Personal tools
Log in
Personal tools
Log in
You are here: Home Magazines Global edition Changing farming practices Input substitution or ecological agriculture?

Input substitution or ecological agriculture?

Written by Fernando Funes Monzote last modified May 08, 2014 10:20 AM

To complement the previous article, this article looks in more detail at some of the technologies researched, developed and used during the transition period in Cuba. To increase sustainability in the long term, Cuba will have to make far-reaching changes towards regenerative agroecological systems, which go beyond input substitution. However, the strategy which Cuba followed provides an exceptional starting point for the development of an integrated, sustainable agriculture.

LEISA Magazine | 22.2 | June 2006

In the fifteen years since the agricultural crisis struck, Cuba has gained extensive experience in how to change towards a more sustainable agriculture. The basis for this agricultural transition was already laid at the beginning of the 1980s when some of the national agricultural research focused on finding ways to substitute agrochemicals with organic inputs. The main objective at this time was to reduce production costs in commercial agriculture as agrochemicals were expensive and therefore unsustainable from an economic point of view. As a result, a wide range of bio-fertilizers were developed. These efforts were later complemented with more focused research and action, leading to extraordinary results at a national level.


Most of the bio-fertilizers developed were bacteria such as Rhizobium, Azotobacter and Azospirillum which could fix nitrogen in association with legumes and thereby replace inorganic nitrogen. In some cases the use of these bacteria replaced up to 80 percent of the inorganic nitrogen usually applied. Other technologies later developed to substitute for the use of agrochemicals included micorrhizae, bacteria which increased the availability of phosphorus, and the use of green manures and leguminous cover crops. Some traditional practices were also revived: oxen teams were used for soil cultivation, to avoid soil compaction, and which also replaced herbicides through mechanical weeding.

Worm humus and compost are currently applied on a large scale. By 1998, the national production of these two organic fertilizers had reached a total of almost 700 000 tons. Cachaza or “filter cake” (a by-product from the sugar industry containing impurities removed from cane juice) is now used instead of chemical fertilizers in most of the important commercial crops, especially sugar cane. With one application of 120 to 160 t/ha, this organic fertilizer can completely replace chemical fertilizers for three years in sandy soils.

Biological pest control

Research on biological pest control had been going on in Cuba since the 1960s. The knowledge generated made it possible to shift to a biological pest control strategy on a national scale in response to the crisis. More than 270 biological control reproduction centres (known as CREEs) were established throughout the country. The production of bio-control agents (fungus, bacteria, nematodes, and beneficial insects) is small scale and decentralised, resulting in, among others, the production of 1300 t/year of Bacillus thuriengiensis sprays (used to control lepidoptera), 780 t/year of Beauveria sprays (for controlling beetles), and 200 tons of Verticillium (for whitefly control). Integrated pest management (IPM), combining biological and limited chemical pest control together with cultural management, has been the most commonly applied strategy. Nationally, applications of pesticides to cash crops were reduced twenty fold in a 15-year period, from 20,000 tons in 1989 to around one 1,000 tons in 2004. Today the use of pesticides continues to decrease and many biological control methods have proved more efficient than inorganic pesticides.

Animal traction

Since 1989, the number of tractors in Cuba dropped dramatically due to a lack of spare parts, maintenance, and fuel to keep them working. This stimulated the revival of the traditional practice of using oxen for ploughing and transport. About 300 000 oxen teams were trained, leading to a much reduced fuel dependency in the new production systems. The traditional knowledge, skills and practice of oxen management has been largely recovered, contributing to achieving many agroecological goals.

The sustained use of oxen therefore led to changes in land use patterns, requiring more integrated systems. Many livestock farms that previously specialized in milk or meat production started using oxen to transport fresh forage and plough land that would grow crops. Many cooperatives previously dedicated to specialised crops such as potatoes, sweet potatoes or vegetables created “livestock modules”, using dual purpose bovines to produce milk for farmers and their families, as well as to replace oxen teams over time.

Cropping practices

Crop rotations and polycultures (mixed or multiple cropping) have been used increasingly in order to stimulate natural soil fertility, to control pests and to restore the productive capacity. Research results, as well as actual production figures, showed an increase in the yield of the majority of the economically important crops. Experiments confirmed that the use of soya bean in rotation with sugar cane increased sugar cane yields from 84.4 to 90.6 t/ha with an additional production of 1.7 t/ha of soya bean. Polycrops of cassava and common beans under different cropping systems also resulted in higher total production when compared to cassava or beans grown as a single crop.

Beyond the input-substitution strategy

These examples of input substitution in Cuba had a very positive effect on national food self-sufficiency as well as on the environment. The experience is considered the first nation-wide attempt at converting a national food system. However, the resulting production systems may still have many of the same problems that occur in conventional systems (i.e. the monoculture patterns).

In order to achieve a sustainable production system, the input substitution strategy needs to evolve into an agroecological production systems approach. Only by making more far-reaching changes towards regenerative agricultural systems than those based on inputs –even if these inputs are biological or organic– will it be possible to increase sustainability in the longer term. The integration of crops and livestock into a more diversified production system is one example of a system based on agroecology which allows for increasing food production while regenerating the environment.

