The journal of peasant studies published this article in 2011.
Quoting from the article:
“Agroecology has played a key role in helping Cuba survive the crisis caused by the collapse of the soviet bloc in Europe (1989) and the tightening of the US trade embargo (1996). Cuban peasants have been able to boost food production without scarce and expensive imported agricultural chemicals by first substituting more ecological inputs for the no longer available imports, and then by making a transition to more agroecologically integrated and diverse farming systems.”
The article concludes that:
“Our key findings are:
- the spread of agroecology was rapid and successful largely due to the social process methodology and social movement dynamics (of Campesino-to-Campesino Agroecology Movement (MACAC))
- farming practices evolved over time and contributed to significantly increased relative and absolute production by the peasant sector
- those practices resulted in additional benefits including resilience to climate change.
My post will explore the article for the practical details which support these three findings.
2. Peasant Sector Production
3. Resilience to Climate Change
A concise definition of what agroecology is given:
- Increase biomass recycling & balance nutrient flows
- Assuring favorable soil conditions
- cover soil with mulch or cover crops
- high soil organic matter
- active soil biology
- Minimize nutrient losses
- Promote biodiversity
- Promote biological synergisms
Several simple methods are suggested for promoting agroecology with the following combinations:
- worm composting of crop residues
- constant incorporation of organic matter into the soil
- pasturing animals on crop residues
- the promotion and maintenance of an active soil biology
A high level of agroecological integration is described as:
…a complex peasant agroforestry system with multiple annual crops and trees, animals, rotational schemes, and perhaps even a fish pond where pond mud is collected to be used as an additional crop fertilizer.
Alternative agriculture in wealthier countries fails to out-yield conventional agriculture because they use conventional industrial inputs instead of agroecological inputs.
The paragraph on page 165 of this article provides some interesting terms, among them, food sovereignty and re-peasantization. Food sovereignty is the governing of a countries food supply through the support of the domestic family farm and securing of the country’s food stores. Only the family farm can maintain food production sustainability and without the support of massive outside inputs. Only domestic vigilance in maintaining home food stores can protect a country from international nutritional blackmail.
Re-peasantization is a term coined to describe the transition to agroecology. This term and trend is the emancipation of a country from the dependence and doom of attachment to monopoly corporations that control policy and population through dominating the food industry inputs and outputs. Modern agriculture is dependent on their supplying of animal feed, breeding stock, seeds, pesticides, and their outlet to food trading, processing and retail.
After the 1959 revolution, the initial policy was directed at diversifying away from sugar but evolved policy ended up strengthening the export mono-crop emphasis.
The soviet era provided temporary food security but not food sovereignty, it provided high yields but unsustainable, and key crop production declines resulted.