Progress in Cuban agriculture

Elio Delgado Legon

The East-West Diversion dam to benefit farmers in eastern Cbua.

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba is an eminently agricultural country, which is on its way to becoming a developed nation, the main obstacle being the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the US for nearly 60 years. Modernizing agriculture and livestock production is something that needs to be done and much is being done in this respect.

Cuban agriculture isn’t what it was in pre-revolutionary Cuba when farmers were only guided by older farmers’ experience because there hadn’t been any scientific breakthroughs in this or any other field of thought. The seeds they used were the ones that farmers stockpiled themselves and were mostly low-quality which led to low yields as a result. Irrigation systems were hardly used as there wasn’t any reservoir water, which meant that a year of drought was a year of hunger in the countryside.

Today, our farming situation is the complete opposite. Farming, both for state-run companies and agricultural and livestock cooperatives and independent farmers, is benefitting from the scientific breakthroughs that agricultural research centers have obtained. High quality and certified seeds are used, a high percentage of farming lands have a water supply for irrigation. Large investments are being made to continue to increase water supplies to more lands, which will ensure better yields and therefore greater agricultural and livestock productivity.

One example of the investments being made to ensure this are the diversion dams that have been made where there is lots of water to channel water to places which need water. The greatest project of this kind, which was planned and built by Cuban engineers is the East-West Diversion, in the country’s east.

Labeled the most important hydraulic project in 21st century Cuba, the East-West Diversion diverts water from river basins which start in the Nipe-Sagua-Baracoa mountains to the fertile plainlands in north Holguin, Las Tunas, north-east Camaguey and the center and north of the Cauto valley.

This project is a hydraulic system which begins at the Sagua river dam, about 37 km away from its estuary with the Atlantic Ocean and about 15 km away from the town of Sagua de Tanamo. The first stretch runs towards the west regulating the Miguel Grande, Cabonico and Levisa rivers, with their respective dams and joining them via tunnels, until they reach the Mayari river reservoir, 13 km to the south of the town which shares the same name.

A system of channels and tunnels transport water, crossing large sugar cane areas, which will be used by irrigation.  

The severe drought we’ve been experiencing over recent years suggested that this diversion dam be built to provide a water supply solution to the west of Holguin province and in the north of Las Tunas.

Flooding of the Mayari river in the city that shares the same name has been prevented thanks to this dam. Between October 2015 and April 2016, 8.2 million cubic meters of water were diverted towards Holguin, which meant that farmers could tackle the drought and people in this populated city (over 300,000 inhabitants) had access to water.

Water supplied by the diversion dam already benefits farming in Holguin, where over a thousand hectares of different crops are irrigated, but there is an opportunity to irrigate over 12,000 hectares if the equipment necessary is installed.

Another diversion dam which benefits Cuban farming (albeit less important) is the Zaza-Ciego canal which transports water from the Zaza dam, the largest in Cuba; to the southern part of the Ciego de Avila province where this precious liquid is in shortage for irrigating this province’s fertile lands.

I have only pointed out two examples of how Cuba is working to increase agricultural productivity using science and technology, which need engineers and technicians trained at Cuban universities to decisively contribute to the progress of Cuban farming with their knowledge and expertise.

16 thoughts on “Progress in Cuban agriculture

  • I read the blog you gave and noted that TD Bank made the transactions through the US, which would trigger the action. But Cuba has its own allies, China, Russia, Vietnam and North Korea spring to mind along with Venezuela providing subsidized oil and Nicaragua. It has no need of the US banking system and could readily obtain the goods I gave as being in GAESA subsidiary shops, elsewhere.
    The position of Cuban agriculture can only be described as a disgrace. Cuba has as you as a Canadian, will know, a long term arrangement with Sherritt International in both mining and energy and with some twenty plus Cubans working at Fort Saskatchewan in Alberta.
    Why not make a similar arrangement with a major agricultural producer – not from the US, but from Europe? Well, I just happen to be able to answer the question having held discussion with a European producer (way over 100,000 acres in four countries). The response was firstly that they would not be party to the exploitation of a work force under the Cuban system as labour is key to their means of production and they value staff and secondly, that they would not permit constant interference in their business by politicians.

