Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Agricultural cycle and operati...
 Effects of the "special period"...
 Costs of production
 Work performance: incentives, sanctions...
 Decision making
 Case study protocol
 Diesel fuel use by month
 Price trends for major inputs
 Food crop allotment
 Sugarcane harvest norms
 Spending permit incentive...
 Useful conversion factors
 Literature cited
 Biographical sketch

Group Title: Cooperative agricultural operations management on a Cuban sugarcane farm : "... and everything gets done anyway"
Title: Cooperative agricultural operations management on a Cuban sugarcane farm
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081817/00001
 Material Information
Title: Cooperative agricultural operations management on a Cuban sugarcane farm "...and everything gets done anyway"
Physical Description: viii, 172 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Royce, Frederick S., 1952-
Publication Date: 1996
Subject: Sugarcane -- Cuba   ( lcsh )
Collective farms -- Management -- Cuba   ( lcsh )
Agricultural and Biological Engineering thesis, M.S
Dissertations, Academic -- Agricultural and Biological Engineering -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis (M.S.)--University of Florida, 1996.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 168-171).
Statement of Responsibility: by Frederick S. Royce.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00081817
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002118359
oclc - 35822271
notis - AKV8090


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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
    Agricultural cycle and operations
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
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        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
    Effects of the "special period" on sugarcane production at the CPA "Amistad Cuba Laos"
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
    Costs of production
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
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        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
    Work performance: incentives, sanctions and monitoring
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
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        Page 100
        Page 101
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        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
    Decision making
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
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        Page 125
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        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
    Case study protocol
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
    Diesel fuel use by month
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
    Price trends for major inputs
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
    Food crop allotment
        Page 162
        Page 163
    Sugarcane harvest norms
        Page 164
    Spending permit incentive scheme
        Page 165
        Page 166
    Useful conversion factors
        Page 167
    Literature cited
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
    Biographical sketch
        Page 172
        Page 173
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"A cooperative farm is a place where everybody gives orders, nobody follows orders, and
everything gets done anyway."

(told to the author by a member of the executive
committee, "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative)

This study is dedicated to the members of Cuba's agricultural production cooperatives:

pioneers in workplace democracy.


I am very happy to be able to recognize my debts of gratitude to a number of

people whose diverse contributions have helped to make this research project the fine, and

even enjoyable, experience that it has been.

In Cuba, the members of the "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative opened their

ledger books and their homes, and gave of their knowledge, time, and trust, as well as

their delicious cassava, beans and rice. Indeed, I might never have arrived at the

cooperative except for the decisive intervention of Mavis Alvarez of the "Asociaci6n

Nacional de Agricultores Pequefios" (ANAP), who also provided me with opportunities to

meet members of many other cooperatives. Armando Nova, of the "Centro de

Investigaciones de Economia Internacional" (CIEI), was very helpful during my stay in

Cuba, even to the point of visiting me in the field on several occasions.

Funding for field research in Cuba was provided by the John D. and Catherine T.

MacArthur Foundation, through the University of Florida's, "International Agricultural

Trade and Development Center" (IATDC). William Messina and Kamal Dow of the

IATDC provided the institutional context for the research, and approved financial support

for field research. Carmen Diana Deere, whose excellent seminar at the University of

Florida could not have come at a better time for this study, gave advice, information and

quiet inspiration. At the Food and Resource Economics Department, Chris Andrew's

insight and close attention greatly improved my research proposal, and Michael Martin has

thoughtfully kept me abreast of the relevant economic literature.

My committee chair, Robert Peart, has always found time to help find answers for

my questions. His unwavering support greatly facilitated my pursuit of a research theme

that was a bit outside the usual lines of inquiry of the Department of Agricultural and

Biological Engineering. Neither the study, nor the degree would have been possible

without the generous assistantship provided by that department.

And closest to home, Estela, our daughters, and my parents have each contributed

to this endeavor in their own ways.


A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S .............................................................................................. iii

ABSTRACT..... .......................... ....................... vii

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION .................................................... ........ .............
Specific O objectives ............................................ ...... ............... 2
M methodology ..................... ............ ................... ............... .... 3
Brief History of Agricultural Production Cooperatives in Cuba .............. .......... 5
The "Am istad Cuba Laos" Cooperative................................. .................... ..... 11
The Role of the Agro-Industrial Complex .......................................... ............. 14

CHAPTER 2 AGRICULTURAL CYCLE AND TECHNIQUE.............. ............... 15
Special A aspects of Sugarcane M anagem ent........................................... ... ............... 15
P la n tin g ......................................................................................................... 1 8
Irrig atio n ....................................................................... 2 3
Cultivation and W eed Control......................................................... ......... ..... 24
F e rtiliz a tio n ................................................................. .................................... 3 1
R e -p la n tin g ................................................................. ..................................... 3 2
M maintenance of Field B orders ......................................................... ......... ..... 34
H harvesting .................................... ................................... ........ 34

Production Declines: Quantitative Aspects and the National Context ....................... 41
Production D eclines: Specific C auses............................................... ... ................ 42
Input Shortages and the National Context ....................................... .............. 48
Cooperative Response to Falling Production and Income....................................... 49

CHAPTER 4 COSTS OF PRODUCTION ................ ...................................... 54
Economic Importance of Sugarcane Cooperatives............................................... 54
Cooperative Cost A accounting ......................................................... ......... ..... 55
T he C ost-to-Incom e R atio ......................................................................... .............. 57
Terms of Exchange: Farm Input to Output........................................................... 59
Overall Cost Structure ............................................................... .......... 60

CHAPTER 5 W ORKFORCE .......................................................... .............. 63
Cooperative M embers...... ........................................................... .............. 65
N on-M em ber C ontracted L abor....................................................... ... .. .............. 78
V volunteer L abor ................................................................. 82


M O N IT O R IN G ................ ... ........... ..... .. ................................. 83
The "Free Rider" Problem: A Recurrent Theoretical Concern .......... ................. 84
M ember Incom es ........................ .......... ... .................................. 85
Quantitative Comparison of Income Sources....................................................... 92
Incom e as a W ork Incentive................................................... .......................... 94
N orm s ................................. ......... ........ .................. ...... 95
N ew Incentives ....................... ............ ....... .... ................................ 107
Vinculaci6n del Hombre al Area: Linking of the Man to the Land ......................... 109
P participation as M otivation ................................................................... ............. 111

CHAPTER 7 DECISION MAKING ................................... 113
M anagem ent A utonom y ......................................................................... ........ 113
M anagem ent O objectives ..................................................................... ..... 122
M em b er P articip ation .......................................................................... ...... .......... 12 6
Participation and Vinculaci6n ................................... .. ........ .......... 129
Information and Member Participation ........ ......... ........... .. ............. 130

CH APTER 8 CON CLU SION ......... ................ ................................. ............. 133
G general Characteristics .......................... ......... ...................... ............. 133
M ost Im portant Strengths .......................... .......... ................... ............. 135
M ost Serious Problem s .......................... ......... ...................... ............. 137
Alternative Directions for the Future ........... ... ...... .. ......................... ............ 139

APPENDIX A CASE STUDY PROTOCOL ........................................ 146

APPENDIX B DIESEL FUEL USE BY MONTH .......... ................ ............ 156

APPENDIX C PRICE TRENDS FOR MAJOR INPUTS ......................................... 159

APPENDIX D FOOD CROP ALLOTMENT.................................................... 162

APPENDIX E SUGARCANE HARVEST NORMS ................................................. 164

APPENDIX F SPENDING PERMIT INCENTIVE SCHEME.................................. 165

APPENDIX G USEFUL CONVERSION FACTORS ............................................... 167

L IT E R A T U R E C IT E D .............................................................................................. 168

BIOGRAPH ICAL SKETCH ........................................................... .......... ..... 172

Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science




August, 1996

Chairman: Robert Peart
Major Department: Agricultural and Biological Engineering

This case study of a Cuban sugarcane cooperative provides a description of farm

operations, and an analysis of the major social and technological factors which shape

cooperative management in mid-1990s Cuba. The study is based on field research that

included interviews with cooperative members, examination of documents, and direct

observation of work, decision making, and relations between members.

After a brief history of agricultural production cooperatives in Cuba, the exposition

describes the case farm's agricultural cycle, membership characteristics, and system of

work monitoring and incentives. The effects of input shortages on farm output, and the

relative movement of input vs. output prices are analyzed over the past 5 years. The

various components of member income are investigated, and implications for work

incentives are drawn. The related issues of cooperative autonomy from the government,

and member participation within the cooperative are examined.

The farm is found to be a highly mechanized, well organized operation, with basic

planning and accounting systems in place. Farm management autonomy is limited by

government restrictions, but existing entrepreneurial space may be sufficient to promote

on-going improvements in productive efficiency. The cooperative is open to the adoption

of new technologies, and sugarcane yields which plummeted as a result of severe input

shortages, are now recovering as inputs become available. On the other hand, work

quality and intensity appear to be below potential, in part due to an incentive system which

has not evolved to meet the country's changing economic conditions. There is very

limited use made of the considerable volume of information which the cooperative gathers

regarding its own operations. Little of this information is ever processed and reported to

the general membership; a practice that limits member participation.