The strategy followed by Cuba created conditions such as better infrastructure and knowledge about more sustainable low input and input substitution technologies. This provides an exceptional starting point for the development of an integrated, sustainable agriculture. Even more important is the high level of awareness and understanding of ecological agriculture developed among the population and the organisational and human capacities developed for innovation and exchange of experiences. Never before has Cuba (or any other country) had such opportunities for developing and implementing a nationwide agroecological model for rural development.

Fernando Funes Monzote

Document Actions
  • Print this Print this
coachoutletonline says:
Sep 24, 2016 11:44 AM

Coach's popularity has Coach Outlet Online 70% OFF.One spiked - Coach Outlet in the last few year, and that's made the brand's fans very interesting to follow on social media. The brand's accessories profile first surged in the mid-to-late-2000s on the strength of the Paddington, Silverado Coach Outlet Stores and Paraty Coach bags, but after Phoebe Philo's departure, it took Coach Factory Outlet 2016 a few years to regain its status as an assured Coach Factory hitmaker. Thankfully, those days have returned with super-popular bags like the Drew, Faye and Hudson debuting seemingly every season.

The michael kors outlet thread on our PurseForum is filled with devotees of the brand's designs. Our followers showcase their love by revealing their latest handbag purchases or by toting around old Coach Factory Outlet favorites Coach Outlet Online US like the Bay Bag or Silverado. Whether you prefer old Coach USA Store or new michael kors, one thing's for sure: our Coach Outlet - Purseforum members favor them all!

Get ready for a trip down memory lane in this latest PurseForum roundup, and check out all our favorites from the Your Coach in Action thread!

The Peekaboo debuted in 2009, and at first, it did what freshly debuted designer bags normally do: the Peekaboo enjoyed a couple years of popularity and then got rotated to the back of the lineup in favor of whatever Next Big Things the brand had in the pipeline. Generally, that’s followed by a bag being mostly ignored and then eventually put out to pasture quietly, when people are unlikely to notice its eventually absence. Instead of that slow march into the sunset, Fendi decided to reintroduce the Peekaboo and shoppers ate it up.

It’s not unheard of for brands to try and re-promote a bag CHI Flat Iron that was once very popular, but it rarely works. Shoppers want novelty, and most bags that are eligible for re-promotion just don’t have the enduring appeal necessary to feel fresh instead of dated when a customer Coach Outlet USA Coach Outle sees them again, five years down the road. The Peekaboo has already passed that test with flying colors, and there’s not reason to think it won’t stick around for a long time.

Also worth noting is the Peekaboo’s positioning within Fendi’s lineup; the bag is the brand’s most expensive, on average, and bags that become enduring classics usually hold that spot in their designers’ collections. After all, if a design is destined for greatness, it should at least be the best in its class. For instance, the one you see above can be yours for $3,550 via Net-a-Porter.

Celebs are all uggs outlet over the globe this week, and yet their bag choices are oddly in sync. Bags from Fendi and Saint Laurent are obvious faves, and a hot new style from ugg boots hut has just made one of its first appearances on the site and you're sure to have an opinion about it one way or another. In related news, Reese Witherspoon remains surprisingly loyal to her favorite Salvatore Ferragamo style, and Solange Knowles brought a mystery bag to Beyoncé's b-day party. If you can properly identify it for us, we will crown you as our leader.

Beyond that, most of the episode was spent in preparation to go to Glamis. Much ado was made about Heather’s fancy camper that she needed because she’s a princess who just can’t spend a night in a regular RV like Tamra and her plebe family, as well as the foil packets her private chef prepared for her so she could just toss them on the grill without having to operate a salt shaker or cut a vegetable.

The results of Heather’s expenses and efforts were an RV that did not look especially more spacious or comfortable than the others on the inside, but was far shinier on the outside, as well as a meal that tasted probably about the same as everybody else’s because Heather doesn’t know how to use a grill. Heather also seemed to recognize that her special, expensive RV wasn’t stunting quite as hard on the others as she wold have preferred, though, but she didn’t explain why she didn’t have her assistant find her an even better RV instead of just taking Tamra’s recommendation. Good help is so hard to find! Even in costars.

After a long holiday weekend, it’s time to get back to the swing of things, and what better way to ease the transition than with a roundup of dreamy Coach bags? You all know I’m a big fan of Coach, but I’m not the only one who shares a deep and abiding love for the brand. In our weekly celebrity style roundups, we always see celebs toting various Coach bags, and it’s hard not to swoon over the brand’s light structured, minimalist designs. But celebs aren’t the only loyal Coach fans; plenty of our Instagram followers showcase their love for the bags on a daily basis, and we’re here to share some of our favorites from recent days.

Finding Coach bags on Instagram is easy thanks to several dedicated hashtags many avid Coach followers use, such as: #celine, #celineaddict, #celinebag, #celineparis–you get the idea. While Coach’s signature bags under Phoebe Philo may be the Luggage and Trapeze bags, many of our followers love those signature styles right alongside many of the brand’s under-the-radar bags. Get ready to see lots of Classic Box Bags, Trapeze Bags and much more below.

Buy the Coach of your dreams via Bluefly and Vestiaire Collective!

Add comment

You can add a comment by filling out the form below. Plain text formatting.