Water and Mountains
Strengthening the Programme for Comprehensive Development of Cuban Mountains
Project symbol: TCP/CUB/2903
Photo © Patrick Nouhailler/Flickr
Mountains cover approximately 18 percent of Cuba and host more than 700 000 people - about 6 percent of the island’s total population. Mountain areas are of great environmental, economic and cultural importance for Cuba. Their ecosystems provide the country’s main water, forest and mining resources and produce nearly all of its coffee and cocoa yields. Mountain areas were also the sites for most of Cuba’s liberation war and are now of immense symbolic significance to the population.
Cuba was one of the first countries to include environmental issues in its constitution (Article 27 of 1976) and issued environmental laws well before the Bruntdland Report presented its principles for sustainable development. The relationship between social and environmental issues is included in national development policies, which are based on the belief that improved social conditions are a precondition for effective natural resources management. In spite of this commitment, mountain areas of Cuba were deteriorating mid-1980s; national programmes to improve social and environmental conditions either came too late or failed to address the specific needs of mountain areas. As a result, mountain people began to migrate to urban flatlands leaving mountain communities with little to no workforce.
In response, the Cuban government implemented two projects in the late 1980s: the Plan Turquino and the Plan Manatí. The Plan Turquino was a socio-economic programme aimed at stabilizing mountain populations and making mountain areas as independent from urban centres as possible. The Plan Manatí was an environmental programme aimed at preserving the balance among agricultural areas, forests and watersheds.
In 1995, the Government of Cuba united the two plans into the Programme for Comprehensive Development of Cuban Mountains (also known as Plan Turquino-Manatí), which covers the entire mountain population of 48 municipalities in the Guanihuanico, Guamuhaya, Sierra Maestra and Nipe-Sagua-Baracoa massifs. This plan is managed by the central government, with decentralization to the provincial or municipal levels for local projects.
Against this background, Cuba actively participated in the International Year of Mountains (IYM) 2002 and the International Year of Freshwater 2003. Nevertheless, international assistance to Cuban efforts to promote sustainable mountain development has been limited. Formulation and subsequent implementation of this TCP project originated from the need to encourage international agencies and donors to provide more effective support to the Cuban mountain process.
The FAO Project which operated from 2003-2006 provided support to the implementation of the principles for developing agricultural and forestry production in mountains areas identified by the Cuban National Committee for IYM in 2002. The specific objectives were twofold: