International Studies on Sustainable Agriculture - Cuba

International Studies on Sustainable Agriculture - Cuba

About the Program

There is a debate afoot.  Colleagues of Canada's George Morris Centre and large agri-business interests tell us the only way to feed a 9 billion people world is through agricultural intensification (high-input, high-technology, high-investment, no-holds-barred agriculture). The United Nations Report on Agroecology and the Right to Food (2010) claims otherwise: providing evidence to back the assertion that the only strategy to feed a burgeoning population is a return to agro-ecological methods, particularly in developing nations.   Cuba is a case study in motion.

The Cuban Revolution (1959) was about socialism and land reform.  By the 1980’s Cuba’s sugar-based economy and strong trade ties with the former Soviet Union meant Cubans enjoyed a higher standard of living - based on Latin American indices - than people in the US.  When the former Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba’s economy plunged into darkness.  Overnight, Cuba lost access to the feed, seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, tractors, farm machinery, machinery parts and petroleum that Cuba’s large scale, monoculture agriculture relied upon.  

As Cuban farmers struggled to produce food in the countryside, seventy percent of Cubans who lived in the cities grew hungrier.  Fidel dubbed it Cuba's Special Period.  Indeed it was: in less than a decade, Cuba transformed her agricultural model.  In 1999, Cuba won the Right Livelihood Award of the Swedish Parliament for world excellence in urban agriculture.  In 2006, the World Wildlife Fund declared Cuba to be the only sustainable nation based on ecological footprint and human development index.  The majority of food grown in Cuba is produced without chemicals.  Good bugs fight bad bugs in the fields.  Their soils - like their communities - are teeming with life.

Today, Cuba’s agricultural cooperatives provide 80 percent of the food produced in Cuba and her system of urban agriculture is a model for the world. Building on the success of her agricultural cooperatives, Cuba is now taking bold new steps to build a more cooperative, just and people-centred economy.

In our quest for food security and sustainability, what better example than Cuba?   In the wake of the 2008 global economic collapse, cooperation offers many advantages as a business model.  In both contexts, Cuba offers unique lessons. Through experiential learning and network development, you will come to understand the power of this tiny island nation’s message…

After taking this course, students will be able to:

  1. Explain the structure of Cuba’s agriculture sector.
  2. Describe the 5 key factors behind Cuba’s rapid transition to sustainable agriculture: (strong scientific capacity, farmer literacy, solid agricultural extension, farmer cooperatives, and good soils, water and climate).
  3. Articulate the structural changes and institutional framework that supported the transition.
  4. Communicate and discuss Cuba’s widespread adoption of sustainable farming practices, including:
    • The accomplishments (successes) Cuba has achieved in the past decade.
    • The relevance of Cuba’s experience to Canadian farm policy issues.

More information about the program

Check out this article in the Ubyssey and the following videos from past participants to learn more (the first video is a short overview, followed by three in-depth conversations):

General Timeline (subject to change)

Week 1: Arrival, Havana – visits to UNESCO Heritage site and bio-sphere reserve, National Institute for Research on Tropical Agriculture, Cuban Association of Crop/Forestry Professionals, conversations with guests from the Ministry of Sugar and International Relations office

Week 2: Pinar del Rio and Cienfuegos – meeting with members of UBCP cooperative, visit agro-ecological farm, explore Vinales; Trinidad – visit Topes de Collantes in Escambray Mountain range (Cuba’s second highest), tour an old Spanish coffee plantation

Week 3: Ciego de Avila and Camaguey – participate in an agro-ecological field day organized by ANAP, visit a plan reproduction centre, plant protection lab, and soil lab, meet students and teachers of Ciego de Avila Agricultural University

International Studies on Sustainable Agriculture - Cuba Sample Itinerary

Eligibility and Prerequisites

There are no prerequisites for this course, however, a familiarity with land and food systems/policies is useful. This program is suitable for students in 2nd year and above, and is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. 


Program fees

The program fee is approximately $2,900 - $3,200 (approximately). The final fee depends on the number of students in the program.

INCLUDED in program fee

NOT Included in program fee

  • Accommodations
  • All meals (except 2 lunches)
  • Tips and gratuities
  • On-site group transportation
  • Museum entrance fees
  • Guest lectures
  • Go Global Fee
  • Flight
  • UBC tuition – 3 credits.
  • Health or travel insurance
  • Immunizations (if necessary)
  • Visas (if necessary)
  • Cuban departure tax (25 CUC)
  • Personal spending money for communications, snacks, souvenirs, etc.

All qualifying students will receive a $1000 Go Global Award.

Global seminars refund and withdrawal policy

Refund on deposits

Students are eligible for a refund of the deposit minus the admin fee ($407) if they withdraw from the program within 30 days of paying their deposit – this gives us time to fill any vacated spots so the costs to other students don’t increase. The initial deposit will be non-refundable after 30 days of paying it, except under extraordinary circumstances, considered at the discretion of Go Global.

Refund on program fees

If you withdraw from a Global Seminar program after you have already paid the remaining program fees, you will not be eligible for any refund of program fees or your deposit.  Any exceptions to this are at the discretion of Go Global.

If you decide to withdraw your application, you need to make this request in writing by email to the Global Seminar program advisor at