Several distinct, sometimes competing, visions of the cooperative's future were

observed. Some of the issues are a return to the industrial-based agriculture of the 1980s

versus an emphasis on increasing animal traction and other locally available inputs; greater

management autonomy versus continued high levels of government involvement; and

whether or not to change the locus of responsibility for production from the collective to

the family level. One problem area seemingly not addressed by any of the sides in the

strategy debate concerns the relation between information, participation and

accountability. Based on the analysis presented in this study, it is chiefly within that broad

area that the cooperative has the opportunity, through its own efforts, to significantly

improve performance.


The present thesis is a case study of a sugarcane farming cooperative located near

the city of Havana, Cuba. One of the justifications for performing a single case study is

when "an investigator has the opportunity to observe and analyze a phenomenon

previously inaccessible to scientific investigation ." (Yin 1994:40). Although the

internal dynamics of specific Cuban cooperative farms have been examined by Cuban

researchers, the results of their studies are not readily available in the U.S.1 Furthermore,

the Cuban research seems to have been overwhelmingly conducted by economists,

sociologists, historians and other social scientists, rather than by agricultural, engineering

or management specialists.

A principal purpose of this study is therefore to provide, in a form accessible to the

U.S. academic, and especially agricultural sciences community, insights into the

management of Cuban cooperative farms. Since the data on which the study is based was

collected at a single sugarcane producing cooperative, the conclusions should be only

tentatively applied to Cuban sugarcane cooperatives in general, and even more cautiously

related to cooperatives which specialize in other crops. On the other hand, the research

methodology developed, and issues raised, are probably applicable to any type of Cuban

farming cooperative. Therefore, the academic value of the study may lie as much in its

1 An exception is the ongoing work of Carmen Diana Deere et al, 1992, 1994 and 1995.

methodological aspects as in its conclusions. In addition, it is hoped that the study will be

useful to those whose responsibilities include cooperative management, whether members

of the "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative, or leaders of the cooperative movement at

Cuba's National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP).

To those Cubans who, for whatever reasons, are concerned with the success of the

agricultural production cooperatives, the potential value of this study is obvious. But of

what practical value is a study of the management of Cuban cooperatives for the citizens

of Florida? In Cuba today, the production cooperative is the dominant management

paradigm in agriculture. The results of cooperative management therefore determine the

income and work satisfaction levels of hundreds of thousands of cooperative members, the

food availability for millions of Cubans, and the bulk of export earnings for the entire

nation. A confluence of history, politics and geography determines that the instability

which would result from a failure of agriculture in Florida's closest southern neighbor

would in turn generate real problems for the Sunshine State itself. In this sense, it

behooves Floridians to understand what is presently unfolding in Cuban agriculture.

Specific Objectives

The study has 6 specific objectives.

1. Provide a case description of the "Amistad Cuba-Laos" cooperative which includes its
history; a general inventory of lands, infrastructure and machinery; the agricultural
cycle; machine management; membership size and functions; system of work
monitoring and payment; and leadership and organization.

2. Determine the extent of input shortages and price changes at the cooperative during
the past 5 years. Measure the changes in the relative prices which the cooperative
pays for inputs, as compared to prices paid to co-op for the cane produced.

3. Quantify the economic importance of recent liberalization measures, especially the
opening of free agricultural markets, for this sugarcane cooperative.

4. Examine the effects of input shortages, price increases, and liberalization, each upon
the cooperative's management.

5. Determine relative levels of importance of various components of members' income,
the implications for work incentives, and for the stability of the membership over time.

6. Describe the nature of member participation. What practices act for, and against,
member participation in management?

Overall, the emphasis is more operational than economic, and more focused on

management of the workforce, than on management of the crop. The nature and effects of

political affiliations and kinship, important as they may be, are outside the scope of this



Data gathering was guided by the research protocol, which was in turn based on

my research objectives. This protocol, as formulated prior to initiating the field research,

is included as Appendix A. Due to time limitations, not all elements included in the

protocol could be addressed by the research. Data, or evidence, was collected from four

main sources:

1. Interviews with cooperative members, especially, but not exclusively, those on the
board of directors.

2. Examination of documents created by, or about, the co-op.

3. Review of archives: member lists, maps, receipts

4. Direct observation of work, decision making, relations between members and leaders
and other aspects of co-op life.

As data accumulated, it was cataloged according to its relevance to each protocol

theme. A count was kept of the number of references to each section of the protocol, to

assure adequate coverage of the most important themes. Through a mixture of necessity

and preference, this was all done manually. I judged that a tape recorder might cause

some anxiety for those being interviewed, so all notes were hand-written. Since I had no

access to a portable computer, all entries, including frequent consolidation of notes at the

end of each day, were on paper. And finally, since photocopiers are unavailable in the

town of Bauta, many hours were spent copying archival evidence, number by number.

Beginning August 6th 1995, my 4 weeks at the cooperative were divided among

three of the farm's four major administrative areas (see Figure 1-1).2 For the first week, I

"shadowed," the board member in charge of overall production (jefe de producci6n), who

was also acting president, while the president himself was on vacation. The following

week, I was with the agronomist, who directs operations specifically for sugar cane. I

began the 3rd week at the co-op's machine repair shop, spending time with the member in

charge of co-op machinery ("jefe de maquinaria"), the shop foreman and the mechanics.

Towards the end of that week, and during the fourth, last week, I moved into the

cooperative administrative offices, where I pursued open-ended interviews with the

cooperative's economic officer, and had access to records, from which I copied the figures

I sought. After leaving the cooperative, I spent three days at a training center for

cooperative members, where a month-long course for the agronomists from nearly 100

cooperatives was in progress. This contact with members of cooperatives from all corners

of Cuba provided an excellent opportunity to place my experiences at "Amistad Cuba-

2. The department I did not "enter" was "Procurement." While this function is vital, especially in times
of input shortages, its operations are principally oriented outward, while my focus was on cooperative
internal dynamics. In any case, the procurement "jefe" was on vacation during nearly my entire stay, as
was the cooperative president. I knew that August was a vacation month in Cuba, and so planned my
research for June and July. In spite of applying months in advance for necessary documents, both the
Cuban visa and the U.S. license were delayed until mid-July.

Laos" into a larger perspective. Finally, on a brief visit to Cuba in June of 1996, I was

able to spend a day visiting another sugarcane cooperative in Ciego de Avila province,

and later, a few hours at the "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative, clarifying a few points

regarding their machine use, and taking photographs.

Brief History of Agricultural Production Cooperatives in Cuba

What is an Agricultural Production Cooperative?

Edward Reed has described the agricultural production cooperative as a farm


the land and major capital items are held in joint ownership by the farm
workers themselves, the bulk of the land is collectively cultivated, and any
profits of the enterprise are shared by the cooperative members. Ideally, as
joint owners, members of production cooperatives participate in the
decision-making process concerning all aspects of production, distribution
and investment. Thus, this type of group farm is distinguished from the
state farm, where workers are wage employees of the state, and forms of
cooperation where farmers cultivate their individual plots while carrying
out some operations jointly. (1977 p. 360)

First Period of Cooperative Formation

Since the Cuban revolution of 1959, there have been three periods during which

the government has promoted the formation of agricultural production cooperatives. The

first period, from 1959 through 1963, saw the formation of 3 types of cooperatives. The

earliest, called simply "agricultural cooperatives," were established on large non-sugarcane

farms or ranches, which had been expropriated during the first months of the revolution

(Bianchi 1964:105). Between May 1959 and May 1960, 881 of these production

cooperatives, mostly in the size range of 200 to 300 hectares, were organized. This first

co-op experience was short-lived, however. In January of 1961 these cooperatives were

merged into the centrally managed network of state farms. Meanwhile, in June of 1960

similar cooperatives were established on the "administration lands" of large sugarcane

plantations.3 Within 2 months over 600 of these "sugarcane cooperatives" were

established, and in May 1961, 622 cooperatives, with a total of 122,000 members

controlled 809,000 hectares of land (Bianchi 1964:108). Like the "agricultural

cooperatives, the "sugarcane cooperatives" were to be a brief institutional interlude on the

road to a centrally managed agriculture. After only 2 harvests, in August 1962, the

National Congress of Sugarcane Cooperatives voted almost unanimously to transform

their cooperatives into state farms (Dominguez 1978:448; Dumont 1970:48; Bianchi

1964:107-108). A somewhat more enduring effort at cooperative agricultural production

was initiated by the National Association of Small Producers (ANAP) in 1961.4 Between

May of that year and May 1962, ANAP organized 229 "agricultural societies." These

cooperatives differed from those previously discussed in 3 major ways. First, they were

composed of small farmers who pooled their land in order to work it collectively, sharing

draft animals and implements (Martin Barrios 1987:53). Second, they were much smaller

than either the agricultural or sugarcane cooperatives: the average size of the 345 agrarian

societies reported in August 1963 was 137 hectares, with a membership just under 13

farmers.5 Finally, the agrarian societies were more democratic, with members electing

3. Administration lands were those fields managed directly by the sugarcane mill administration, as
opposed to those lands leased to cane farmers.

