Cuba Seeks to Guarantee Food Supplies in Changing Climate

For IPS, Ivet González (with Patricia Grogg) reports how, “In the face of the challenge of producing more food in a changing climate, farmers in Cuba are coming up with alternatives like planting drought-resistant crops and digging ponds to guarantee water supplies, in order to keep food on the table during times of drought, heavy rains or hurricanes.”

Rafael González, a small farmer with the Ignacio Pérez Rivas Credit and Services Cooperative, told IPS that “when drought comes, we have vegetables and fruit that adapt to dry conditions, and if a storm hits, we have other varieties that are resistant to that as well.”

When the June through November hurricane season is approaching, González, from the municipality of Manicaragua in the mountains of Escambray, recommends “having fruit trees like tamarind and guava, orchards with different sizes of plantain and banana, and vegetables like sweet potato, squash, yams and malanga (related to the taro root), which are resistant to wind and rain.”

In this area in the province of Villa Clara, 270 km from Havana, “we have crops like guava, avocado and orange, which adapt to drought conditions,” said González, a local defender of biodiversity. Another of the strategies followed by the more than 120 farmers in his cooperative involves “returning to the crops traditionally grown in this area.”

Studies on seed improvement, which agricultural research centres in Cuba began to carry out in the late 1980s, have borne fruit in adverse climate conditions and helped boost food production. Small farmers like González are involved in developing improved seeds, to obtain good harvests in difficult environmental conditions. These efforts are backed by the Programme for Local Agrarian Innovation (PIAL), which has benefited some 50,000 farmers, with the support of international development aid.

Since 2007, one of the priorities of the Cuban government has been to bring about the changes needed to increase agricultural productivity and output and reduce imports. In 2011, Cuba spent 1.5 billion dollars on imports to feed the population of 11.2 million. Adapting to global warming is another challenge faced by agriculture. [. . .] In the second half of the 20th century, average annual temperatures have gone up 0.5 degrees in Cuba, and the frequency of heavy rains, storms and severe local drought has increased, according to the 2008 study “The Caribbean and Climate Change: The Costs of Inaction”, carried out by academics at Tufts University near Boston.

[. . .] Cubans already saw local food supplies dwindle in 2008 when the country was hit by three devastating hurricanes: Gustav, Ike and Paloma, which set off alarm bells with respect to the huge impact of weather events and caused 10 billion dollars in economic losses – the worst in the history of Cuba. Two of the hurricanes that summer hit Pinar del Río, 157 km from Havana. Researcher Carlos Lopetegui told IPS that “not a single plantain plantation was left in the province.” But thanks to a “crop biofactory”, seeds were immediately obtained to plant again, he said.

The biofactory, an initiative of the Programme of Local Support for the Modernisation of Agriculture (PALMA) in Cuba, makes it possible to quickly replace crops that have been destroyed by an extreme weather event, said Lopetegui, general coordinator of the project in that province.

[Many thanks to Myriam J. A. Chancy for bringing this item to our attention.]

For full article, see

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s