Student - October 9, 2008

Cuba should cherish mixed farms

The Cuban government should stimulate the development of mixed farms via sys­tematic and consistent policy measures, as they perform much better in the current conditions than specialized cattle farms.

That is the conclusion of Cuban Ph.D. student Fernando Funes-Monzote. He compared specialized cattle farms in Cuba with mixed farms that integrate cattle-farming and agriculture. The mixed farms make much more efficient use of natural resources, which increases the productivity of land and labor, makes energy utilization more efficient and lowers the cost per farm. The Cuban government can use this form of sustainable agriculture well to become self-sufficient, feels Funes-Monzote.
Until 1990, Cuba had a specialized and intensive agriculture which was highly dependent on the import of raw ingredients from abroad. Labor productivity was high, but agriculture inefficient and polluting. As a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, this agriculture model fell apart. Since then, decentralization and diversification have occurred: besides specialized agricultural cooperatives, mixed farms developed and new farmers started.
A case study showed Funes-Monzote that a combination of cattle farming and agriculture will yield better company results than cattle-farming alone. The yield of grass for the cattle on the specialized farms tended to fluctuate heavily, whereas the combination farms also introduced grains, root crops and new types of rough feed. Not only did that result in income from agriculture, the mixed farms also realized a more constant supply of cattle feed, leading to increase in milk production per hectare, according to Funes-Monzote. More research at 93 companies, spread all over the country, confirmed this idea. / Albert Sikkema

Fernando Funes-Monzote will defend his Ph.D. thesis on 14 October with prof. Herman van Keulen, full professor at the Plant Production Systems group.