The largest island in the Caribbean, Cuba ranks 72th out of 189 countries in the 2019 Human Development Index and is one of the most successful in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Over the last 50 years, comprehensive social protection programmes have largely eradicated poverty and hunger. 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. In 2011, in the context of efforts to make the economy more efficient, the government announced plans to make social protection more sustainable and streamlined, with an emphasis on the most vulnerable groups along “no one left behind” lines.
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 5. 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 two, and up to 39.6 percent among children aged six months.
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 Farming technology is obsolete, making for low productivity and high post-harvest losses.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 of Granma, Guantánamo, Holguín, Las Tunas and Santiago de Cuba, where development rates are the lowest in the country.
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 and 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
WFP supports national food-related safety programmes targeted at schoolchildren, pregnant and nursing women and elderly people, including through iron supplementation, food fortification and diversification for children under 2 and pregnant or nursing women. WFP is also strengthening capacities for nutritional education and interventions, including through adequate dissemination and use of data collected via the national Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System.
Strengthening food value chains
WFP works to strengthen local agricultural value chains – mostly bean production and processing – to ensure national quality food supplies for social protection programmes and reduce food imports. In target provinces, we work with all stakeholders to identify and remove the main bottlenecks in the bean value chain, and carry out training on business planning, cooperative farming, gender equality and environmentally friendly production techniques.
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 was established, enabling WFP, in case of a natural disaster, to provide assistance to nearly 275,000 people for one month.
WFP supports 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. We also promote exchange visits between Cuba and other Latin American countries to research food security management models and sustainable food-based safety nets.