Adapting Cuban agriculture helps increase food security
“My day starts very early in the morning by checking if plants were not damaged during the night. Then we start weeding, hoeing and sowing the plantlets,” says 19-year-old Aliannis Bonne Urgellés, from Artemisa province in Cuba.
Aliannis, who graduated an intermediate-level of agronomy, is the youngest member of the Waldo Díaz Fuentes Agricultural Production Cooperative (CPA) in Güira de Melena, a municipality which grows vegetables and medicinal plants.
Aliannis’ care for the plants is important in an area challenged by the effects of climate change.
- The project was implemented in three municipalities, benefiting 90,000 people.
- New seed varieties were provided that are resistant to adverse weather conditions, including high temperatures and water shortages.
- The project improved information management systems and established environmental and production knowledge sharing centers.
The Cuban agricultural sector is affected by the increased frequency and intensity of droughts, aridity of the climate, and a pronounced water deficit, affecting the potential yields of the total agricultural production and animal husbandry. The country is facing now the worst drought of the past 115 years which is forecasted to continue in 2016. Cuba’s reservoirs are far below capacity (at an estimated 38%).
Artemisa is one of the three provinces where a UNDP initiative “Environmental Foundations for Local Food Sustainability” (BASAL), funded by the European Union and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, helps reduce the adverse effects of climate change through managing natural resources in a sustainable manner, applying innovative technologies in agriculture and exchanging the best practices among the agricultural producers.
Aliannis’ cooperative employs 18 women who are trained to grow agricultural products without harming the environment. This means applying adaptation measures, such as the sustainable and efficient use of natural resources, rotation of soil and crops, the use of renewable energy resources, integrated pest and waste management, use of organic fertilizers, and environmental management.
In order to mitigate the impacts of climate change, BASAL supplies seed varieties resistant to adverse weather conditions, including high temperatures and water shortages as well as use bio stimulants and fertilizers to improve the soil condition. These seeds reflect the characteristics and requirements of the growing environment and soil types that are present.
For example, in the coastal municipalities of Los Palacios and Güira de Melena, researchers conducted field studies and met with local stakeholders to analyse the local dynamics, habitat, and coastal currents to determine the most appropriate seeds.
In addition to the adaptation measures, the project has also improved information management systems and established environmental and production knowledge sharing centers. The Information Network Agrometeorological and Production (RIAP) collects data (such as crop yields and pests numbers) and disseminates meteorological information and tools that can help agricultural production, such as irrigation advice and early drought warnings.
South South Cooperation between Cuba and Brazil, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Colombia and Chile, as well as between municipalities, provides an opportunity to share good agricultural practices and successful experiences, as well as partake in exchanges and trainings.
These new measures will go a long way to improving the agricultural sector and food security in a country that imports a large portion of its food – 80 percent since 2009.
The project was implemented in three municipalities, Los Palacios (rice cultivation), Güira de Melena (various crops) and Jimaguayú (dairy and beef), benefiting 90,000 people. In the future, the project hopes to extend to 30 additional municipalities in surrounding provinces.
“I love my job. If there is a need, I come to work on Sundays too. I make good money which makes me economically independent,” said Aliannis, who continues to study to become a plant protection specialist.