4. Since 1961 the Asociaci6n Nacional de Agricultores Pequefios, or ANAP, has been the officially
sanctioned representative of Cuba's private agricultural producers.

5. The totals reported in Martin Barrios (1987:53) are 4,429 members and 3,526 caballerias (47,319 ha).
It is not stated whether this is total land area, or agricultural lands only.

their own authorities, whereas the government appointed managers to the agricultural and

sugarcane cooperatives (Bianchi 1964:106, 127). Although over 500 agrarian societies

were organized in 1962 and 1963, these cooperatives failed to generate much interest

among the small farmers (Regalado 1979:197). By late 1967 only 126 remained, and four

years later, the count had dropped to 41 (Dominguez 1978:449; Martin Barrios 1987:74).

Second Period of Cooperative Formation

The second period of cooperative formation spanned the years 1977 through 1983.

The "agricultural production cooperatives" cooperativea de producci6n agropecuaria or

CPA) organized during this period were fundamentally very similar to the earlier agrarian

societies, though usually larger.6 Since the cooperative selected for this case study is a

CPA, this period will receive a more thorough treatment than the other two.

As a result of the agrarian reform law of 1959, small, independent farmers came to

own about 30 percent of Cuba's farmland (Zimbalist and Eckstein 1987:8). Throughout

the late 60s and early 70s, the Cuban government utilized various pressures and incentives

to integrate these private farmers into the state's agricultural planning, production and

distribution system, which was a centerpiece of the planned economy (Zimbalist and

Eckstein 1987:9). As a result, during this period many peasant farms were either leased or

sold to the state.7 Beginning in 1975, however, the government began changing official

policy towards peasant farmers. The new policy led to a gradual, voluntary process of

6. It may be confusing that the specific name given to these co-ops, "agricultural production
cooperatives," is the same as the generic name. To reduce the possibility of confusion, I will use the
Spanish acronym "CPA."
7. Even leaders of ANAP, the small farmer organization, apparently felt that their membership would
gradually disappear, as peasants opted out of private farming. Interview with Mavis Alvarez (7/95),
founding member of ANAP, and presently Director of Development Projects of that organization.

attracting farmers into agricultural production cooperatives of their own making, rather

than into state owned farms (Deere et al. 1992:120; Zimbalist and Eckstein 1987:13).

The practical task of organizing the CPAs was carried out by the small producer

association, ANAP. Beginning in the early 60s, ANAP's membership was gradually

organized into mutual aid groups and credit and service cooperatives. This organized,

small farmer base proved to be fertile ground for the creation of production cooperatives,

over 1000 of which were constituted between 1977 and 1980. A good deal of the long-

term success of this effort seems to have been due to the emphasis placed on persuasion,

rather than coercion. By pooling their lands, and working collectively, each farmer would

no longer be tied to a particular, often isolated, plot of ground. Cooperatives would bring

member families together, often closer to towns or villages, and permit access to

electricity, improved housing, schools, and medical care. This new form of production

would be based on machinery, to lighten the farmer's burden, and to increase productivity.

Cooperatives provided for paid vacations and retirement pensions; benefits which small

farmers had never known. And in any case, those who entered the cooperatives could, to

some extent, "have their cake, and eat it too," since each member would be gradually paid

off by the cooperative for the land he or she "contributed" (Deere et al. 1992:121; Ghai et

al. 1988:70-83).

During the late 1970s in Cuba, new departures in the economic, political, and even

technological spheres seemed to bode well for these relatively autonomous, democratic,

profit-making cooperatives. Coincident with the launching the CPAs, a new system of

economic planning known as the SDPE (Sistema de Direcci6n y Planificaci6n de la

Economia) was being implemented throughout Cuba. In contrast to official economic

practice since the early 1960s, the new system emphasized the need for cost calculations,

self-financing, profit sharing and enterprise autonomy (Fuller 1992:97; Zimbalist and

Brundenius 1989:127). Meanwhile, the political space available to the citizenry was

expanded somewhat through the incorporation of secret balloting into the local elections

known as "poder popular" or people's power (Perez-Stable 1993:123). Finally, in 1977,

the same year in which the first CPAs were formed, the first Cuban sugarcane combine-

harvester factory began production (Sims et al. 1993: 68). Together with the ubiquitous

Soviet tractors, these harvesters came to represent the advantages of the large scale

operations permitted by production cooperatives (Edquist 1985:133).

Throughout the first few years of CPA development, a typical cooperative would

comprise less than 30, socially homogeneous members. Thereafter, due to the entry of

new members, and to a tendency to amalgamate smaller cooperatives into fewer, larger

units, the average membership size grew to around 50, where it has remained (Deere et al.

1992:123,133). 8 The social origins of the membership also became more diverse, with

new members increasingly from the ranks of landless agricultural laborers, skilled workers

(mechanics, welders) and professionals (accountants, agronomists). Although the

presence of a core of former small farmers and their family members remains a very

important characteristic of the CPAs today, the tendency appears to be for the

cooperatives to become numerically dominated by the other groups mentioned.

In 1983, there were 1,474 CPAs, with an average of 637 hectares, and 51

8. The specific importance of the sugarcane combine-harvesters in convincing members of small
cooperatives to merge into larger cooperatives was confirmed by this author's interviews with founding
members of the "Antonio Maceo" CPA and the "Amistad Cuba Laos" CPA of Havana province in August
of 1995, and of the "Revoluci6n de Etiopia" CPA in Ciego de Avila province, in June of 1996.

members, per cooperative (Deere et al. 1992:123). By December 1994, there were 1155

CPAs, with a total of 61,722 members and 748,000 agricultural hectares, or 11.2% of

Cuba's agricultural lands (Figueroa 1995:18-20; ANAP 1994). In spite of the gradual

decline in numbers, the CPA has proved to be a much more successful model for

cooperatives than were any of the previous attempts.

Third Period of Cooperative Formation

The most recent period of cooperative formation, from September 1993 through

early 1995, constitutes a reversal of the early 1960s policies which converted the

agricultural and sugarcane cooperatives to state farms. The large, inefficient state

managed farms had become increasingly untenable in the early 1990s, and the relatively

more efficient CPA provided the organizational model for an extensive agrarian reform

(Deere 1995:14; Figueroa 1995:14,15). The process of transformation of state farms into

cooperatives, called "basic units of cooperative production" (UBPC), began in September

of 1993, and unfolded very rapidly during the following year and a half. As of February of

1995, there were a total of 2866 UBPCs; 1426 in sugarcane, and 1440 in other crops and

livestock. These farms, with a total membership of 273,247, occupied 2,709,600 hectares,

or 40.6% of Cuba's agricultural lands (Figueroa 1995:19-20). While the UBPCs were

patterned after the CPA model, they differ in that the CPAs were formed by small farmers

pooling their lands, whereas the UBPCs were initiated by former state farm workers, on

lands still owned by the state, with open-ended, rent-free usufruct granted to the

cooperative (Deere 1995:14).

The "Amistad Cuba Laos" Cooperative

According to a document developed by the Cuban Ministry of Sugar in 1983,9 the

"Amistad Cuba Laos" CPA was formally founded on December 9th, 1980, with 10

caballerias (134 hectares) of land, and 18 members.10 On April 15th, 1983, the original

"Amistad Cuba Laos" merged with the nearby "Antonio Maceo Grajales" CPA. That

same year, the cooperative reached 60.3 caballerias (809 hectares) and 71 members. At

the time of the study in August, 1995, the cooperative possessed a total of 88.5 caballerias

(1188 hectares), with the following distribution:

* 65.3 caballerias (876 hectares) in sugarcane.

* 2.9 caballerias (39 hectares) food crops for members.

* 2.9 caballerias (39 hectares) livestock, (mostly milk cows for member

* 17.4 caballerias (234 hectares) area not useable for agriculture (areas for houses,
buildings, access roads, drainage ditches and especially hillsides).

There were 88 members in August 1995, and 96 in June of 1996. The chapter on

"workforce" will go into more detail about the members. The cooperative is highly

mechanized, with 28 wheel tractors, 4 track-type tractors, 4 sugarcane combine-harvesters

and 2 medium-duty trucks.

Figure 1-1 illustrates the organization of authority within the cooperative. There

was no similar chart posted anywhere at the co-op, nor was I able to find one among the

9 Delegaci6n La Habana, MINAZ-ANAP. 1983.Segunda etapa del plan rector, CPA modelo: Programa de
desarrollo y perspective de la cooperative de producci6n agro pecuario "Amistad Cuba Lao."
10. When referring to the "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative, I have followed the cooperative's usage of
Cuban measures for land area (caballerias) and weight of sugarcane arrobass). Of course I have included
hectare and kilogram equivalents, as well as a conversion table (Appendix G).

cooperative documents. In general, the leaders who sketched for me their understanding

of the cooperative's organizational structure seemed unfamiliar with applying the concept

of an organizational diagram to their own organization. It may be that the responsibilities

of each position have been stable for so many years, that they have become accepted as

"second nature," and do not require references such as charts, or even a written charter or

constitution (which could not be located, either). Interestingly, although the members of

the executive council are elected, none of the leaders who drew an organizational chart

included the "general assembly of (all) members" in his sketch. 11 Referring again to

Figure 1-1, each of the four "departments" is presided by an officer called a "jefe." One

of these department heads was not included in a list, which the president provided me, of

current members of the executive council. The shaded boxes indicate the origin of each of

the 9 members of the executive council. There are also 2 "staff" positions: agronomist

("ingeniero agr6nomo") and mechanization expert ("ingeniero mecanizador"). Each of

these individuals has functional authority over a vital activity, as shown by the dotted lines.

