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social process methodology in the construction of sustainable peasant agriculture and food sovereignty

13 February 2013

The Campesino-to-Campesino agroecology movement of ANAP in Cuba

Peter Michael Rosset, Braulio Machín Sosa, Adilen María Roque Jaime and Dana Rocío Avila Lozano

Agroecology has played a key role in helping Cuba survive the crisis caused by
the collapse of the socialist bloc in Europe and the tightening of the US trade
embargo. Cuban peasants have been able to boost food production without
scarce and expensive imported agricultural chemicals by first substituting more
ecological inputs for the no longer available imports, and then by making a
transition to more agroecologically integrated and diverse farming systems. This
was possible not so much because appropriate alternatives were made available,
but rather because of the Campesino-a-Campesino (CAC) social process
methodology that the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) used to
build a grassroots agroecology movement. This paper was produced in a ‘self-
study’ process spearheaded by ANAP and La Via Campesina, the international
agrarian movement of which ANAP is a member. In it we document and analyze
the history of the Campesino-to-Campesino Agroecology Movement (MACAC),
and the significantly increased contribution of peasants to national food
production in Cuba that was brought about, at least in part, due to this
movement. Our key findings are the spread of agroecology was rapid and
successful largely due to the social process methodology and social movement
dynamics, farming practices evolved over time and contributed to
significantly increased relative and absolute production by the peasant sector,
and those practices resulted in additional benefits including resilience to
climate change.

Keywords: agroecology; Cuban agriculture; social movements; ANAP; La Via
Campesina; Campesino-to-Campesino; agricultural extension


Recent years have seen increased interest in agroecology among peasant organiza-
tions and rural social movements around the world. In the case of the rural peoples’
organizations that belong to La Vı ́ a Campesina (LVC), this is due to a convergence
of factors. On the one hand, participation by national organizations in a global
social movement has largely politicized the question of how land is farmed.

This is especially because LVC views the contemporary period as characterized by an
historic clash between two models of farming: peasant agriculture versus
agribusiness (Rosset 2006, Martı ́ nez-Torres and Rosset 2010), where reproducing
the agribusiness model on one’s own land – by using purchased chemicals,
commercial seeds, heavy machinery, etc. – will also reproduce the forces of exclusion
and the destruction of nature that define the larger conflict. There is an increasing
search for alternatives by the grassroots membership of LVC member organizations,
partly in response to the dramatic fluctuations of prices of petroleum-based inputs
over recent years, putting these inputs largely beyond the reach of many peasant
farmers (Schill 2008).

The past three to five years have seen virtually every organization in LVC around
the world attempt to strengthen, initiate, or begin to plan its own program for
promoting, to varying extents, the transition to agroecological farming among their
members.1 Although Holt-Gimenez (2009, 2010) has argued that agroecology has in
practice been largely the provenance of community-based organizations and non-
governmental organizations (NGOs) rather than national peasant organizations and
social movements, this, while once partially true, may now begin to change. Over the
past three years LVC has given a key role to its ‘International Working Group on
Sustainable Peasant Agriculture’.

Among other tasks, this Working Group (with a
female and a male representative from each of the nine regions in which LVC divides
the globe), under the leadership of the National Small Farmers Association of Cuba
(ANAP) and the National Union of Peasant Associations of Mozambique (UNAC),
is charged with strengthening and thickening internal social networks (Fox 1996) for
the exchange of experiences and support for the agroecology work of the member
organizations. This includes identifying the most advanced positive experiences of
agroecology, and studying, analyzing and documenting them (sistematización in
Spanish) so that lessons drawn can be shared with organizations in other countries.


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