Current issues and what the World Food Programme is doing
With its 110,000 km square and 11.23 million people, Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean. Over the last 50 years, comprehensive social protection programmes have largely eradicated poverty and hunger. Ranked 67th out of 188 for Human Development, the country is among the most successful in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Even so, Cuba’s five eastern provinces – Granma, Guantánamo, Holguín, Las Tunas and Santiago de Cuba – are prone to climate hazards that exacerbate tough agricultural conditions. Development rates here are the lowest in the country. In western Cuba, the provinces of Pinar del Rio and Matanzas are exposed to tropical cyclones and extreme weather events, with severe impact on food security and nutrition.
In 2011, the Government of Cuba launched efforts to make the island’s economic model more efficient. This includes cutting costs and making social protection more sustainable. Food security has been identified as a priority.
Current issues in Cuba
• Sustainability of food-based safety nets
Cuba has comprehensive social protection programmes. Food-based social safety nets include a monthly food basket for the entire population, school feeding programmes, and mother-and-child health care programmes.
Although effective, these programmes mostly rely on food imports and strain the national budget. The policy review announced in 2011 aims to streamline them, emphasizing the most vulnerable groups along “no one left behind” lines.
• Addressing anaemia and other micronutrient deficiencies
With few vegetables consumed and low food diversity, the diet of the average Cuban family is poor in micronutrients. Since 2011, the Government has been making efforts to strengthen its National Plan for the Prevention and Control of Anaemia, particularly among children under five.
At the end of 2015, the Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System (SISVAN) indicated a persistently high prevalence of anaemia in the five eastern provinces: 31.6 percent among children aged 23 months, and up to 39.6 percent among children aged six months.
• Low agricultural productivity and high dependency on imports
Cuba imports 70 to 80 percent of its domestic food requirements, with most imports slated for social protection programmes. The government is prioritizing higher domestic food production – particularly of beans, a critical source of protein. Part of this effort has involved converting of state farms into cooperatives.
But challenges remain. Farming technology is obsolete, making for low productivity and high post-harvest losses. There is also limited technical capacity and poor access to inputs and credit, particularly in the eastern provinces. Investment in new technology and enhanced coordination along value chains is essential for a more sustainable agricultural model that meets local needs.
• Natural disasters
Cuba is highly prone to tropical storms, hurricanes, heavy rainfalls, drought and occasional earthquakes. Over the last eight years, climate hazards have caused more than USD 20 billion in losses, damaging the economy in general and food security in particular.
Between 2014 and 2015, a severe drought caused water shortages for 1.2 million people. Food supplies dwindled; prices rose. Since the beginning of 2016, by contrast, food production has been hit by heavy rains blamed on El Niño.
Although Cuba’s civil protection system works well in the face of climate hazards, resilience would benefit from greater attention to food security and nutrition in the preparedness and response system.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Cuba
In 2015, WFP launched its first four-year Country Programme for Cuba. Aiming to support official efforts to update the island’s economic model, it aligns our work with national priorities and relies on close collaboration with the Government at all levels. The Programme involves three strategic areas of work.
• Support to food-related safety nets
WFP is supporting national efforts to make food-based safety nets for vulnerable groups more sustainable and efficient. Under the National Plan for the Prevention and Control of Anaemia, we focus on iron supplementation, as well as food fortification and diversification for children aged six to 23 months and for pregnant or lactating women. WFP also complements other national food-related safety programmes targeted at schoolchildren, pregnant women and elderly people.
Finally, we are strengthening capacities for nutritional education and nutritional interventions: this involves promoting adequate dissemination and use of data collected through the national Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System.
• Strengthening food value chains
WFP is working to strengthen local agricultural value chains - mostly bean production and processing. The aim is to promote a new management model that increases food supplies for social protection programmes, with a corresponding reduction in food imports.
In each target province, we are working with all stakeholders to identify and eliminate the main bottlenecks in the bean value chain. This includes training on business planning, cooperative farming, gender equality and environmentally friendly production techniques.
• Strengthening resilience and disaster risk management
WFP is supporting the Government’s response to climate-related hazards. We contribute to the integration of food security analysis into national early-warning systems for drought and hurricanes, and help disseminate this information to national and local decision makers. Separately, an emergency contingency stock is being established that will enable WFP, in case of a natural disaster, to provide assistance to nearly 275,000 people for one month.
WFP values the empowerment of women as a major driver of change. We are advancing gender equality by promoting greater involvement of women in decision-making processes on nutrition and agricultural production, both at the national and local levels. We also support South-South Cooperation between Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, as well as Central America, in areas such as early-warning systems for disaster preparedness. Finally, we promote exchange visits between Cuba and other Latin American countries to research food security management models and sustainable food-based safety nets.
World Food Programme partners in Cuba
WFP cannot fight global hunger and poverty alone. These are our partners in Cuba:
• Local Governments
Featured Cuba publications
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