December 22, 2017
Cuba and Japan have been maintaining a favorable relationship for a long time. Just like Japan, the staple food of Cuba is rice. Since 2003, JICA has been supporting the increase of rice production, utilizing Japan's long experience of rice cultivation.
Rice farm in Oita prefecture, Kyushu island, in the southwest part of Japan, where trainees learned about Japan's advanced techniques
Agriculture in Cuba used to be large monocultural state farms, and the country has relied heavily on trading of agricultural products, particularly among socialist states. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 affected the country’s food security. To increase food production, the Cuban government has taken various measures such as the agrarian land reform, leasing the idle state-owned farmland free of charge since 2007. As of year 2015, a total of 1,610,000 square hectares has been lent to approximately 210,000 farmers, including people with no previous farming experience. Nonetheless, production has not grown as expected and the self-sufficiency rate of rice is still a mere 55 percent*1 due to the lack of an agricultural extension service system to transfer techniques appropriate for each region.
To contribute to increasing the food production of Cuba, JICA has launched "The Project on Improvement of Agricultural Extension System for Grain Production" in January 2017, to transfer the technologies established by the previous cooperation with Cuba. The target area of the project covers eight provinces producing grain such as rice, frijol bean and corn.
Trainees learning at the Chiba Prefectural Agriculture and Forestry Research Center
In Japan, the national and local governments have been cooperating to support improvement of agricultural techniques, effective and stable agricultural management, and rural life, based on the Agricultural Improvement Promotion Act enacted in 1946, in the post-war period.
There are 360 prefectural Extension Centers*2 throughout Japan, with around 7,350 staff members and extension workers*3 employed by prefectures to provide supports to farmers. They share research findings from research institutes and good examples of innovative agricultural practices. In addition to the public extension service, agricultural cooperatives also provide supports for cooperative members by assigning farm management instructors.
Group photo with a farming family In Oita prefecture where trainees stayed
In the new project aimed to build an agricultural extension system in Cuba, JICA puts importance on sharing Japan's experiences as well as new practices in agriculture extension services. As part of the project, 15 extension workers and other involved staff members from the Cuban Grain Research Institute visited Japan from mid-August to late September to learn about Japan's agricultural extension system and its history. The group has also experienced "Green Tourism" farms, visiting farms engaged in the branding of agriculture products, and farm stays at Japanese farms.
Extension workers of the Grain Research Institute using the PCM method
Yusley Contreras Pérez, a participant from the Grain Research Institute, said, "It was extremely valuable to learn how Japan's agricultural extension system has been changed across the years. Experiencing the Japanese lifestyle and culture also helped me to deepen my understanding of it." Ibrahim Cantillo Pérez said, "The way the national government cooperates with local governments to transfer the necessary agricultural techniques to farmers is something I would love to apply in Cuba."
In addition to this Project on Improvement of Agricultural Extension System for Grain Production, JICA also donates agricultural machinery to help increase production of high-quality rice seeds.
*1 2014, Cuban Official National Statistics and Information Office
*2, *3 2017, Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries