Exploring suburban agroecological agriculture and its contribution to food sovereignty in socialist Cuba

  • Graciela Romero Vasquez

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Whilst substantial theoretical and practical evidence exists on the development and impact of agroecology and food sovereignty on society and nature in capitalist nation-States, there is little evidence to date on such developments in a Marxist-Leninist socialist nation-State. In this respect, Cuba has experienced the extremes of capital penetration in agriculture and the development of ecological agriculture at national level, where agroecology has been officially adopted in its national Suburban Agriculture Programme (SAP). This research analyses the extent to which the SAP contributes to the development of food sovereignty in socialist Cuba. Applying Marx's reflection of the fundamental shift in the relationship between human species and the rest of nature, or metabolic rupture, to the urgent need to change the current ecological, social and political crises of global food systems, this research contributes to bringing to the fore the dialectical relations driving change towards new paradigms from a socialist perspective.

    The research develops an analytical framework combining food sovereignty-agroecology and the dialectic method to explore the Cuban Suburban Agriculture Programme, as part of the socialist Cuban Socio-economic Model. It captures agrarian and societal changes from a historical, dialectic critical realist perspective, crosscut with Marxian political economy, food sovereignty-agroecology theory. This guides the transformative mixed methods research approach that was implemented during nine months of field work in Cuba in 2017. The study was carried out in the municipalities of City of Cienfuegos, San Jose de las Lajas in Mayabeque and in three municipalities of Havana province. A total of 279 people (campesino/as1, food processors, consumers/non-producers, distributors, researchers, government officials and staff) were interviewed using semi-structured interviews, a questionnaire on agroecological practices, and visits to food production, processing and distribution units. A national workshop on food sovereignty was also undertaken, the first of its kind, with participants from different provinces and sectors. These methods were supported with ethnographic active participation and secondary data obtained in-country.

    This research has found that small- and medium-scale campesino/as or peasants undertaking ecologically friendly agriculture (that is, traditional agriculture, agroecological, low input, and/or organic), coupled with small- and medium-scale food industries within the Suburban Agriculture Programme, are contributing to mending the country’s metabolic rupture. This is done by developing ecologically and socially friendly, multifunctional livelihoods that cross rural, suburban and urban areas, contributing to food and ecoservices production/provisioning and to local and national economy, thus contributing to building food sovereignty-agroecology at different scales. Within the socialist historical transformations of the peasantry and socialist property relations, these campesino/as are a new generation defying stereotypes of peasant backwardness as well as creating new notions of modernity. The realisation of their full potential to contribute to food sovereignty is determined by recurrent historical contradictions in the Cuban mixed approach to agriculture, in which conventional agriculture and ecologically friendly agriculture coexist. Due to the geopolitical position of Cuba, which magnifies the interdependences between international actors, nation-States and global para-State institutions in the development and understanding of food sovereignty-agroecology, the research findings have implications for the conceptualisation and praxis of food sovereignty-agroecology in Cuba and internationally.
    Date of AwardApr 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorJulia Wright (Supervisor) & Michael Jahi Chappell (Supervisor)

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