  • I too have questioned why the US continues to provide the Castro regime with a “let-out”.
    But although one frequently cannot buy Cuban coffee in our town in Cuba – up to three months on stretch, it is available in Canada being imported from CIMEX (a GAESA subsidiary) by ‘CASA CUBANA’ of Montreal. (Telephone: 1-877-606-1806).
    So Ken, why doesn’t Cuba increase coffee production? There were at one time some 52 coffee producers on the mountains at Terrazas, Province of Artemisa, but now there are none.
    Do you know whether the TD Bank was fined for assisting Cuba or assisting Iran? (Maybe both)?

  • “It is my opinion that the US embargo (which actually is the second one, the first having been imposed by President Dwight Eisenhower on the Batista regime) has little effect upon the Cuban economy as they can obtain most requirements from their allies. It has however provided them over the years with an excuse for all their own incompetence.”
    If the embargo has no economic impact and serves only as an excuse for hardships in Cuba, why is it continued?
    In January of 2017 the Toronto Dominion Bank paid a fine of $516,105 for facilitating financial transactions with Cuba and Iran. Surely, one of the things you need for international trade is the ability to move money easily. Difficulty with this would make trade more sluggish and perhaps more expensive.
    You cite a number of US goods that are found in Cuba and I don’t doubt what you say, but what price does Cuba pay for these goods compared to the price they would pay without sanctions?
    And how easily can Cuba put their products into the international market so they can pay for imports?

  • You asked a question Ken and I omitted to answer it, my apology!
    It is my opinion that the US embargo (which actually is the second one, the first having been imposed by President Dwight Eisenhower on the Batista regime) has little effect upon the Cuban economy as they can obtain most requirements from their allies. It has however provided them over the years with an excuse for all their own incompetence. Any time there is a problem, the regime blames the “blockade” and the Propaganda Department of the PCC pays for huge hoardings condemning it.
    The response question, is to list any products which Cuba can only obtain from the US or countries that comply with the Helms/Burton Act?
    One of the mysteries of GAESA and its purchasing agencies is why they purchase so much product from the detested US? One would have imagined that their communist morality would have caused them to ban imports from the US. But, the Pan-American, TRD, Cimex stores etc, have a wide range of US product varying from canned fruit and vegetables, frozen chicken footware, clothing and even US beer. Could it possibly be that palms are being greased? Another odd relationship is that what remains of the Cuban citrus industry – which pre-revolution was large – markets in conjunction with a Jewish agency in Tel-Aviv. Yet it is Israel that votes along with the US against the much supported UN (192 countries) resolutions to lift the embargo. That could well be described as hypocrisy or at the very least as double-standards.

  • Cassandra or whoever you are……
    Your point is a non-point and only reflects on your obvious inability to grasp plain English.
    A producer is not someone who constructs a large hydro facility.
    A producer is someone who cultivates the land and grows food. People do not produce more food than they need if there is no chance of financial reward.
    If there are no financial rewards for producers, Cube will continue to under-produce which would be a continued waste of fertile land.
    Hope that ain’t too complicated for you.
    And your cheap wee insult reflects on your obvious inability to grasp the concept of basic politeness. Go take one…………

  • I am trying to imagine what incentive would need to be offered to an individual producer to move him to build a dam and a multi-state irrigation system.

    The picture won’t come. All I can see is Nick with his head where the sun don’t shine.

  • I am indeed from the UK and still spend a lot of time there.
    Many experts suggest that the UK reached ‘peak democracy’ around about the 1970’s and it has been on the slide since. Some say that the UK was too democratic for it’s own good and that too much democracy is generally ‘bad for business’. I fully understand that point of view.
    Russia has carried out all sorts of ‘endeavours’ in all sorts of other countries over the centuries, some of which coincided with the ‘communist era’. Russia has been around for a long time whereas it’s ‘communist era’ was relatively short. The most recent examples of it’s ‘endeavours’ in other countries’ would obviously be the poisoning in England of a UK resident Russian (and his daughter) and of course the apparent push to get the current US President into The White House. We are approaching 30 years since the end of Russia’s ‘communist era’. To suggest that Russia’s historic and current ‘endeavours’ are all related to it’s ‘communist era’ would clearly be ludicrous.
    I doubt either of these points cause a stir with you Mr MacD as they would not fit into your binary world.
    ‘The good guys do good stuff and the bad guys do bad stuff’. Any debate outside of this very basic understanding of the world does not seem to attract you.
    Keep it simple and non-humorous huh?

  • Exactly Michael!

  • You are correct Nick, I find nothing of humour in communism. Your blessings include living in a country that has democracy – although as I pointed out previously, the Russian Communist Party funded endeavors to remove that freedom which you enjoy and to replace it with totalitarian rule.
    Communism isn’t “a point of view” neither is dictatorship. Both are counter to humanity and the freedom of mankind.

