by Ria O’ Grady
The triumph of the 1959 Cuban revolution overthrew the existing property relations in Cuba. In May of that year the new revolutionary government introduced its first Agrarian Reforms, expropriating idle and foreign owned, largely US, land to redistribute among those working it. Historically land had been reserved for the upper-class and imperialists, who had turned Cuba into a sugar-producing colony. The result was the loss of 90% of Cuba’s forests; destruction of ecology from monoculture and a reliance on imports. Further reforms subsequent to those in 1959 have solidified the process of worker ownership of land. Now in socialist Cuba any individual can apply for access to idle land, on the condition that they use it to produce, with a proportion of that produce going to the state to redistribute among society.
Such was the way the Leonor Perez agricultural cooperative, named after the Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti’s mother, was founded in La Lisa municipality, Havana province. We visited the co-operative on our brigade to learn more about Cuba’s commitment to environmental sustainability. The cooperative is one of four in the municipality and 88 in the province, providing to over 2,000 institutions and organisations across Cuba. It spans 179 hectares and is made up of 255 associates, grouping together local farms and farm workers. The main focus is on producing diverse crops, milk and livestock, though they also produce medicinal plants. Though the co-operative can sell its surpluses through private farmers markets, the primary function is to satisfy the needs of the state.