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A monthly news brief highlighting news and events related to
agriculture, food and the environment in Cuba.

September News Summary

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
 
On Sept 23rd the Trump administration announced yet another set of rules aimed at strangling the Cuban economy and limiting professional exchanges between our countries. CUSAN denounces these restrictions which only result in further hardship for the Cuban people and infringe upon US citizen’s freedom to travel and freedom of speech. 
 
The persistent tightening of sanctions coupled with the drop in tourism and the COVID-19 crisis continues to critically impact the economic and food situation in Cuba. Several articles this month analyse the successes, challenges, and policy reforms aimed at improving the food system. One of the most significant recent reforms is to Resolution 315 which allows for the non-state sector to import and export goods and services in coordination with state enterprises. Already, the first private farmer was able to sell his harvest of limes to Spain, the province of Cienfuegos is preparing to increase its agricultural export portfolio, and more than 40 contracts have been signed between non state actors and foreign trade enterprises
 
Last month we shared news of the approval by the Council of Ministers of the landmark National Plan for Food Sovereignty and Nutritional Education. As a next step in this process, and keeping in line with the values and commitment to participation from diverse sectors and actors, the Ministry and Agriculture has asked for input to translate the plan into legislation.  This process is supported by the FAO Cuba and the collaborative project “Strengthening Policies for Sustainable Food Security in Cuba” (POS) of the EU-funded SAS Cuba Country Program.
 
Other notable stories include: continued promotion of urban agriculture as an integral strategy for food sovereignty, the use of biological controls for pest management, an analysis of the importance of local food systems and policies supporting this transition, the impacts of climate change in Baracoa, and Cuba’s consideration of carbon markets.
 
News Summaries
 
Fomentan en Holguín la crianza del cerdo criollo cubano
“They Encourage the Rearing of Cuban Creole Pork in Holguin”
*Article Posted in Spanish
By: Raúl Rodríguez Peña, Radio Angulo, September 4, 2020 
The province of Holguin increased its native pig production in order to enhance sustainable livestock practices.This strategy seeks to decrease imported animal feed, increase meat production, and support creole pig breeds that can easily adapt to Cuba’s extreme climate. These efforts are supported by institutions such as the Cuban Association of Animal Production, which has developed the protection and conservation program for native livestock species. During times of economic constraints raising these native pig species encourages economically viable farming practices and preserves local dietary traditions. 
 
Consejo de Defensa de La Habana analiza situación del desabastecimiento agrícola en la capital
“Havana Defense Council Analyzes Agricultural Shortage Situation in the Capital”
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: Nayaren, Rodríguez Socarrás, Tribuna de La Habana, September 8, 2020 
On Tuesday September 8th, the Provincial Defence Council (CDP) met with the agricultural directors of the provinces of Artemisa y Mayabeque to discuss the food shortages within Havana’s markets. The representatives of these territories are trying to prevent farmers from illegally marketing produce outside of their provinces even as the authorities of Havana have made it clear that vendor spaces within the city markets that possess legal documentation should continue to operate. Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, president of the CDP, encouraged that Artemisa and Mayabeque make internal agreements so that food can arrive in a timely manner to Havana. It was also reported that there are some challenges with the harvest of plantain and sweet potato crops due to the rains caused by tropical storm Laura. 
 
Díaz-Canel: Que la ciencia impulse la producción de alimentos en Cuba
“Science boosts food production in Cuba”
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By:  Leticia Martínez, CubaDebate, September 8, 2020 
Following a meeting held at the Palacio de la Revolución, in which the President of the nation Díaz-Canel consulted with experts and scientists working to ensure food and nutritional sovereignty, Cuba plans to expand its rice production. Currently the four major rice producing territories include Granma, Camagüey, Sancti Spíritus and Pinar del Río. Next year the goal is to seed 157,000 hectares, resulting in roughly 346,000 tons of consumable rice. According to an article published last June, by the Cuban newspaper Granma, Cuba needs 700,000 tons of rice to cover national production demands. Director of the Grain Research Institute, González Morera notes that the current limit in production is due to a lack of nitrogen fertilizer. Scientists have recently encouraged the introduction of anhydrous ammonia fertilization through flood irrigation, in order to address the issue. According to Morera, Cuba has 69 registered seed varieties, twelve of which are currently in production. The current planting scheme will be shifted to start sowing in the winter in order to increase production and conserve water. 
See also: Cuba invertirá la matriz de siembra del arroz and Producir desde la ciencia y el campo
 