  • “Of course for Elio the answer is that the US embargo is responsible. Baloney!”
    Is it your view that the US embargo has no impact on the Cuban economy?

    I am in no position to discount any of your observations re agriculture in Cuba. I do note that all of your observations could be true and that would not negate the truth of Elio’s claim that Cubans today have access to better seeds and that irrigation and flood management have improved.

    Specifically re the potatoes, what is happening to them? Do they become past of a product that is exported? Do they find they way to the plates of a more privileged group of Cubans? Does anyone on this list know?

  • Thank you for your comment Mr MacD.
    Each time you direct one of these fundamentalist and humourless comments of yours at me, It causes me to be thankful and count my blessings:
    A. That I was blessed by having the capacity to understand and appreciate more than one point of view.
    B. That I was blessed with having a sense of humour.

  • As a farmer from Australia who has seen the state of Cuba’s agriculture close up, I have to disagee with the author. I would love to have access to the soil and water that is under utilised in Cuba. Something is wrong when a country’s agricultural system has collapsed.

  • Excuses for the Castro regime just don’t wash Nick. It is rather pathetic to echo Elio Delado Legon by writing: “But what is required is more incentivisation (sic) for producers. Steps have been taken in this direction.” There have been a succession of such “steps” for almost sixty years under communist planning. The consequences have been failure evident to all except the willfully blind.
    I note that you say in order to provide a let-out that: “I obviously do not buy all of what he says.” But you obviously do buy some of it.

  • Totally agree.

  • I think Elio is hilarious. Always a good read.
    He is as one-sided as some of the contributors here and infinitely more optimistic.
    Perhaps the greatest thing about Elio’s articles are the hysterical spluttering reactions that are brought forth from some of the advocates of cruel neo-liberalist fundamentalism.
    Much as Elio causes me considerable mirth, I obviously do not buy all of what he says.
    In terms of food production, Cuba should be way ahead of the game. Cuba has the land vs population ratio to be self sufficient. Add to that the natural gift of fertile soil.
    The hydro schemes that Elio mentions do indeed help areas that suffer from regular drought. But what is required is more incentivisation for producers. Steps have been taken in this direction.
    This needs to go further because these days, Cuban people don’t go to work on the land coz they want to be like Che.

  • Elio is now talking about Cloud Cuckoo Land!
    Cuban agriculture is a disaster with ever decreasing levels of production, lack of diversification and tens of thousands of acres of good previously productive land, reverting to bush. Any doubters need only take a Viazul bus and look out of the window!. Citrus farms that were established pre-revolution have been allowed to slowly but inexorably deteriorate without re-planting – pre revolution Cuba was a major fruit producer, sugar production has decreased to a mere 15% of that of 25 years ago. Although a natural outdoor green house, one cannot purchase fresh tomatoes in December, January and February, being dependent upon canned product from the US and Spain. Cubans turn on the TV in April to see pictures of potatoes being harvested by hand, but are unable to find them in the marketplace. Rice (low grade that requires hand picking to take out the contaminates) from Vietnam but much of which could be grown in Cuba.
    The efforts of Fidel Castro to establish a beef industry by engaging the services of Dr. Reginald Preston of the Rowett Research Institute were as any any observer can confirm, a total and miserable failure. Where can a Cuban buy beef? Cuba is unable to raise sufficient chicken, being dependent upon importing frozen chicken from Brazil, the US and Canada – extended even with frozen Ostrich legs.
    But this is all success in the misted eyes of Elio Delgado Legon as he sits and furiously copies down the blatant propaganda and lies of the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of Cuba.
    Elio trots out that over worn answer for the demonstrated incompetence and failure of the repetitive communist agricultural dreams and programs. He is like Fidel Castro in 1988 flying over Santa Clara, looking down and imagining in his ever-fertile mind: “150 dairy farms to be built next year when funding will be available.” As usual coming to naught! Of course for Elio the answer is that the US embargo is responsible. Baloney!
    Even Lewis Carroll would have benefited if his imagination when writing ‘Alice in Wonderland’ had stretched to meeting that of Elio Delgado Legon in his dotage.
    This sort of nonsense is repeated by Cuban TV on a daily basis. In assessing the ‘success’ of the communist regime in Cuba it is wise to address reality, not the figments of the imagination as presented by Elio and his political suppliers of propaganda.

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