AGROSYSTEMS DESIGNED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ECOLOGICAL INTERACTIONS AND SYNERGISMS BETWEEN BIOTIC AND ABIOTIC FACTORS THAT ENHANCE SOIL FERTILITY, BIOLOGICAL PEST CONTROL, AND ACHIEVING HIGHER PRODUCTIVITY THROUGH INTERNAL PROCESSES.
UBPCS OR BASIC UNITS OF COOPERATIVE PRODUCTION, BASED ON A GROWING PERCEPTION THAT SMALLER FARMS WOULD BE MORE EASILY MANAGED AND BETTER ABLE TO TAKE ON THE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE PRACTICES
PART III - Rural agroecology and land restructuring
Agroecological methods were introduced into Cuba’s rural communities largely out of the necessity of coping without artificial fertilizers and pesticides; but this was also amply supported with substantial government resources, state-funded research, and fundamental policy shifts at the highest levels of government . Agroecological farming in the countryside and organic urban agriculture were the key to stabilizing both urban and rural populations.
The agroecological methods introduced include locally produced biopesticides and biofertilizers substituting for the artificial chemical inputs, complex agrosystems designed to take advantage of ecological interactions and synergisms between biotic and abiotic factors that enhance soil fertility, biological pest control, and achieving higher productivity through internal processes. Other practices involve increased recycling of nutrients and biomass within the system, addition of organic matter to improve soil quality and activate soil biology, soil and water conservation, diversification of agrosystems in time and space, integration of crops and livestock, and integration of farm components to increase biological efficiencies and preserve productive capacity.
In 1993, the Cuban government unveiled a major reorganization of agriculture, restructuring state farms as private cooperatives. The new farms, which now make up the largest sector in Cuba agriculture) were called UBPCs or Basic Units of Cooperative Production, based on a growing perception that smaller farms would be more easily managed and better able to take on the sustainable agriculture practices.
The state retains ownership of the land, leasing it on a long-term basis, but rent-free. The cooperative, not the state, owns the production, and the members’ earnings are based on their share of the cooperative’s income. The UBPC also owns buildings and farm equipment, purchased from the government at discount prices with long-term, low interest loans (4 percent). Most UBPCs produce sugar at given quotas, limiting any other crops that they might produce, so they have little to sell in agricultural markets, which restricts their options and income.
In addition to the UBPCs, the break up of large state farms has freed large plots of land for other use, and land has been turned over to both private farmers and agricultural cooperatives.
Small farmers working on privately owned farms and in cooperatives have made major contributions to the successful implementation of agroecology in the countryside.
Agricultural Production Cooperatives (CPAs) were first created 20 to 30 years ago by farmers who chose to pool their land and resources to attain greater production and marketing and economic efficiency. Although the CPAs were of minimal importance then, they began to rebound in the early 1990s. The UBPCs were modelled after them, except that farmers in the CPAs owned their land.
The Credit and Service Cooperative (CCS) is an association of small landowners joining up with other small farmers to receive credit and services from state agencies. They may also share machinery and equipment, and thus are able to take advantage of economies of scale. CCS members purchase inputs and sell products at fixed prices through state agencies, based on production plans and contracts established with the state distribution system. Any production above and beyond the contracted quantity may be sold in farmers’ markets at free market prices. These small farmers have been the most productive sector in Cuban agriculture, outperforming both the CPAs and UBPCs. CCS farmers have higher incomes than members of other cooperatives.
While all farmers continue to sell a percentage of their produce to the state marketing board, farmers are now motivated to produce in excess of their agreed quota, which they can sell to agricultural markets, often at twice the contracted government price. They can triple or quadruple their income.