Document Type



Beginning in the mid-1990s, Cuba embarked upon a transformation of the agricultural sector that has been hailed by some observers as a model of socially equitable and ecologically sustainable agriculture. Cuba shifted from an export-oriented, chemical-intensive agricultural development strategy to one that promoted organic agriculture and encouraged production for the domestic market. This article places Cuba's agricultural reforms in historical context by examining the evolution of Cuban agriculture from the colonial period until the present through the lens of food security and ecological sustainability. The article argues that Cuba, for most of its history, was food insecure and ecologically compromised as a consequence of its dependence on one agricultural commodity (sugar) to generate the bulk of foreign exchange revenues, its reliance on imports to satisfy domestic food needs, its dependence on one primary trading partner (initially Spain, subsequently the United States and the Soviet Union), and its adoption of capital-intensive, chemical-dependent agricultural production techniques. When the collapse of the socialist trading bloc in 1990 plunged the Cuba economy into a state of crisis, the Cuban government implemented as series of reforms that diversified Cuba's economic base, diversified the range of crops cultivated, prioritized domestic food production, and promoted organic and semi-organic farming techniques. The article concludes that these reforms enhanced food security and ecological sustainability, but questions whether they will survive the lifting of the U.S. economic embargo and the reintegration of Cuba into global trade and financial institutions.


reprinted in University of Arkansas, National Agricultural Law Center, Agricultural Law Research Paper series,