With its comprehensive social protection programmes, Cuba has largely eradicated hunger and poverty. It is one of the most successful countries in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and was ranked 44th of the 187 countries in the 2014 UNDP Human Development Index. However, with a population of a little over 11 million people, Cuba imports 70 to 80% of its domestic food requirements. Most imports are for social protection programmes. Increasing domestic food production – particularly of beans, a main staple and a critical source of protein – is a government priority to substitute imports and improve food security.

In 2011 the Government of Cuba launched a process to update its economic model to improve the efficiency, reduce the costs and increase the sustainability of social protection programmes. These efforts are guided by the Government’s commitment to ensure that no Cuban is left unprotected.

The five eastern provinces – Granma, Guantánamo, Holguín, Las Tunas and Santiago de Cuba – have the lowest development rates and are prone to drought and torrential rains, exacerbating the difficult agricultural conditions. Pinar del Rio and Matanzas in western Cuba are very exposed to tropical cyclones and extreme weather events, with severe impacts on food security and nutrition.

Over the last eight years, climate hazards (tropical storms, hurricanes, heavy rainfall and droughts) have caused more than USD 20 billion in losses, with significant impacts on the economy and food security. Another threat to food security is the limited access to credit for farmers and low agriculture productivity, particularly in the eastern provinces.

Besides, generally poor food diversity – which has declined with changes in the subsidized food basket – combined with poor dietary practices has resulted in high rates of anaemia and other micronutrient deficiencies.