Empowering rural women boosts food security in Cuba

A UNDP-backed project provided training spaces and expertise to support local governments in the management of their own development strategies. Photo: UNDP Cuba

It never occurred to Rosa Bella López that she would become a farmer. She lived in an urban area in the eastern province of Guantanamo, Cuba with her husband and three daughters. She knew absolutely nothing about the trade but was not afraid to start from scratch.

Rosa had heard of the granting of land in usufruct, of decentralization and of the need to increase agricultural production. And she decided: she would be a new farmer and help diversify agricultural production in this Caribbean country.

"Sometimes it is difficult to have a variety of food when you live in town, especially when the purchasing power of the family is low," she says. "So my husband and I decided to move here two years ago, although at first it was difficult."


  • A UNDP-backed programme helps strengthen the capacity of local governments in five municipalities.
  • More than 2,800 farmers are associated with the Joint Programme.
  • 19 varieties of rice were cultivated using different techniques.
  • The project promotes cooperation across sectors, including government, agricultural cooperatives and research institutions.

Every beginning involves risks and difficulties, but this did not stop her. Today, Rosa is one of more than 2,800 farmers associated with the Joint Programme "Support for New Decentralization Initiatives and Production Stimulation in Cuba" in five municipalities (Rosa, El Salvador and Río Cauto, Yaguajay, Martí and La Palma). The initiative is supported by UNDP, FAO, UNESCO and Cuban partner organisations.

“We learned to grow rice and now we have other options to increase our revenues. With support from the Government and the university, our farm is now also a garden of various types of rice," says Rosa. Now she tends to this garden with the collaboration of the Government, the local university and the National Institute of Agricultural Sciences (INCA).

In addition to providing supplies and equipment for agricultural production, this initiative has strengthened the institutional capacity of the local governments. The project provided equipment, training spaces and expertise to support the municipalities in the design and management of their own development strategies that involve the non-state sector, especially agricultural production cooperatives.

The Joint Programme has also promoted partnerships between governments and scientific institutions in order to connect people with the knowledge they need in order to actively and consistently participate in the development of the municipality.

This was precisely how Rosa’s experience began. To help make her agricultural sector development plans a reality, the government of her municipality identified the need to provide technical expertise to the men and women who received the land grants and who now faced the challenge of producing economically and environmentally sustainable food.

Through her work on her farm, Rosa learned to grow around 19 varieties of rice, using different techniques, to see which are the most productive in line with the soil and climate characteristics of the area. Certified as high quality, these crops will be sold to other farmers in the municipality to ensure higher crop yields and quality.

"Yes, now I feel fulfilled,” Rosa says. “I like to work the land. I can share my knowledge with others, and in the not-too-distant future, earn more income with this work."

Rosa’s husband, Alexander Fandiño also views the experience positively. "We have already made progress, and in a few months we will be self-sufficient. We have chickens, rabbits, sheep, cows and milk. Now with rice, we have it all!"

The garden of rice varieties on the "La Rosa" farm of the Cooperativa de Créditos y Servicios Lino Álvarez (Lino Álvarez Credit and Service Cooperative) shows the key elements to boost the economy and improve the living conditions of the inhabitants: a proper definition of the local government’s priorities; cooperation between the different local actors led by the Government; partnerships with other institutions; and knowledge management.

Capacity building of local governments to manage development is part of a series of new decentralization initiatives UNDP is supporting in Cuba. Effective local government will contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the expansion of human development.

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