CUBA is no stranger to change, despite seemingly being stuck in time. After nearly 60 years of political and economic isolation from the United States, the two countries began to normalize relations under the Obama administration, creating excitement and hope for new opportunities as well as caution of the new challenges. This all came to a halt as the Trump administration has systematically tightened the cruel blockade resulting in a worsening economic crisis in Cuba that has deteriorated further with the Covid crisis. Despite this, and in many ways because of this crisis, Cuba is implementing significant economic policy reforms, many of which affect the environmental, food and agriculture sectors.
During the Cold War, Cuba was politically aligned with the Soviet Union. While under a trade embargo from the United States, subsidized oil and chemical inputs from the Soviet Bloc put the small island nation on a path toward industrial agriculture and oil-based development.
But when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Cubans found themselves experiencing what many observers have called "simulated peak oil." That is, they had to rapidly adjust to a world where oil and chemicals no longer flowed freely. More than 25 years later, cars and tractors are relatively scarce in Cuba and most farming is done organically, by hand. That, along with a history of low-impact tourism and strong environmental regulation, means that many of Cuba's sensitive ecosystems remain intact.
In responding to ever-changing global dynamics, this small island nation has quietly become a world leader in urban farming, agroecology and ecosystem management. They are also testing new economic models that seek to work within the confines of a finite natural resource base while addressing social equality.
CAI envisions a future where Cuba's innovations over the past 25 years become the foundation for its future development, and for other countries seeking an alternative economic model.