Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security in an Era of Oil Scarcity
Lessons from Cuba
By Julia Wright
Routledge – 2012 – 280 pages
Routledge – 2012 – 280 pages
When other nations are forced to rethink their agricultural and food security strategies in light of the post-peak oil debate, they only have one living example to draw from: that of Cuba in the 1990s. Based on the first and – up till now – only systematic and empirical study to come out of Cuba on this topic, this book examines how the nation successfully headed off its own food crisis after the dissolution of the Soviet Bloc in the early 1990s.
The author identifies the policies and practices required for such an achievement under conditions of petroleum-scarcity and in doing so, challenges the mainstream globalized and privatized food systems and food security strategies being driven through in both industrialized and more vulnerable developing regions. Paradoxically, the book dispels the myth that Cuba turned to organic farming nationwide, a myth founded on the success of Cuba's urban organic production systems which visitors to the country are most commonly exposed to. In rural regions, where the author had unique access, industrialized high-input and integrated agriculture is aspired to for the majority of domestic production, despite the ongoing fluctuations in availability of agrochemicals and fuel.
By identifying the challenges faced by Cuban institutions and individuals in de-industrializing their food and farming systems, this book provides crucial learning material for the current fledgling attempts at developing energy descent plans and at mainstreaming more organic food systems in industrialized nations. It also informs international policy on sustainable agriculture and food security for less-industrialized countries.
"This is a topical book, now that climate change, the end of cheap oil, growing international disparities and the untenability of the current approaches lead to the insight that business as usual is not in order. The world can learn a great deal from the way Cuba handled its food crisis." - Niels Roling, Emeritus Professor, Wageningen University, The Netherlands.
"There is a great deal of interest in Cuba, including in its radical departure from agricultural policy norms, and in what nations will have to do in the coming years in the context of peak oil. The author has a deep experience of recent transitions in Cuba, and there will be great interest in this book." - Professor Jules Pretty, University of Essex, UK.
"This important, well-referenced book sheds light on how agri-food systems may have to adapt to long-term oil shortages' Experimental Agriculture 'this book is well worth reading for its sobering account of the Cuban experience, as well as for its critical reflection on the factors that might encourage or inhibit the success of sustainable agriculture elsewhere." - Agricultural History.
Preface and Acknowledgements. 1. Cuba: Providing the Model for a Post-Petroleum Food System? 2. Post-Petroleum Food Systems: Transition and Change. 3. Researching Cuba. 4. The Historical Context: Cuban Agriculture and Food Systems of the 20th Century. 5. Life After the Crisis: The Rise of Urban Agriculture. 6. From Dependency to Greater Self-reliance: Transformation of the Cuban Food System. 7. Cuban Food Production in the 1990s: A Patchwork of Approaches. 8. Institutional Coping Strategies: Transition and Decentralization. 9. Perspectives on the Mainstreaming of Local Organic Food Systems. 10. Lessons for the Future: Cuba Ten Years On. Appendices. Index.
Dr Julia Wright is Deputy Director of the Centre for Agroecology and Food Security, at Coventry University. She is a leading expert in Cuban farming and food systems post-1990, and has over 25 years experience in sustainable agricultural applied research and development, with a focus on the application of agroecological, organic and permaculture principles and approaches to contemporary farming issues.
She has worked for government, the UN and CGIAR systems, non-government organisations and the private sector, and has worked in a broad range of countries across the world. She undertakes consultancy work, previously for the FAO, IFAD, Coventry University, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, Overseas Development Institute, Learning by Design, Garden Organic, and the Government Office for Science. She has served on the board of trustees for the Bioregional Development Group and Steering Committee of Transition Town Leamington, and is currently on the editorial board of the International Journal of Cuban Studies.