Cuba Cooperative Working Group

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"The NCBA CLUSA Cuba Cooperative Working Group (CCWG) was formed in early 2014 to explore opportunities for engaging with Cuba on cooperative development in various sectors of the country’s economy. NCBA CLUSA has a 60-year history of supporting cooperative development in more than 100 countries around the world, and is actively expanding its work in Latin America and the Caribbean, both as an implementer of development projects and as leader in the cooperative movement in the Americas.

The CCWG was formed in collaboration with Eric Leenson of SOL² Economics, which has been engaging with cooperative leaders in Cuba, Canada, and Latin America around the topic of socially responsible enterprise in Cuba." (


"To better understand the role cooperatives have played throughout the various periods of economic experimentation in Cuba, the CCWG met with a number of co-ops and experts on the history and role of cooperatives in Cuba.

There have been various phases and types of cooperatives developed in the more than 50 years since the Cuban revolution;

Most recently, Cuba has supported the development of non-agricultural co-ops. Cuba currently spends about $1 billion annually subsidizing basic food stuffs. Agriculture since the revolution had been part of the tightly controlled food production and marketing system that ensured all Cubans had access to basic food stuffs. Until recent years, as much as 82% of arable land was owned by the State. The co-ops manage almost 70% of farmed land. In recent years, tight state marketing control has loosened somewhat, providing an opening for the formation of more co-ops and private enterprises, and allowing co-ops and private farmers to market some foodstuffs at non-regulated prices in private markets without state control.

Although the revolution has sought to provide enough food for all Cubans, productivity in the farming sector has been poor, with much land unused or underused.

Currently, Cuba is only producing about 30% of food consumed and importing about $2 billion worth of food annually to meet basic dietary needs. With better agriculture policy and production, it is estimated that Cuba has the capacity to reduce food imports by 70%.

With the goals of increasing production, reducing the size and complexity of state enterprises, and reducing imports, the government has continued to focus on legislation to expand cooperatives in both the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors."


Cat Johnson:

The Lineamientos Reform in Cuba‎‎ ... "contained 313 measures including the following actions:

  1. Dramatically increase nonstate sector employment of the labor force
  2. Encourage large-scale private sector business opportunities
  3. Allow for the creation of nonagricultural worker cooperatives for the first time
  4. Provide for the use of idle lands in usufruct
  5. Decentralize the operation of state enterprises

Due to this reform, there are now almost 500 non-agricultural worker coops in Cuba ranging from beauty salons and auto repair shops to transportation companies and technical services. The coops are still state-approved, but cooperative workers have increased their incomes and created better, and more productive, working situations.

In early 2014, the NCBA CLUSA Cuba Cooperative Working Group (CCWG) was formed to “explore opportunities for engaging with Cuba on cooperative development in various sectors of the country’s economy.” The CCWG met with a network of US cooperative leaders from various sectors interested in connecting with Cuban cooperatives, cooperative researchers, and policymakers.

The working group’s first project was a one-week exploratory trip to Cuba to learn more about the Cuban cooperative movement, the country’s economy, and the increasingly important role cooperatives play in the country’s economic reform.

The group’s Cuba Research Trip report outlines the group’s observations and takeaways and shines light on some of the challenges the cooperative movement in Cuba faces.

Here are the key points:


  • The majority of the Cuban agricultural economy is already run by cooperatives. Now, the non-agricultural sector is embracing the cooperative model, laying the foundation for a cooperative economy.
  • Rural areas are being repopulated as people take advantage of farming state land with agricultural cooperatives.
  • There is a lot of momentum around the new cooperatives. People have increased incomes, better working conditions, and an optimistic vision for the future.
  • Leaders and workers understand that there’s a major economic shift taking place—and that they have a lot to learn. This openness lends itself to future collaborations.
  • Production levels are increasing dramatically.
  • Mechanisms are being created to support the bottom-up creation of cooperatives to help people better their lives.
  • The state is leasing property to cooperatives at reasonable rates, so even privately-owned coops can participate in the movement.


  • The conversion of managers of state-run businesses into cooperative leaders poses challenges of shifting perspectives and hierarchical leadership. Governance will be a key issue for future success.
  • Cooperative education and training is limited. Cooperative ideas are now integrated into a business’ guiding documents, but understanding, the report states, “does not appear to go much beyond the values of democratic participation and elections, and general equality in sharing economic risks and returns.”
  • There is no central, cooperative branch of the state. Each sector’s ministry is responsible for converting enterprises into cooperatives and lending support and leadership to them. This lack of a central ministry means there are inconsistent levels of support.
  • There needs to be more connection between Cuba and the international cooperative community.
  • There are cultural obstacles in place, including the fact that people are accustomed to relying on the state for their livelihoods. A context of ownership culture needs to be created.
  • A major impediment has been the inability of Cuban cooperatives to “secure inputs from national or international markets, due to economic and political constraints.”
  • Once laws are passed, there tend to be long lag times before they’re implemented, which slows down the creation of cooperatives.

Possible Next Steps

  • Determine interest within other U.S. constituencies for improved relations through engagement with the Cuban cooperative sector.
  • Do network-building and liaising with various cooperative networks working in Cuba.
  • Continue meeting to share CCWG’s observations and engage other in Cuba’s cooperative movement.
  • Continue to grow technical exchange and assistance programs
  • Pass cooperative-supportive legislation and continue to draw from international best practices."


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