11. Since no election was held during my stay, I had to depend on interviews for information regarding
the selection of leaders. Members indicated that elections may involve either choosing between
alternative candidates, or (perhaps more commonly) a "referendum" on a single candidate. Voting is
secret for all members of the executive council, except for the election of the president, for which there is
a show of hands. Terms are nominally 5 years, but officers can be (and are) recalled if circumstances
warrant. That the general assembly is the highest authority within the cooperative is stated in article 14 of
the Cooperative Law (Consejo de Ministros 9/20/1990:17).

Figure 1-1 "Amistad Cuba Laos" CPA Organizational Diagram

The Role of the Agro-Industrial Complex

Each Cuban sugarcane farm is associated with an agro-industrial complex

("complejo agro-industrial", or CAI), at the center of which is the sugar mill which

purchases the farm's cane. The CAI is a dependency of the Ministry of Sugar, and is the

most visible and active link between the state, and each sugar farm. The "Amistad Cuba

Laos" cooperative "belongs" to the Manuel Martinez Prieto CAI. 12 In addition to being

the sole purchaser of the cooperative's cane, the CAI is the sole supplier of major inputs,

notably machinery, parts, fuel, lubricants, fertilizer and herbicides. The CAI receives

copies of the cooperative's annual plan, and monitors fulfillment of a variety of activities.

This monitoring activity brings CAI personnel to the cooperative at least weekly, and even

several times per week. Later chapters will provide more detail on the nature and effects

of CAI-cooperative relations.

12 Formerly "Central Toledo," now the only sugar mill in metropolitan Havana.


Special Aspects of Sugarcane Management
Compared to many field crops, sugarcane management is complicated by several


1) Depending on the variety of cane, and the month in which it is planted, 12 to 22
months are required from planting to harvest.

2) Sugarcane is not replanted after every harvest. Rather, it is repeatedly grown from the
root and stalk stubble that remains after each harvest. Commercial plantations can
thus regenerate for 10 or more years, although yields tend to decline with successive
cuttings. Good cultural practices can delay the expensive planting process. A
minimum of 12 months should be allowed between the stubble, or "ratoon," harvests
(Alvarez and Pefia Castellanos 1995, 17).

According to the co-op agronomist, the cooperative's cane fields are subject to

"demolici6n," or being plowed under and re-sown, about every 5 years. In practice, co-

op records only distinguish between cane which has never been harvested, cane harvested

once, and cane harvested two or more times Therefore, the 5 year figure is an estimate,

or perhaps a goal, but not a rule. The cooperative's record keeping is not detailed enough

to use either strict economic criteria, or even documented historical precedent to decide

when to plow and plant. It seems that several "rules of thumb", including thin (small

1 "Cafia plant" is cane which has never been cut, although this cane is usually referred to simply in
terms of the season in which it was planted: "primavera" (Jan-June) or "frio" (July Dec.). After the first
cutting, the seasonal reference is dropped, and the term "soca" is used, until the second cutting, following
which all plants are called "retofios" until they are plowed under. In conversations, members would
speak of second or third "retofio" (not usually "first", since that is covered by "soca"), but I never found a
written reference to anything except a generic "retofio."

diameter) cane stalks, a visibly low density of cane plants per area in a field, a recollection

of the number of times a field has been harvested, and a more-or-less accurate knowledge

of that field's yield from the last harvest, all enter into the decision. None of the

cooperative's cane lands are deliberately left fallow for periods as long as a full season.

Crop rotation is practiced on a limited scale (11% of plowed fields, 1994-95 crop year) for

the production of rice, or other food crops.2

What follows is a description of each of the cooperative's major sugarcane

operations. Throughout the following discussion, it may be helpful to refer to the charts

on the following page. These charts are largely based on the "Amistad Cuba Laos"

cooperative's work plan for the 1995 calendar year (Plan Tecnico Economico 1995).

Figures 2-1 and 2-2 indicate approximately how much land area should be covered by

each major operation, during each month. Figure 2-3 plots monthly rainfall, the single

most important climatic variable affecting this agricultural cycle. The mean monthly

figures used are from the town of Bauta, where the cooperative is located (Alvarez 1994:

7). The cooperative's very high level of mechanization enables completion of the harvest

well within the low rainfall "window" from December through April.

2 "CPA Cuba Laos: Plan TUcnico Econ6mico 1995," Modelo No. 301.











oI a
d m O 0

Figure CHAPTER 2 -1 Major mechanized operations scheduling for sugarcane.


0 Weed Control
20 Planting




0 O 0 |

Figure CHAPTER 2 -2 Manual field operations scheduling for sugarcane.


m 150
P 100

Figure CHAPTER 2 -3 Average monthly rainfall amounts.

The planting process begins by uprooting the recently cut cane stubble, using a 3-

disk, semi-mounted plow (Figure 2-4), drawn by an 80 horsepower tracklaying (crawler

type) tractor, model DT-75 (Figure 2-5). Each 66 cm diameter disk makes a 30 cm wide

cut. According to an expert from a machine experimental station, plowing speed is 7

km/hr. By preference, a field is plowed immediately after being harvested,3 both in order

to plant as soon as possible, and to avoid new growth from the stubble roots. Such growth

slows the field preparation, and increases costs.4 The principal objective of this first

plowing is to uproot and kill the stubble. Plowing is followed by disk harrowing, utilizing

either the 80 horsepower wheel tractor, or the previously mentioned DT-75 crawler to

pull the offset, notched-bladed, disk harrow (Figure 2-6). The field is then left fallow for

6 to 8 weeks, to allow the soil clods to disintegrate; to permit weed seeds to germinate,

and to allow decomposition of the organic matter in the field to proceed. After the fallow

period, the two previous operations are repeated, using the same equipment, but now

working across the first furrows. Taken together, these 4 operations represent some 80%

of the machine related planting expenses. In order to reduce this large expense, the

cooperative recently began experimenting with a minimum tillage alternative which,

3 The government technical recommendations instruct Cuban cane farmers to keep at least one tractor
plowing behind the combines 16 hours a day (Plan T6cnico Econ6mico CPA Amistad Cuba Laos 1995: 4).

4 The danger of waiting was illustrated by the experience of a farm not far from "Amistad Cuba-Laos",
which delayed plowing 3 months, then faced the necessity of cutting and hauling out all the new growth,
to enable plowing to proceed. Since this option was too costly, it was decided to let the field grow until
the next harvest, even though the harvest itself will almost certainly cost more than the sparse cane will

according to the co-op agronomist, requires only half as many field passes to achieve the

same results. The implement used for the minimum tillage trials, referred to

APTER 2 -4 Three-disk, semi-mounted plow.

.54.~5 :

Figure CHAPTER 2 -6 Offset Harrow.

as a "multiarado," was designed and constructed in Cuba, has only two very small moving

parts, and is less expensive than the disk plow it replaces (Figure 2-7). Regardless of

whether traditional or minimum tillage is used, the next step is to create the planting

furrows. These furrows are 20 to 25 cm deep, with 1.6 meters between furrows, center-

to-center. The tractor of choice here is the lightest in the co-op inventory, the 60

horsepower wheel tractor "Jumz-6" 5 (Figure 2-8), which produces one furrow at a time.

If soil tests indicate that the field being planted requires potassium or phosphorus, fertilizer

is placed in the furrow as it is opened. Nitrogen fertilizer is never supplied to recently

5 According to a Russian text translated for me in Cuba, the maximum engine power ratings for the three
tractors used by the co-op are reported as:
MTZ-80 wheel tractor, D-240 engine, 58.9 kW @ 2200 rpm.
Jumz-6 wheel tractor, D-65M engine, 44.3 kW @ 1750 rpm.
DT-75 crawler tractor, CMD-14H engine, 59.5 kW @ 1800 rpm.

planted cane, since the Cuban Ministry of Sugar trials indicate that sugarcane does not

show response to N until after the first harvest.6

r ^_ II -

Figure CHAPTER 2 -7 "Multiarado" minimum tillage implement, equipped for
uprooting ratoons.
Sketch from "Nueva tecnologia de preparaci6n de suelo y cultivo para la cafia de azcuar." 1995.
Mimeo. Institute de Investigaciones de la Cafia de Azcuar. Havana, Cuba.

In 1995, records show that the co-op planted 4 varieties of cane.7 The sugarcane is

propagated vegetatively from stalks grown on some 7 caballerias (12% of co-op's total

cane lands) of carefully tended fields. For planting, the cane is hand-cut, and loaded onto a

tractor-drawn wagon which carries the whole stalks to the field. The wagon is then drawn

through the field, with two men aboard throwing cane stalks into 6 furrows. Each furrow

is tended by a man on foot, who positions the cane properly in the furrow, then using a

machete, chops each stalk into pieces about 45 cm long. Table 2-1 indicates the

6 L6pez Blanco, Manuel, J. D. Diaz, C. Lamela Felipe, A. H. Baez Artiaga, D. Ponce de Leon, J. L6pez,
C. N. Rodriguez, and E. Carrasco. 1994. Soluci6n Integral para la mejora de la producci6n caftera en la
CPA "Amistad Cuba-Laos." consulting study done for co-op. Institute de Investigaciones de Cafia de
Azucar (study), copy at "Amistad Cuba Laos" co-op, Bauta.
7 The varieties were CP 52-43 on 2.6 caballerias, C 323-68 on 5.2 caballerias, B 77418 on 4.3 caballerias
and CB 4452 on 3.3 caballerias. Additionally, .9 caballerias of P 313-68 was included in the seed bed, to
raise for future planting ("Plan T6cnico Econ6mico 1995").

Figure CHAPTER 2 -8 "Jumz-6" tractor.

timing and intensity of the overall planting process. The first row shows the area to be

included in the initial disk plowing, while the second row does the same for placing and

covering of the cane in the furrow. These first and last operations effectively bracket the

planting process, as it was planned to be carried out in 1995. Note that the area planted

sums to 14.3 caballerias, which is 23% of the 61.7 caballerias that the co-op had in cane at

the beginning of 1995.

Table CHAPTER 2 -1 First and last operations in planting process, in caballerias by month.

Spring Planting Cold Planting

1995 Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
First 1.4 2.5 2.5 2.5 3.0 2.0 1.1 -

Planting .5 2.9 1.5 4.0 1.5 1.0 1.5 1.4
Figures in caballerias (1 caballeria = 13.42 hectares) From CPA Cuba Laos: Plan TUcnico Econ6mico '95

Planting which takes place from January through June is referred to as the spring

planting, and the planting from July through December is know as the cold planting.

Although spring planted cane in Cuba is sometimes harvested the following year, after 10

or 11 months growth, this apparently short sighted practice does not seem to be followed

at "Amistad Cuba Laos," where spring cane is harvested after 18 to 20 months.8 The

cooperative's "cold" planted cane will tend to have a somewhat shorter cycle, of 15 to 17

months. According to the cooperative plan shown in Table 2-1, the CPA "Amistad Cuba

Laos" prefers the longer-cycle, spring-planted cane, probably because the somewhat

longer growing period provides higher yields, at no additional input cost.

Irrigation is particularly important in the first semester of the calendar year,

especially for spring planted cane, during the period before the rainy season begins in May.

Theoretically, the "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative has the capability to irrigate 17

caballerias, using a system of hand placed aluminum tubes, and large, high pressure

rotating "guns." However, the poor mechanical condition of the diesel engines which

8 Jos6 Alvarez cites a Cuban Sugar Ministry document in qualifying this 11 month cane as "bad quality"
(Alvarez and Pefia Castellanos 1995: 18).

drive the pumps, the scarcity of spare parts and lubricating oil, and to a lesser extent, the

cost of diesel fuel, appear to have brought a halt to cane irrigation at the co-op.9

Cultivation and Weed Control
If we assume a life of 4 to 5 years for the cane plants, then a farm with its cane

areas divided more or less evenly between ratoons of each age group will, like "Amistad

Cuba Laos," find itself replanting 20 to 25 percent of its cane each year. But what

happens on the lands not planted on a given year? The areas harvested, but not ready to

be plowed up and re-sown as described above, comprise the "ratoon" fields.

Figure CHAPTER 2 -9 "Bayamo" subsoiler.

9 During my stay at the co-op, work was slowly proceeding on the rehabilitation of a very tired looking,
six-cylinder diesel of Soviet origin, which appeared to be of about 120 hp. The mechanics said they had
very few parts, and that in any case, these engines were characterized by high fuel consumption levels. As
they tested the engine, I watched it leak lubricating oil from "every pore." Oil is another scarce input.
The government appears to be concerned about a lack of willingness to irrigate in general, since a
specific allotment of fuel has been made available to farms for use only in irrigation. "Amistad Cuba
Laos" had not yet touched its irrigation fuel ration.

In these fields, the harvest is followed by subsoiling between the cane rows. The purpose

of this operation is to reduce soil compacting caused by the heavy combine harvestersl0.

The DT_75 tracklayer tractor pulling a 2-chisel subsoiler, called a "Bayamo" (Figure 2-

9), set at a depth of 40 to 60 cm, is generally used to perform this task.

After the harvest of the ratoons, or after planting the new cane, there begins a

three month, life-or-death competition between sugarcane and weeds. The competition

lasts about three months, because that is the time required for the cane plants' leaf canopy

to cover the area between the rows, and shade out most competitors. The struggle is an

unequal one, however, since the cane has the cooperative's resources on its side, with a

battery of weapons against the principal weed species. 11

The agronomist decides which method of weed control to use, and when to use it,

on each field. His preferences are in the following order: tractor drawn cultivator; tractor-

mounted herbicide sprayer; manual backpack herbicide sprayer; manual hoe and/or

machete. Although he had no cost data at hand during any of our conversations, and

indeed I never found cost comparisons or even calculations at this level of detail,

calculations from cooperative data indicate that the agronomist's preferences are precisely

from least to most expensive, per area covered. Several factors beyond cost enter into the

decision however, and the agronomist described them to me very clearly. To briefly

explain the agronomist's reasoning: the tractor cannot enter the field if the ground is too

wet; herbicide cannot be used on tender young sugarcane shoots; once the cane reaches a

10 Cuban mechanization expert, Dr. Raul P6rez Companioni, reports a weight of 11 metric tons.

certain height, the tractor cannot enter the field; and finally, tractor- drawn cultivation is

only effective against weeds between the rows of cane, not mixed within the cane rows.

This line of reasoning can be simulated by choosing the appropriate response in each

column of Table 2-2, moving left to right, until arriving at the correct "Technique."

Table CHAPTER 2 -2 Decision Matrix for Weed Control Technique
Soil Sugarcane Sugarcane Location of Technique
Condition Age Height Most Weeds
wet tender -- Manual hoeing
wet hardened -- Manual spraying
dry tender between rows Tractor cultivation
dry tender within rows Manual hoeing
dry hardened short between rows Tractor cultivation
dry hardened short within rows Tractor spraying
dry hardened tall Manual spraying
Dashes indicate that, for a particular line, defining the attribute is not relevant to the decision.
Source: Agronomist, CPA "Amistad Cuba Laos"

A variety of tractor mounted, "over-the-row," field cultivators are used. All are basically

chisel plows, sometimes fitted with special, wide points. The smallest, known as a

"Cubilla," has a rectangular frame, of square tubular construction, and 4 curved shanks

(Figure 2-10). A larger, single-toolbar unit uses 2 straight shanks, each preceded by a

disk. The co-op members refer to this implement as a "Fleco" (Figure 2-11). It, like the

"Cubilla" is used with either the Jumz-6 or the slightly more rugged, 80 horsepower

MTZ-80 wheel tractor (Figure 2-12). The larger "Bayamo," already described for

subsoiling, is fitted with a sweep fabricated from broken combine cutting elements, for

cultivation (Figure 2-13). Depending on the implement, the tractor, and the field

11 According to a 1994 study performed by a Ministry of Sugar experimental station at the co-op, the
main weed varieties are Rottboellia cochinchinensis, Ipomoea trifida, Chamaesyce hyssopifolia, Cyprus
rotundus and Sorgum halepense (Diaz et al 1994).

conditions, the operator is expected to cultivate between 120 to 150 "cordeles" (5 to 6.2

hectares) per work day.12

Figure CHAPTER 2 -10 "Cubilla" field cultivator.

Herbicides, both pre and post emergent, are applied by tractor-mounted sprayer

when possible, and otherwise by back-pack sprayer. It is felt that the tractor mounted

sprayer uses more herbicide per area, since the manual sprayers can more selectively spray

weeds. No data was available to substantiate this supposition, however. In any case, the

cooperative's only tractor-mounted unit has been unusable for some time, requiring an

unavailable pump part. In August of 1995, the co-op was attempting to have the part

made locally, since they consider the sprayer to be one of their most important machine


12 One caballeria equals 324 "cordeles," and one "cordel" equals .0414 hectare.

Figure CHAPTER 2 -11

Indeed, one did not have to observe the manual spraying crew for very long, to

understand the importance of the mechanical unit. The Chinese manufactured backpack

sprayers were nearly new, yet poorly constructed and already leaky. It appeared to be

impossible for the workers to avoid more or less constant contact with the herbicide that

they were spraying. 13 According to the co-op's agronomist, each worker's

cholinesterase level is tested at the beginning and end of the spraying season, which

includes the early rainy season months of June, July and August. In part because of

toxicity, the spraying crews only work mornings, yet are paid for a full day. As a general

13 According to the agronomist, "Aminol" was being applied at a nominal rate of 3 liters per hectare, to
control vines. Later, I was told by a field laborer that before the "crisis" began in 1990, herbicides were
frequently applied by aircraft.

"Fleco" field cultivator.

rule, the application of pre-emergent herbicides is followed by a post emergent

application, 2 months later.

