25.06.2018

Activist researchers like Peter Rosset claimed in the Journal of Peasant Studies that this was a “rapid and successful” spread of agroecology. A case study of Cuba conducted by an NGO named La Via Campesina claimed that agroecology had “achieved what the conventional model has never accomplished in Cuba or any other country: more production from less”.

Data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization tell a less positive story. Nearly a quarter century into its forced experiment with agroecology, Cuba has yet to produce as much food on a per capita basis as it produced in 1990. In fact, Cuba’s official net per capita food production index in 2014 was still 37 per cent lower than it had been in 1990. On a dollar basis, the value of per capita food production in 2011–13 was still 34 per cent lower than it had been in 1990–1992 in constant dollar terms.

In response to its ongoing food production problems, the Cuban government has not, in fact, been betting on agroecology. Instead it has been relying on food imports and hoping to revive its conventional farming sector. With support from Brazil and also Venezuela (before that nation’s economy collapsed), Cuba has tried to boost its use of synthetic chemical inputs and its inventory of large scale machinery and more centre-pivot irrigation equipment. Instead of going organic, Cuba increased its consumption of mineral fertilisers by 32 per cent between 2002 and 2012. It has even pursued research on genetically engineered crops.

Agroecology supporters who know their methods are not replacing Green Revolution techniques have fallen back on a number of excuses. In 1991, Vandana Shiva explained that Green Revolution farmers in India had been lured by foreign advisors into adopting modern practices as “a shortcut to obtain greater profits at the expense of sustainability”.