Aumentan las áreas de siembra en Cienfuegos
“Planting Areas Increase in Cienfuegos”
*Article Posted in Spanish
By: Armando Sáez Chávez, September 12, 2020 
As Cienfuegos enters into its cold season, the province intends to seed an extra 450 hectares resulting in a total of 22,870 cultivated hectares, according to the provincial delegate Yoan Sarduy Alonso. The province is constructing sixteen new greenhouses in order to meet the rising demand for tomatoes. Another objective is to increase the production of beans in order to reach a to goal of 187 hectares in production. Simultaneously the province also seeks to expand urban agriculture iniatives by supplying each resident with ten square meters of planting beds. 
 
Desde la ciudad, sembrando para la vida
“From the City, Sowing for Life” 
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: Endrys Correa Valliant, Granma, September 16, 2020  
Cuba’s capacity to strengthen urban and peri-urban farming initiatives is key in addressing the economic crisis posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout Cuba spaces are being converted to agricultural production in order to confront the crisis. Two small parcels of land “Amanda & Melany” and “Los Hayes”, located in the capital of Byeros are examples of these types of initiatives. Both plots of land produce a wide array of products including fruits, vegetables, and medicinal herbs, allowing for the farmers to provide food for their families as well as neighbors. They have also been actively working to save seeds and distribute them throughout the community, which they sell at an accessible price, according to farmer Raúl Hayes Fernández. They have even managed to cultivate broccoli, which is highly sought after and is an important nutrient dense food during these times.  
 
Sin lo uno ni lo otro 
“Without One or the Other” 
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: Alex Flietes, On Cuba News, September 18, 2020 
Yucca, also known as cassava root, can be grown in dry soils with little fertility, making it an extremely resilient crop. Its domestication dates back to over 5,000 years ago and today is the fourth main source of calories for humans after rice, sugar, and corn. According to the FAO, the major producers of yucca are Nigeria, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, the Congo, Ghana, and the Domincan Republic. High in vitamins A, B1, B2, C, yucca’s carbohydrates are easily digested and don’t produce glycaemic spikes, making it an important source of nutrients for people with diabetes. This plant has a wide array of values, the aerial parts of the plant can serve as animal feed and through a process of fermentation, ethanol can be obtained from the root, serving as an alternative to fossil fuels for motor vehicles. With the appropriate farming practices, yucca can be guaranteed in markets year round, making it a valuable crop to be added to the national food rations during these times of crisis. 
 
Baracoa, cambio climático y las palabras de un experto 
Baracoa, Climate Change and the Words of an Expert 
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: Marbis Ramírez Serrano, Radio Baracoa,  September 19, 2020 
 According to Ricardo Suárez Bustamante, a specialist from the Ministry of Science’s Department of Technology and Environment, more than twenty coastal communities in Baracoa will be severely affected by the rise in sea level as a result of climate change. Bustamante points out that this phenomenon is greatly connected to deforestation and the extraction of sands from rivers and beaches. The restoration of mangroves, protection of coastal reefs, and the planting of native forests,  are all important strategies to address rising sea levels in the region of Baracoa. 
 
