Food Security and the Pandemic in Cuba: Film Release of “Trabajo de Amor”

Solidarity and Care During the Covid-19 Pandemic is now publishing the Caring in Crisis newsletter of the Platform for Innovation and Dialogue with Cuba, including this edition. This newsletter began March 20, 2020 and is released in both English and Spanish every other Friday. Past issues can be found in their original location here. The Platform was created to foster connections and collaborations between Atlantic Fellows, Cuban counterparts and other global stakeholders. Our mission is to create space for important conversations regarding equity, empathy and the future.

Photo from our short film Trabajo de Amor. Ismar Garcé serving customers at her farm stand.

25th September 2020

In April, Arundhati Roy famously wrote that the pandemic is a portal. As we witness  the announcement of new U.S. sanctions against Cuba and many other ongoing injustices around the world, we are also looking toward the future and considering who and what we want to be when we reach the other side. As we have addressed in our newsletter, the pandemic has intensified a pre-existing crisis in food and agricultural systems (this is true in Cuba, the U.S., and on a global scale). It is predicted that the number of people facing severe food insecurity worldwide could double to 265 million by the end of the year. While many high-level conversations about building resiliency in the food system are focused on large-scale, technological or data-driven solutions, we are also aware that successful alternatives are already being modeled at local levels.

When the pandemic hit, Cuba was forced to close its doors to tourism (one if its most important sources of hard currency), deepening a mounting economic crisis, and plunging the country into one of the worst food shortages in nearly 25 years. Many Cubans are facing extreme difficulties as they navigate long lines and limited transit to search for food items that are in short supply, and in some cases, extremely expensive. Many have even turned to new bartering networks popping up on messaging apps like Telegram to exchange  items with others.

Cuba’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy has indicated that increasing domestic food production is a priority of new economic reforms, and while the road ahead is extremely complex, there are some hopeful possibilities on the horizon. For one, the government is experimenting with de-centralization in order to increase innovation in food production at a local level. Additionally, with access to industrial pesticides cut off, many Cuban farmers are turning toward environmentally-friendly and sustainable methods, much as they did with great success  in the 1990s. Moreover, Cuba already has a supportive infrastructure for small-scale producers in both rural and urban settings.

For all these reasons and more,  this week we are delighted to release Trabajo de Amor, the final installment of our series on Cuban Visionaries who are working toward healthier, equitable, and more sustainable futures. The film’s subjects, Ismar Garcé and Roger Santiestaban, reveal the enormous existing capacity for small plots of land to sustain a community, a family, and a beautiful life project. The film was shot before COVID19. Since then, Ismar and Roger have increased their (socially-distanced) efforts to educate, train and inspire other community members to carryout similar projects.


10 noviembre 2020 — Sarah Stephens, Justine Williams and Mariakarla Nodarse

Sarah Stephens, Justine Williams and Mariakarla Nodarse

Washington DC, US & Cuba

Sarah Stephens, Cuba Platform founder and director, is a veteran leader in human rights and social justice, focused for the past 20 years on US relations with Cuba. She founded the Center for Democracy in the Americas, which played a key role in bringing about the historic opening between the United States and Cuba in 2014 and has led delegations for hundreds of cultural and political leaders, including over 60 members of the U.S. Congress and Senate. Her newest project, CARE LAB, is designed to bring together people and ideas in support of a more care-centered world.

Dr. Justine Williams, is managing director at the Cuba Platform and co-founder of the CARE LAB. She is an experienced ethnographic researcher, advocate, nonprofit manager, educator, author and anthropologist with 15 years of experience leveraging knowledge(s) and human experience for social change on issues of food, economic, land and racial and gender justice. She has worked for university centers and non-profit think tanks and is the editor of the volume Land Justice: Re-imagining Land, Food and the Commons.

Mariakarla Nodarse, program coordinator for the Cuba Platform, is a lawyer with a Master’s Degree in International Legal Studies and a specialization in international organizations. Her thesis explored the legal barriers to effectiveness that NGOs in Latin America face. Born in Cuba and later moving to Italy and then the U.S., Mariakarla is trilingual and experienced working across cultural and linguistic divisions.