized and decentralized food and farming arrangements, such as cooperatives. In
this presentation, we critically explore this agroecological transition in Cuba as part of a
national agrarian reform through the specific development of farm cooperatives that
depend on agroecological practices for food system sustainability. Our presentation will
illustrate the complexity and possibilities of farm cooperatives through the specific case
of two cooperatives in Havana that were a key component of a recent agroecology and
food sovereignty study abroad in Cuba. These examples exemplify how the strategic
development of Cuban farm cooperatives are an international model for agroecological
transitions that grow out of resource scarcity, environmental degradation, and a need to
strengthen food security.

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