Agricultura en Cienfuegos amplía mapa de exportación
“Agriculture in Cienfuegos Epands Export Map”
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: Armando Sáez Chávez , Diario Digital de Cienfuegos, September 20, 2020 
According to an assessment recently issued by the Ministry of Foriegn Trade, the province of Cienfuegos enhanced its export potential to over fifty agricultural products. The leading products widely demanded internationally include: coffee, tobacco, honey, charcoal, Vidatox (a product of scorpion poison) and Biorat (a natural rodenticide). Vidatox is in high demand in places such as Vietnam and Central America, where it is used in small homeopathic doses to treat cancer, according to Jacinto Millán Enríquez, Head of Commercialization of the Provincial Delegation of Agriculture. Cienfuegos anticipates adding more products to its export list such as: chile peppers, propolis, fruits, and artisanal wines. A recent exchange between the Chamber of Commerce of Cuba and the Head of Agricultural Marketing of Cienfuegos was extremely positive and resulted in the formation of trade agreements with Trinidad and Tobago. The Ministry of Trade’s recent reconstitution of Resolution 315 allows for small farmers and cooperatives to increase the exportation rate of their products.
 
Ministerio de Agricultura de Cuba y FAO lanzan primera convocatoria para legislar sobre Soberanía Alimentaria y Educación Nutricional en Cuba
“Cuba’s Ministry of Agriculture and the FAO Launch First Call for Legislation on Food Sovereignty and Nutritional Education in Cuba”  
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: FAO, September 21, 2020 
Co-sponsored by the FAO Cuba and the collaborative project “Strengthening Policies for Sustainable Food Security in Cuba” (POS) of the EU-funded SAS Cuba Country Program, the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture launched the first call for legislation on Food Sovereignty and Nutrition Education in the country. The first of its kind in the history of Cuba, this plan seeks to provide the Cuban state with guidelines for the management of local, sovereign and sustainable food systems, based on the intersectoral articulation and participation of actors involved in food production, processing, marketing and consumption, as well as the promotion of cultural food  legacies and nutrition education. Led by the Plan SAN office and the Legal Directorate of MINAG, a team of twenty-two individuals has been formed, representing state agencies, the FAO, citizens, and community organizations. The intersectional team is responsible for creating the legal framework for the SAN Plan, which will be carried out in a participatory manner and include gender and generational breakout groups. 
 
Desarrollan Taller de Capacitación sobre el Sistema de Gestión Medioambiental
“Development of Training Workshop on Environmental Management System”
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: Claudia Argüelles Jimenez, Portal de Ciudadano, September 23, 2020
From September 23-25th, a training workshop on environmental management systems was held at Applied Electromagnetism Center (CNEA) in Santiago Cuba. Participating in the exchange on national environmental measurements were agents from MITRANS, MINTUR, MINJUS, MINSAP and AZCUBA. The small conference covered topics such as the Law of Natural Resources and the Environment, the new territory management scheme, the Provincial Environmental Strategy, the CITMA integrated management system and the "Life Task" state plan. Amongst the various agreements reached by the delegates was one to implement a monthly meeting to discuss Cuba’s environmental measures. 
 
La «avispita» salvadora del café
“The little coffee saving wasp”
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: Mailenys Oliva Ferrales, Granma, September 23, 2020 
The marfil wasp has been recognized as one of the most effective forms of biological pest control for farmers seeking to combat the plague of the coffee borer beetle. Ensuring that Cuba’s robust coffee crops showcase the quality standards required for domestic and international markets has been difficult due to the spread of the beetle. The beetle’s presence on the island highlights the ways in which the US has used biological warfare in an attempt to diminish the Cuban economy. Until recently the common practice for pest control entailed using the chemical endosulfan, which required the labor of various farmers in order to fumigate a single hectare. Since 2003, it has been a priority of the Cuban government to use Cephalonomia Stephanoderis, commonly known as the marfil wasp to combat the spread of the beetle. The wasp was brought from Mexico to the sierras near Buey Arriba for bio-ecological studies to adapt the wasp to the local climate and initiate mass breeding,  explains Agronomy engineer Yarila Rodríguez. In 2016-2017, Buey Arriba won an award for the highest quality coffee in the country after having released the wasp in its territory. While the wasp enhances the biological control of the pest, it doesn’t completely eliminate them. In order to achieve better pest management, this agent can be applied in conjunction with other biological means such as Beauveria-Bassiana (fungus) and heptomo-pathogenic nematodes, according to specialist Yusnai Borrero. 