Figure CHAPTER 2 -12 "MTZ-80" tractor.

Old-fashioned hoeing is probably the co-op's most expensive weed control option.

Now that the harvest is mechanized, weed control and replanting are the most labor

intensive tasks. Not surprisingly, most of this work is performed by temporary, "contract"

laborers. As noted previously, a defining characteristic of agricultural production

cooperatives such as the Cuban CPA is the identity between labor and capital: the owners

are the workers and visa-versa. In order to avoid ownership from becoming alienated

from the actual work of the cooperatives, the state has placed limits on hiring labor. In

order to conform with these limits, "Amistad Cuba Laos" makes 3-month contracts with

laborers. At the end of that period, the workers who have impressed their supervisors

(who are always co-op members) will likely be invited to join the cooperative. In fact,

many workers do not last until the end of the contract

period, because the work is heavy, pay is not high by

Cuban standards, and an accumulation of three

absences in a month constitutes grounds for

termination by the cooperative. In this way, field labor,

especially weeding, has become the entry path to co-op

membership for unskilled workers.

Finally, animal traction is being promoted by

Figure CHAPTER 2 -13 the Cuban government as a means of replacing diesel
Sweep fitted to "Bayamo"
subsoiler. 14
power, if only to a very limited extent. 14 Just how

limited that extent may be is shown by the entries in the cooperative's planning form, on

which the following tables were based. Even less than this small amount of "ox drawn"

cultivation was actually carried out. Table 2-3 indicates the timing and intensity of weed

control activities. Table 2-4 totals the yearly figures from Table 2-3. In fact, the

14 Evidence for the official promotion of animal traction is not hard to find: planning forms which the co-
op must file include a line for recording ox-drawn labors, and two central government delegations which
visited the co-op during my stay each requested a progress report on the oxen and ox-drivers which the co-
op had secured. Most convincingly, one morning a tall, gray-bearded, cigar smoking man named Ram6n
Castro arrived at the co-op. Bearing considerable resemblance to his better-known, younger sibling, his
mission was none other than to promote the use of (believe it or not) oxen!

agronomist attempts to administer 4 to 5 "weedings" of one sort or another, to each area

during the first 3 months of growth.

Table CHAPTER 2 -3 Mechanized, Animal Traction and Manual Weed Control.
Caballerias Scheduled Each Month
1995 Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Mechanized 4 11.3 9.8 8.0 6.2 7.0 6.5 5.0 2.3 3.0 3.7
Ox Drawn 3.5 3.0 -
Manual 7.8 12.8 17.4 23.0 23.2 15.1 10.1 5.5 4.1 3.5 4.9 5.5
Areas in caballerias (1 caballeria = 13.42 hectares)
From: CPA Cuba Laos: Plan T6cnico Econ6mico 1995

Table CHAPTER 2 -4 Total Weed Control During 1995 (totals from Table 2-3 above)
Total Caballerias (ha) for Year
Mechanized 66.8 (896)
Ox Drawn 6.5 (87)
Manual 132.9 (1784)
All Forms 206.2 (2767)
Note: Manual figures include both mechanical (hoe, machete) and chemical control.
From: CPA Cuba Laos: Plan T6cnico Econ6mico 1995

As the important milestone of 3-months of growth approaches, nitrogen fertilizer

is supplied to the "ratoons." In 1994, extensive soil tests were performed at the

cooperative to permit more precise applications of fertilizer. Since then, fertilization rates

are determined by the recommendations resulting from the study.15 The ratoon crops for

1995 were located in 17 different areas, or blocks ("bloques") which vary in size from .4

to 3.6 caballerias, while averaging 2 caballerias each. For each block, a "kilogram per

hectare" application rate was calculated for each fertilizer component: N, P205 and K20.

15 L6pez Blanco, Manuel, J. D. Diaz, C. Lamela Felipe, A. H. Baez Artiaga, D. Ponce de Leon, J.
L6pez, C. N. Rodriguez, and E. Carrasco. 1994. Soluci6n Integral para la mejora de la producci6n cafiera
en la CPA "Amistad Cuba-Laos." consulting study done for co-op. Institute de Investigaciones de Cafia de
Azucar (study), Copy at "Amistad Cuba Laos" co-op, Bauta.

A tractor mounted, 2-hopper, "F-350" fertilizer drill (Figure 2-14), with a hydraulic-motor

driven mechanical metering mechanism, is used to apply dry fertilizer to the ratoons.16

According to co-op norms, a tractor operator and assistant are expected to fertilize 130

"cordels" (5.4 ha) per day.

Figure CHAPTER 2 -14
example is not complete).

Germination and survival of the young shoots depend on the quality of the seed

cane, the care with which it was planted, and the availability of water in the weeks

following the planting. Since the sugarcane field will produce for several years on each

planting, it behooves the farmer to "fill in" gaps in the field caused by cane which failed to

16 Although application of the fertilizer directly to the center of the ratoon appears to be a more common
practice in Cuba, at "Amistad Cuba Laos," the material is applied at the edge of the ratoon.

germinate or died back while still very young. Sometimes, ratoons simply fail to sprout

back after a harvest. If such a field is not being considered for uprooting and planting

soon, replanting is undertaken to increase the "cane per area" density. Replanting consists

of two separate operations. First, each member of the replanting crew is assigned a row

of cane. The worker walks along the row, until coming to a gap of more than about 80

cm between cane plants. The furrow is opened at the point where a properly spaced plant

should be growing, and the dead seed cane is found and scooped out of the furrow. This

is done because the dead cane is considered a breeding ground for micro-organisms which

could very likely harm the new seed cane. When the cane was originally planted, it was

laid more-or-less continuously in the furrow. Therefore, the workers are always expected

to find and leave visible a piece of old cane. The main job of the supervisor of this

operation is to make sure that old seed cane is removed from each place where new seed

cane will be deposited: this in itself usually indicates that the furrow has been re-opened to

sufficient depth. The second operation requires cutting and hauling seed cane into the

field, much as was described for the initial planting, and placing it into the holes opened

for that purpose. As soon as possible, the holes are closed, to aid in retaining soil

moisture around the seed. The high labor requirements of replanting make it expensive.

In fact, if more than 30 percent of a given field appears to require replanting (30%

"despoblaci6n"), then as a rule it will be re-plowed, and planted entirely anew.

Maintenance of Field Borders
It is important to note that cultural attention toward the cane plant is concentrated

in the first few months of its growth, or re-growth from stubble. This, and the 15 to 22

month growing period until harvest, explain how shortages of fuel, fertilizer or other

inputs may not impact yields until a year or more after the shortages themselves have


By September, there are only a few fields which, due to their late planting dates,

are not covered, or "closed", by the sugarcane canopy. Once the leaf canopy is in place,

the cane has generally won the battle with the weeds, and in any case, it is no longer

practical for either workers or machines to enter the fields. The only cultural activities

which can take place between closing and harvest, are irrigation, and the clearing of weeds

from the borders of the fields. Irrigation has already been discussed. The border

operation involves mowing and disking the edges of the field, and sending field laborers

about 15 meters into the closed fields, to destroy weeds and haul out the brush, from that

shallow perimeter. This process is said to serve several purposes: first, it is necessary to

maintain access to the fields for inspections, and ultimately for the harvest. Second, brush

around the edges of a field is an invitation to destructive fires, which are said to occur

both accidentally and deliberately. Finally, there seems to be a certain pride of ownership

involved, which values a presentable stand of cane, particularly along the main public


Sugarcane is not a crop which lends itself readily to mechanical harvesting. The

ripe stalks may assume a variety of positions and shapes, from quite erect and straight, to

heavily "lodged" (reclined) and curved. Since the sugar content of the stalk is highest near

the base, the cane must be cut as near to the ground as possible, without damaging the

root from which the next season's growth will issue (Edquist 1985: 17). Finally, there

may be no other field crop whose harvest involves removing as much biomass per land

area as does sugarcane. At the "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative, the average yield for all

harvested fields in 1991 was 90 metric tons per hectare (40 short tons per acre).17 Even

under the very adverse conditions since 1992, in no year has average yield never fallen

below 43 metric tons per hectare (19 short tons per acre). At the most fundamental level,

the cooperative's harvest consists of the cutting, cleaning, loading and hauling of between

25 and 50 thousand metric tons of green cane. Burning the fields before harvesting

reduces the amount of extraneous matter (mostly leaves) to be handled, and therefore

increases the efficiency of the harvest, whether accomplished manually or mechanically.

