VCI coordinates the Cuba-US Agroecology Network (CUSAN). CUSAN supports agroecology in the US and in Cuba by connecting people, institutions and movements on both sides of the Florida Straits who are dedicated to building more ecologically resilient, socially just and economically fair farming systems through agroecology. CUSAN was initiated in April 2015 by the Schumacher Center for a New Economy. In its first year VCI worked closely with the Schumacher Center to build the network membership in both Cuba and the US. In May 2016, CUSAN organized a historic two-and-a-half day strategic planning workshop in Havana which brought together 30 US and Cuban farmers, NGO representatives, new economists and academics to determine CUSAN’s vision, purpose, objectives, structure and agenda. In this second year CUSAN will hone in on strengthening the structure and function of the network, building capacity through collaborative partnerships to implement innovative economic models for sustainable food systems, and raising awareness about CUSAN’s work and the need to transform our food systems towards agroecology. For information about CUSAN visit http://www.agroecologynetwork.org/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special Issue: Cuba’s Agrifood Systems in Transition: VCI’s Executive Director, Margarita Fernandez, is co-editing with Cuban agroecologist, Fernando Funes Aguilar, a special issue for the open access, nonprofit environmental science and policy journal that was spawned by BioOne, Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. This special issue aims to foster exchange and dialogue on Cuba’s agrifood system, from past and current sustainability successes and challenges to recommendations for continuing evolution towards sustainability under normalized relations with the U.S. We currently have 18 Cuban authors submitting articles that address a range of biophysical, social and economic issues.
We are also working with Americas Media Initiative and a Cuban documentary film maker to produce 5 short videos that tell the story of the evolution of agroecology in Cuba through the eyes and voices of farmers, researchers and academics, government officials, NGO representatives and consumers. The series is called, “Green Cuba: Towards a New Agrifood System Paradigm” and incorporates the following themes: agroecology transition, public policy, agroecology science and production, socio-cultural impacts of agroecology movement, and agroecology and sustainable economies.
VCI and the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics of the University of Vermont have partnered to establish long-term research projects and collaborations around sustainability issues with academics, NGOs, and citizens in Cuba. Research project themes include sustainable agriculture, biodiversity conservation, economic development, forestry, rural livelihoods, environmental policy and governance, and climate change. VCI led a research scoping trip for 10 Gund fellows in Jan 2016 to meet with potential partners and explore areas of mutual interest for research collaborations. Three Cuban organizations have committed to working with Gund and VCI to raise funds to implement collaborative research projects. Specific areas of research include: a ridge to reef approach that connects sustainable agriculture and coastal ecosystems; food systems action research project that explores innovative participatory network approaches to food system planning that support agroecology and food sovereignty in Vermont and Cuba; and participatory action research that links urban agroecology in Cuba and Vermont.