Una mirada hacia lo interno, necesaria para mayores producciones de alimentos en Cuba
“A Necessary Look Inside For Greater Food Production in Cuba”
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: Fidel Rendón Matienzo, Saimi Reyes Carmona y Alianet Beltrán Álvarez, Agencia Cubana de Noticias, September 23, 2020 
In 2019, the President of the Republic of Cuba Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez called for the first “Food with More Science” workshop. The meeting highlighted the importance of working collectively, in order to reduce the nation's imports. Between 65 and 70 percent of total food products supplied in Cuba’s national rations are imported, resulting in over $3 billion a year of imported goods, explains Armando Nova González, a scholar at the International Economics Research Center at the University of Havana. Cuba has implemented an array of strategies in order to address the struggle for food sovereignty. Some of these strategies include: the creation of the Food Sovereignty and Nutritional Education Plan, the formation of a municipal self-sufficiency plan, increased production of national seed and bioproducts, and the implementation of various decrees and laws that have strengthened the active role of cooperatives in national food production. That being said, the authors of this article identify three fundamental problems that still need to be solved: land access that allows farmers to make decisions over production factors as well as distribution, strengthening development by creating clear market plans, and the creation of a systemic approach in which farmers are given the right to participate in decision making. 
 
Nueva normativa flexibiliza contratación en el sector agropecuario cubano
“New Regulations Loosen Hiring in Cuba’s Agricultural Sector”
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: Redacción Cubadebate, September 25, 2020 
The Ministry of Labor and Social Security approved new measures with the aim of strengthening and improving agricultural production in state-owned enterprises, cooperatives and individual agricultural producers. Resolution 24 allows individual agricultural producers, whether or not they are linked to basic cooperative production units, agricultural production cooperatives and/or credit and service cooperatives, to hire self-employed laborers directly during peak harvesting and seeding times. Up until recently, only those who were registered in the corresponding Municipal Labor Directorate could be counted as a self-employed “Agricultural Worker”. The new resolution allows for contracts to be made verbally so long as they don’t exceed 90 days and the contacting farmers adhere to certain labor standards. These standards include an eight hour working day with the potential for one additional hour provided that it does not exceed the 44-hour weekly limit, compensation no less than the minimum wage, and that conditions of safety and health must be upheld. Based on an official analysis 50% of food products imported to Cuba could potentially be produced within the country. These new measures seek to address the growing need for food sovereignty, while simultaneously supporting the national economy. 
 
Cuban Food Security in a Time of COVID-19
*Article Posted in English 
By: Hope Bastian and Hanna Garth, Anthropology News, September 25, 2020 
The recent economic crisis and quarantine have critically affected Cuba’s food system. Between Trump’s increased activation of the Helms-Burton act of 1996,  the closure of Cuba’s tourism industry (which accounts for 10 percent of the GDP), and the loss of cash remittances from trips abroad, the Cuban economy has been in perrals. Online commerce was originally encouraged by the government but has come with great barriers for a population that has limited access to technology. The Cuban government attempted to address the crisis by expanding the items offered through the state-sanctioned rations, but internal migrants often could not access these goods. Items were delivered to internal migrants' provincial home addresses, which historically citizens would then have shipped to themselves but have not been able to due to current transportation bands. One of the most contentious solutions was the creation of 72 stores  selling food items that were not readily available across the country in US dollars and Euros. In order to access these stores, individuals have to possess a card preloaded with money from abroad, further enhancing the inequalities of Cuban society. Professors Bastian and Gath conclude when analyzing the current state of food security in Cuba, that these stores often only meet the needs of privileged consumers, leaving a large portion of Cuban society unaccounted for. 

