Rome, 3 May 2023 – IFAD has introduced several innovations in the agricultural sector in Cuba through the implementation of the Cooperative Rural Development Project in the Oriental Region (PRODECOR). This, as the Fund was able to take advantage of a window of opportunity that arose in the country to address the technological, productive and commercial lag in the agriculture sector. The latest report published by the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) illustrates these important steps forward.
PRODECOR was the first project implemented by IFAD in Cuba following the suspension of activities in the country during the 1980s, and, consequently, has also been the first project to be evaluated by IOE in the country. The project aimed to increase production and productivity of maize and beans (i.e. two strategic crops) and improve living conditions for producers organized into cooperatives and their families. IOE’s project performance evaluation report (PPE) analysed the project impact at the micro, meso and macro levels on the population and institutions assisted.
The cooperatives supported by the project offered mechanization services and support for commercialization to other cooperatives with fewer resources or less organizational capacity. The establishment of this collaboration among cooperatives was an innovation in the Cuban context – but not the only one.
PRODECOR also introduced seeds of different bean and maize varieties that had been tested in the field under the leadership of the Grain Research Institute of Cuba, to optimize the use of inputs. Another innovation in the Cuban context, at the value chain level, was the grain production contracting system and payments to producers by processing plants. This system facilitates decisions by the National Bank of Cuba to grant credit to producers, as it presupposes a certain amount of certainty as to product destination and selling price.
These innovative efforts were complemented by several successful undertakings. These included financing the construction of grain processing plants using modern technology, with a laboratory for quality control and grain drying. This contributed to reducing post-harvest losses and generated 320 direct jobs, beyond the 200 initially projected. In addition, the project strengthened participatory planning, including technical aspects and consultation on sowing, input procurement and financial instruments; improved the quantity and quality of technical services, extension and research; and contributed to improvements in production knowledge about the application of crop techniques, with very good adoption rates.
The evaluation found that, despite the support for farm mechanization and extension, the increase in yields was limited. Moreover, the processing plants are only at 20 per cent to 30 per cent of their operating capacity given that the volume of grain is inferior to expectations.
The key problem was that, despite the support for farm mechanization and extension, the increase in yields was limited. The first three to four years of project implementation saw a substantial rise in average yields. However, yields have declined since 2019. This occurred following the restrictions on imports of production inputs (fertilizers and pesticides), fuel and spare parts for machinery, as a result of the international sanctions imposed since 2017. Equally important to note is that PRODECOR paid little attention to the learning generated in other countries to benefit its interventions. In terms of sustainability, the project did not have a concrete exit plan with resource mobilization to address the major risks faced by the project. To date, there is no strategic plan in place to address the risks that could threaten the project achievements.
To address these and other related challenges, the IOE report recommends that future interventions in Cuba support the operationalization of national reforms on value addition to products, markets and value chains. The PPE also suggests strengthening knowledge management and the exchange of experiences with international cooperation in Cuba and with other countries in the subregion, and adopting immediate measures to strengthen the sustainability of project results.
Cuba is one of the largest Small Island Development States (SIDS). In 2013, the agricultural sector accounted for about 18 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and employed 940,000 workers, approximately 20 per cent of the workforce. Due to undercapitalization and a lack of technological innovation, the agricultural sector has untapped potential. Currently only 2.6 million out of 6.3 million hectares of cultivable land are in use. IFAD recently resumed operations in Cuba after more than a 20-year hiatus. Given the challenges the agricultural sector faces, IFAD is serving as one of the country’s strategic partners, contributing to the ongoing modernization process.
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- To access the Cooperative Rural Development Project in the Oriental Region project performance evaluation report, please click here.