For that reason, burning is practiced in many countries where sugarcane is grown. During

the early 1970s, Cuba's political leadership decided to adopt pre-harvest burning in order

to reduce the amount of labor needed to accomplish the harvest (Edquist 1985: 46). Also,

the 430 Australian-built Massey-Ferguson 201 combines imported by Cuba betweenl969

and 1974, were designed to harvest burnt cane (Edquist 1985: 50-51). Although burning

became widespread in Cuba, today cane in Cuba is generally not burned (Perez-L6pez

1991:67). According to co-op leaders, burning increases weed problems, and lowers the

17 Cuban yields have never been high by world standards, which in some areas range up to 300 tons per
hectare (Edquist 1985: 16)

quality of the cane delivered to the mill. They also said that beginning with the 1996

harvest, a slightly lower rate will be paid for burned cane.18

Figure CHAPTER 2 -15 KTP-2 sugarcane combine harvester.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, Cuba invested considerable resources to

develop machinery which would permit mechanization of the (green) sugarcane harvest,

and could be built in Cuba (Pollitt and Hagelberg 1994: 553). The harvest at "Amistad

Cuba Laos" is testimony to the success of these efforts: 98 percent of the cooperative's

harvest is accomplished using Cuban-built KTP-2 combine harvesters (Figures 2-15 and 2-

16), to cut, chop, clean and load the cane.19 According to the work norms by which the

18 The co-op agronomist and production manager each agreed that the lower rate for burned cane is
justified, and that in any case the cooperative only burs fields for 2 reasons: 1) if infested with a vine
called "pica-pica" (said to be a variety of mucuna, related to velvet bean) which causes severe itching to
combine operators, and 2) sometimes fields are burned before plowing and planting, to reduce the amount
of leaf material on the ground.

19 Since the timing of my research in Cuba did not coincide with the harvest, my description is derived
from interviews with participants, and examination of co-op documents, except where otherwise noted.

cooperative calculates pay to combine operators, a machine should cut, clean and load 80

to 120 metric tons of cane per work day, with the specific amount varying according to

field conditions. Individual operators assured me that they could typically cut 150 metric

tons per day, but this is probably a "best case scenario," assuming good weather and no

mechanical breakdowns. Including time during which a machine is in the field, but not

working, a 90 metric tons per day average is more realistic.20

The cooperative's KTP-2 self-propelled combine harvesters move slowly through

the fields, cutting cane from 1 to 3 hectares per day, one row at a time. At the leading

edge of the machine are 2 spiral crop lifters, continually turning like enormous cork-

screws, which raise the inclined cane as it comes between the "gathering walls". By the

time the two circular cutters reach the cane base, the combined action of the lifters and the

walls brings the stalks to a position sufficiently vertical for cutting. Once cut, the stalks

are dragged into the machine and chopped into pieces about 30 cm long. The chopping

process separates most of the leaves from the stalks, and these, together with weeds and

other "trash" are removed by means of fans which blow the extraneous material out the

rear of the machine. The chopped, cleaned cane is moved by a conveyer up a chute and

discharged over a tractor-drawn trailer traveling beside the harvester. As the trailer fills,

with about 6 metric tons (about 520 arrobas) of cane, another tractor pulling an empty

trailer falls in behind, ready to receive the cane when the full trailer moves away.

20 In a particularly complete annual report, the cooperative reported a 91 tons per day average, which
they proudly contrasted to the 68 tons per day average for all farms in the same "complex" (i.e., which sell
to the same factory). Edquist (1985:114) gives 80.1 tons per day as the all-Cuba average for KTP-1
harvesters for 1974 through 1980. The KTP-1 is considered to harvest 10% less per day than the KTP-2
machines which the co-op owns.







Figure CHAPTER 2 -16 KTP-2 sugarcane combine harvester front view. Note spiral
crop-lifters, gathering walls, and circular cutters. The discharge chute is visible at upper


The tractors which haul the trailers as they receive the cane, are called

"movedores." Positioned along the portion of the field which is being cut, are 3 workers,

who prepare each cane row for the arrival of the combine. Loose rocks, metal or other

hazards are sought out and removed from the uncut cane, while cane stalks that the

combine somehow left behind, are thrown into the standing cane, to be gathered on the

machine's next pass. From this latter function comes the job title, "repasador." The

simultaneous use of three "repasadores" allows each to cover one-third of the length of

the field being harvested, and provides time for a through inspection, at a sustainable pace.

Each full trailer is taken to a drop-point outside the field where it is switched for

an empty one, and the tractor-trailer unit returns to the harvester to start the process

again. The full trailers are hauled three-at-a-time by another tractor (the "tirador"), to the

receiving stations ("centros de acopio") run by the mill which purchases the cane.

Table CHAPTER 2 -5 Composition of the Complete Harvest Platoon
People: Machines:
Combine Harvester Operators 4 Combine Harvesters 4
Tractor Operators 15 Wheel Tractors 15
Row Cleaners ("repasadores") 12 Trailers 32
Trailer-controlers 2 Field Repair Wagon 1
Mechanics 3 Fuel Wagon 1
Mechanics' Helpers 3 Field Kitchen 1
Fueler 1
Welders 2
Field Cook 1
Record Keeper ("computador") 1
Platoon Boss 1
Source: Interview with cooperative production manager, agronomist and other members.

Here the cane is dumped from the trailers, further cleaned, weighed (for payment)

and loaded into rail cars bound for the factory. Since the co-op runs up to four combines

simultaneously, the parking, hitching and unhitching, and assignments of trailers must be

well coordinated. This is the function of two workers called "enganchadores," one of

whom focuses on the full trailers, and the other on the empties. To keep the harvest

process running as continuously as possible, fuel and lubricating oil are brought to the

machines in the fields, and a portable cookhouse makes food for the harvest workers.

Mechanics, welders, a mobile shop and a tire repair unit are all in the fields during the

harvest. Nearly all those directly involved in the harvest are paid according to

productivity, so the role of the "computador", or record keeper, is vitally important.

The harvest begins on fields scheduled to be plowed and planted following the harvest.

Since these fields are by definition low-yielding (otherwise they would not be ready for

"demolici6n"), they are considered the best place to "warm up" for the year's harvest

process. In this way, the machines, operators, mechanics and other members of the

harvest "platoon" will be performing smoothly when they arrive at the high-yielding fields,

where the success or failure of the year's effort is decided. Also, the sooner that low-

yielding fields are harvested, the sooner the spring planting can begin, giving the "plant

cane" as much time to grow as possible.


Production Declines: Quantitative Aspects and the National Context

During the "Special Period in Peacetime" the "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative

has seen substantial decreases in sugarcane production accompanied by increases in costs

of production. Taken together, these trends have resulted in lower member incomes, and

reduced opportunities for investments by the cooperative.

Table CHAPTER 3 -1 Indicators of Sugarcane Production: Cuba and CPA "Amistad
Cuba Laos"
Area Harvested Cane Produced Yield
Cuba Co-op Cuba Co-op Cuba Co-op
1000 cabs cabs million mt arrobas 1000 arrobas/cab
1986-87 101.8 62.4 70.7 4,641,700 56.8 75.5
1987-88 97.2 54.8 67.5 3,254,200 61.2 59.4
1988-89 101.0 50 73.9 4,055,300 64.5 81.1
1989-90 106.3 44.1 74.4 4,223,400 61.6 95.7
1990-91 107.5 45.6 71.1 4,848,000 58.1 106.2
1991-92 108.9 41.5 65.4 4,157,000 52.9 100.2
1992-93 90.8 38.7 42.9 2,627,000 41.8 68
1993-94 38.9 43.0 2,001,500 39.7 51.7
1994-95 35.5 33.2 2,242,100 33.4 63.2
1995-96 38.8 2,719,880 70.1
Source: Alvarez 1995: 29,81; "Amistad Cuba Laos" records1986-95; 1995-96 estimate by co-op

An interesting trend in Table 3-1, is the cooperative's reduction of the harvested

area, prior to the official beginning of "the special period" in 19901. Most of the reduction

in that area occurred before the initiation of the "crisis." At the same time, co-op

agricultural yields increased substantially into the first year of the crisis, enabling the co-op

to achieve in 1990-91 the largest harvest of its history. These trends, up through the first

year or two of crisis, contrast to the tendencies in Cuba as a whole, where the land area

harvested was maintained, as average yields fell from 1989 onward. All of this suggests

an intensification of sugarcane cultivation by the cooperative from the late 1980s, until

well into the crisis period. Although the detailed data at my disposal date back only to

1990, the fact that higher yields were accompanied by a large drop in area harvested,

suggests that the intensification rested in large measure upon a longer growing cycles.

Increased use of chemical inputs may have had a role also, although this will be discussed

further, under "Costs" below. In any case, it may not be coincidental that in 1988, a

university-trained agronomist joined the cooperative. As the crisis deepened, the more

finely tuned operations of the cooperative collapsed, with results paralleling the national

average in 1992-93. In that year, cane production for the nation and the cooperative fell

by 34% and 37%, respectively, compared to the previous year's harvest.

Production Declines: Specific Causes
What happened to cause such a drastic fall in production at the "Amistad Cuba

Laos" cooperative? Each July, at the year-end general assembly meeting, the cooperative

executive committee presents the membership with an "annual report." The general

1 Although the cooperative has some statistics from as early as 1983, 1987 is the first year for which
harvested area, and yield are recorded.

assembly can decide to modify the report, but ultimately a narrative document and a

financial statement are approved. At the time of my research, the only reports which

could be located were 1993-94 and 1994-95 (complete), 1990-91 (financial) and 1991-92

(narrative). In explaining reduced output, these reports all stress the shortages of

industrially produced inputs: diesel fuel, lubricating oil, replacement parts, herbicides and


Diesel fuel is most frequently mentioned as a cause of operational difficulties, and

is the only shortage which shows up in all three reports. In 1991-92, lack of fuel was said

to be the cause of having planted only 10.2 of a planned 26.4 caballerias. The shortfall

was mostly due to a failure to plant any cane in the July through December 1991 (frio)

planting period. Table 3-2 confirms that total diesel use in 1991-92 was the lowest of all

the crisis years to date, yet Figure B-3 (Appendix B) indicates that there was fairly

abundant fuel from August through October.

