In Cuba, the empowerment of rural women contributes to food security

The initiative has promoted partnerships between governments and national and local scientific institutions in order to actively and coherently participate in the development of the municipality. Photo: UNDP Cuba

Rosa Bella López lived in the urban area of a municipality in the eastern province of Guantanamo, Cuba, with her husband and three daughters. It never occurred to her that she would become a farmer. She knew absolutely nothing about the trade, but was not afraid to start from scratch.

She had heard of the granting of land in usufruct, of decentralization and of the need to increase agricultural production. And it was decided: she would be a new farmer and help diversify agricultural production in this Caribbean country.

"Sometimes it is difficult to have a variety of food when you live in the village, especially when the purchasing power of the family is low," she says. "So my husband and I decided to move here two years ago, although at first it was difficult."


  • A UNDP-backed programme helps strengthen the capacity of local governments in five municipalities.
  • More than 2,800 farmers are associated with the Joint Programme.
  • 19 varieties of rice were cultivated using different techniques.
  • The project promotes cooperation across sectors, including government, agricultural cooperatives and research institutions.

Every beginning involves risks and difficulties, but this did not stop her. Today, Rosa is one of more than 2,800 farmers associated with the Joint Programme "Support for New Decentralization Initiatives and Production Stimulation in Cuba" in five municipalities in the country (Rosa, El Salvador and Río Cauto, Yaguajay, Martí and La Palma). The initiative is supported by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and various Cuban institutions.

We learned to grow rice and now we have other options to increase our revenues. With support from the Government and the University, our farm is now also a garden of various types of rice," says Rosa. Currently, she tends to this garden, with the collaboration of the Government, the local University and the National Institute of Agricultural Sciences (INCA). 

In addition to providing supplies and equipment for agricultural production, this initiative has strengthened the institutional capacity of the governments of the five municipalities in providing equipment, training spaces and expertise for the design and management of their own development strategies that would incorporate mainly agricultural production cooperatives into the non-state sector. It has also promoted partnerships between governments and national and local scientific institutions in order to "connect" people with the knowledge they need in order to actively and coherently participate in the development of the municipality.

This was precisely how Rosa’s experience began. To realize her plans of development in the agricultural sector, the government of the municipality identified the need to provide technical expertise to men and women beneficiaries of the land granted in usufruct who were faced with the challenge of producing economically and environmentally sustainable food.

Through her work on her farm, Rosa learned how to grow around 19 varieties of rice with different technologies, and to see which are the most productive according to the soil and climate characteristics of the area. Later, these crops certified as high quality will be sold to other farmers in the municipality to ensure higher yields and crop quality.

"Although now I feel fulfilled, I like to work the land. I can share my knowledge with others, and in the not-too-distant future, earn more income with this work," said Rosa.

As for her husband, Alexander Fandiño talks about his experience positively: "We have already made progress, and in a few months we will be self-sufficient. We have chickens, rabbits, sheep, cows and milk. Now with rice, we have it all!"

The garden of rice varieties on the "La Rosa" farm of the Cooperativa de Créditos y Servicios Lino Álvarez (Lino Álvarez Credit and Service Cooperative) shows the key elements to boost the economy and improve the living conditions of the inhabitants – a proper definition of the priorities of the municipality; cooperation between the different local actors led by the Government; partnerships with other institutions; and knowledge management .

Capacity building of local governments to manage development is part of a series of new decentralization initiatives that are being promoted in the country, thus potentially contributing towards new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the expansion of human development.

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