Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 771–784 | Cite as

Low-carbon food supply: the ecological geography of Cuban urban agriculture and agroecological theory

  • Gustav Cederlöf


Urban agriculture in Cuba is often promoted as an example of how agroecological farming can overcome the need for oil-derived inputs in food production. This article examines the geographical implications of Cuba’s low-carbon urban farming based on fieldwork in five organopónicos in Pinar del Río. The article charts how energy flows, biophysical relations, and socially mediated ecological processes are spatially organised to enable large-scale urban agricultural production. To explain this production system, the literature on Cuban agroecology postulates a model of two distinct modes: agroecology versus industrial agriculture. Yet this distinction inadequately explains Cuba’s urban agriculture: production in the organopónicos rather sits across categories, at once involving agroecological, organic-industrial, and petro-industrial features. To resolve this contradiction, a more nuanced framework is developed that conceptualises production systems by means of their geographical configuration. This provides analytical clarity—and a political strategy for a low-carbon, degrowth agenda.


Urban agriculture Agroecology Degrowth Low-carbon transition Energy geography Cuba 



Centros de Reproducción de Entomófagos y Entomopatógenos (Centres for the Reproduction of Entomophages and Entomopathogens)


Field notes


Grupo Nacional de Agricultura Urbana (National Urban Agriculture Group)


Sistema Electroenergético Nacional (National Electricity System)


Unidad Básica de Producción Cooperativa (Basic Cooperative Production Unit)



The Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography supported this work. Fieldwork was carried out through the Linnaeus-Palme agreement between the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, and the University of Pinar del Río. Part of the research took place at the Human Ecology Division, Lund University. I would like to thank Frank Márquez, Andrea Nardi, Richard Langlais, Raymond Bryant, the journal’s editor and anonymous reviewers for support and constructive comments at various stages of the research process.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyKing’s College LondonLondonUK

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