Suscritos 40 contratos entre empresas del comercio exterior y formas de gestión no estatal
“40 Contracts Signed Between Foreign Trade Companies and Forms of Non-state Management”
*Article Posted in Spanish
By:Yaditza del Sol González, Granma Cuba, September 25, 2020 
Since last month more than 40 contracts have been signed between companies specializing in foreign trade services and non-state management, as part of a strategy to boost the national economy and place all actors on equal terms according to, Vivian Herrera, Director General of Foreign Trade at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment (Mincex). Herrera explained that of the 1,056 business proposals, 732 corresponded to self-employment workers, 119 to non-agricultural cooperatives, and 305 to private workers. Products destined for export have included items such as, lime, dried fruits, software, wood, and avocados. In terms of imports, 35 agreements were signed and 159 await processing. They focus predominantly on the acquisition of raw materials such as, fertilizers, automotive parts, and chemicals. In the case of commercial activities destined for export, Lourdes Aintzane Delgado, head of the Systems Development Department of the Central Bank of Cuba (BCC), explained that people are given the possibility of opening a bank account without an initial deposit, at least during the first six months, in order to help facilitate the start of their operations. According to the general director of forign trade, citizens can continue to import merchandise, as long as it is non-commercial. Such activity will continue to be carried out through the usual channels with the continued payment of customs duties. 
 
Sistemas alimentarios locales: ¿Qué son? ¿Para qué sirven?
Local food systems: What are they? What are they for?
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: Jorge Núñez Jover, CubaDebate, September 25, 2020 
Earlier this year on July 22, Cuba’s Ministry Council approved two important pieces of legislation, the Policy to Boost Territorial Development (PIDT) and the Country's Food Sovereignty and Nutrition Education Plan (SAN). The PIDT seeks to center development at the local municipality level, constituting Article 68 of the constitution which recognizes the legal autonomy of municipalities. This change in legislation encourages overcoming the centralist, vertical and sectoral tradition of development strategies. SAN seeks to extend beyond the traditional emphasis of “food production”, taking a holistic approach, in order to address issues around processing, marketing, accessibility, quality, safety, and nutritional needs. One of the key components of the plan is to achieve food sovereignty by creating “territorial food systems”. Strategies for development should take place at a municipal level and directly involve dialogue with local community actors such as family farmers, coopertivies, small industries, and state markets. The plan to adopt local food systems (SAL) is a step towards changing the social and economic development of the country, encouraging increased dialogue amongst municipal, provincial, and state entities. 
 
¿Cómo lo logró el primer exportador privado de Cuba? 
How was the First Private Export of Cuba?
*Article Posted in Spanish 
By: Francisco Rodríguez, Trabajadores, Sunday September 27, 2020 
Lázaro Rafael Fundora Hernández, owner of La Esperanza farm located in Mayabeque, recently exported his first batch of limes to Spain, under the new legal regulations that allow for non-state management of the international market via Cuban foreign trade companies. In order to be in compliance with the food safety protocols required by the countries of destination, Hernández certified both his limes and avocados with the Territorial Plant Protection Station and the local municipalities Plant Health Department. This  process can take up to one or two years which can be a challenge for farmers. Currently thirteen farmers across Cuba are working with the private company Select Fruits, which offers management support in order to export agricultural goods. 
 
Despite Socialist Scepticism, Cuba Shows Interest in Carbon Trading
*Article Posted in English
By: Joe Lo, Climate Home News, September 30, 2002 
Despite carbon trading schemes being controversial with left-wing governments allied with Cuba such as Venezuela, Cuba has expressed interest in profiting from reduced emissions. Cuba submitted a rather vague updated climate plan to the UN last month, in which they state that they “intend to use cooperative approaches that involve the use of mitigation results of international transfer,” under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. According to Emily Morris, A Cuba expert at University College London, “Cuba is restructuring its economy and reviewing its relationships with international finance. While Cuba is committed to reducing carbon emissions, she said, it is also insistent that the richest and most polluting countries should pay the poorer countries (like Cuba), which are suffering most from climate change.” Currently Cuba is taking a multifaceted approach to reducing carbon emissions. According to the World Bank, Cuba’s government plans to increase forest coverage to 33% of total land area by 2030, which it says will remove 170m tons of CO2. Fossil Fuels from transportation are slated to be reduced by 50% by 2030 and within agriculture Cuba aims to treat 100% of its wastewater within the pig farming sector. 

 
CUSAN is an initiative coordinated by the Caribbean Agroecology Institute and funded by the Ford Foundation, the Flora Family Foundation and the Christopher Reynolds Foundation.
 
 
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