What we can learn from Cuba’s agroecology

  • Article by: WILLIAM G. MOSELEY
  • Updated: December 21, 2014 – 8:27 AM

How this island nation feeds its people is a success story worth considering.


This Cuban hydroponics farm uses specialized irrigation methods to grow vegetables in smaller, nonrural areas. Cuba has been a bastion for the science of agroecology, or the study of ecology in farming systems.

Photo: Javier Galeano • Associated Press file

Make no mistake, I am absolutely thrilled that President Obama and Raul Castro are embarking on a process to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba. But as one era ends and another begins, let’s not forget that socialist Cuba has been a bastion for the science of agroecology — the study of ecology in farming systems. Sadly, the opening of many socialist states to the West has signaled the demise of alternative agricultural sciences such as agroecology.

Cuba faced a crisis in the early 1990s, following the twin challenges of a U.S. embargo and the collapse of the Soviet Union, long a patron of the Cuban state. The immediate test was how to feed the country with an extremely limited ability to import oil and food (with both dropping by 50 percent) as well as an 80 percent drop in fertilizer and pesticide imports. Cuba’s agricultural economy had long been dominated by export-oriented sugar and tobacco production — an enduring legacy of its colonial plantation economy.

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