Table CHAPTER 3 -2 Diesel fuel consumption by year (in 1000 liters)
1990-91 1991-92 1992-93 1993-94 1994-95
1000 Liters 218 163 246 187 323
Source: "Registro de Salida: Almacen de Piezas 1990-91"and "Sub-Mayor Analytico de Cuentas: Materias
Primas y Materiales" for 1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94 and 1994-95

Possibly the field preparation tasks had been neglected during the preceding

harvest in May and June of 1990-91, and then with virtually no fuel in July, the land

preparation fell even farther behind. Even so, it is surprising that no cane at all was

planted. This failure to plant set the stage for the tremendous drop in cane production in

the 1992-93 harvest. The 1993-94 report mentions failure to meet previous years'

planting targets, and fuel shortages as a factor in the cooperative's "worst harvest in

recent years."2 No reference is made to specific operations affected during 1993-94,

although Table 3-2 shows a relatively low supply for the year as a whole. Figure B-5

confirms that supplies were very low from July through November 1993.

In spite of this, the planting plans for 1993-94 were reported as generally fulfilled, and

mention made of the improved prospects for the 1995-96 harvest. The most recent

document available, the annual report from 1994-95, refers specifically to a lapse in fuel

supply in May of that period, which caused a delay in preparation for planting. Figure B-6

cannot confirm such a shortage. In fact, a comparison of Figures B-6 with previous years'

figures shows that consumption in May of 1995 was the highest for that particular month,

since 1991. Of course, these figures do not distinguish between the 1st and the 30th of

May, which underscores the limitations of even monthly data, in analyzing farming

operations. Although fuel deliveries seemed to return to adequate overall levels in 1994-

95, the timing of supplies was still causing production problems.

More serious than fuel shortages by 1994-95 was a shortage of lubricating oil,

which was first commented on in the 1993-94 report. The 1994-95 report cautions that if

this problem is not resolved, the co-op's equipment will not be in condition for the 1995-

96 harvest. Although my data does not include specific quantities of lubricating oil used, it

is clear that "savings" generated by skimping on lubricating oil imports are very short


Fertilizer was mentioned in the 1991-92 and 1993-94 reports. The earlier report

remarks that 30.5 of a planned 36.7 caballerias had received any fertilizer, the relative

shortage of which in 1991-92 is captured by Table 3-3.3

2 Indeed, the worst shown by records dating back to 1983.

Table CHAPTER 3 -3 Fertilizer Use by "Amistad Cuba Laos," in current Pesos
1990-91 1991-92 1992-93 1993-94 1994-95
Jul 30,552 0 0 0 0
Aug 0 435 0 0 0
Sep 4,961 0 0 0 0
Oct 0 0 0 0 0
Nov 0 0 0 0 0
Dec 0 0 0 0 0
Jan 869 0 0 0 5,335
Feb 0 0 0 0 0
Mar 0 0 7,907 0 0
Apr 14,324 0 12,709 0 0
May 3,969 4,382 0 0 3,757
Jun 383 189 10 0 0
Total $55,058 $5,006 $20,626 $0 $9,092
Source: Registro de Salida: Almacen 1990-91and Sub-Mayor Analytico de Cuentas: Materias Primas y
Materiales 1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94 and 1994-95

The 1993-94 report includes lack of fertilizer among the reasons for the extremely low

harvest of that year. Indeed, Table 3-3 confirms that virtually no fertilizer was available

for a 20 month span, which included all of the 1993-94 reporting period. Recalling that

cane is not fertilized in the months immediately prior to harvest, the 1994-95 crop was

probably at least as affected by this absence of fertilizer, as was the 1993-94 harvest.

Although the 1994-95 fertilizer total appears rather low, the report from that year makes

no mention of fertilizer shortages, perhaps since by mid-period (January), they seemed to

be resolved. In August of 1995, the co-op agronomist expressed satisfaction with recent

supplies, both as to the quantity and quality of the product, and was anticipating higher

yields in the 1995-96 harvest, as a result.

Herbicide shortages also received attention only in the two earlier reports. For

1991-92, herbicide was applied to only 8.2 caballerias. The report noted that this was far

3 Fertilizer use is recorded in Cuban Peso value, since, unlike diesel fuel, it is not a homogeneous good,
for which a given expense corresponds to a given physical quantity, if the unit price is known. The co-op
has purchased several formulations over the years in question, and while disaggregating might be
possible, it would require considerably more time in the field.

Table CHAPTER 3 -4 Herbicide Use by "Amistad Cuba Laos" (in constant 1990 Pesos,
except last line)
1990-91 1991-92 1992-93 1993-94 1994-95
Jul 12024 14390 3879 11839 0
Aug 0 0 0 6368 0
Sep 2457 0 0 0 0
Oct 0 0 0 0 0
Nov 0 0 0 0 0
Dec 0 9104 166 0 0
Jan 3315 0 0 0 0
Feb 0 0 300 0 294
Mar 9503 0 0 7148 0
Apr 0 260 179 0 0
May 0 0 0 0 2434
Jun 0 3241 0 9127 0
1990 Pesos 27,299 26,995 4,523 34,481 2,728
Current Pesos $27,299 $26,995 $4,071 $40,798 $4,637
Source: Cooperative Records, as in Table 3-3

less than required to control the vines, and would surely mean a future reduction in yield.

Table 3-44 does not bear out a herbicide shortage in 1991-92. The specific mention of

vines may indicate that the herbicide used specifically to control broad-leaf plants was hard

to obtain.

The 1993-94 report includes "herbicide shortage" within its long list of

contributors to the low harvest of that year. At first glance, Table 3-4 makes that seem

almost ungrateful: 1993-94 saw the highest herbicide use of any year of the period.

Recall, however, that weeds are controlled in sugarcane during the first four months from

the time of planting. Thus, the cane harvested in 1993-94 would have required

4 Herbicide use is expressed in terms of Cuban Pesos, rather than physical quantities, for the same reason
as fertilizer. Actually, herbicides are even more varied than fertilizers. Increases in the prices of some
widely used herbicides further complicate comparisons on the basis of cost. For that reason, I have
created an index with which to adjust prices to approximate a common purchasing power across the
period for which herbicide use is presented (see Appendix C).

applications during its early growth in the 1992-93 cycle, when herbicides were evidently


Scarcity of replacement parts, or spares, was mentioned in the later reports. In

both 1993-94 and 1994-95, spares shortages were related to problems in implementing the

harvest. This is understandable, given the concentration of machinery involved. The

annual totals represented in Table 3-5 may indicate a recovery in spares availability for

1994-95, similar to that found in fuel, and to a lesser extent, fertilizer. However,

regarding spare parts, it is much more difficult to make generalizations about relative

availability based only on levels of expenditures. In the first place, with spares, the

essence is in the details: with only 50% of required fuel or fertilizer, perhaps 50% of the

job can be done. But with 50% of the parts required to perform a repair, little or nothing

can be done. Equally important, is the effect of an aging fleet of farm machines, on the

spare parts budget. With an active fleet of 30 tractors, 4 combine-harvesters and 2 trucks,

the cooperative has only acquired 1 machine (on loan) since 1990. Even assuming a

generous twelve-year useful life for each machine, the cooperative would need to be

purchasing 3 new machines per year to maintain the fleet. The issue here is not that a

tractor ceases to function after a certain period of time. Rather, the consumption of

spares, and time in the shop, increases, while reliability decreases. All of this raises costs,

and the basic requirement in spares for keeping the equipment running becomes

Table CHAPTER 3 -5 Replacement parts purchases by "Amistad Cuba Laos"
1990-91 1991-92 1992-93 1993-94 1994-95
1990 Pesos 86,726 48,393 39,300 26,549 42,936
Current Pesos $86,726 $53,232 $43,230 $34,681 $63,270
Source: "Registro de Salida: Almacen de Piezas 1990-91"and "Sub-Mayor Analytico de Cuentas: Materias
Primas y Materiales" for 1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94 and 1994-95

substantially greater as time passes. For example, the 1994-95 total of 63,270 pesos in

parts used, includes 21,258 for the purchase of complete new engines for two of the

cooperative's four combine-harvesters.

Input Shortages and the National Context
Placing the discussion of industrial inputs into the national Cuban context (Figure

3-1)5, the decrease in co-op purchases paralleled the drop in Cuba's imports over the

years for which data are available. Recently, co-op inputs may be recovering somewhat

ahead of national imports. Since availability of inputs of industrial origin depends on state

allocation, rather than supply and demand, is this evidence of increased government

priority for agriculture? In both the national and co-op cases, the stabilization and slight

increase in production was preceded by at least a year, by a similar stabilization of national

imports and co-op inputs. This points to the extreme difficulty of recovering from the

collapse, without sufficient external credit to supply critical imported inputs. As will be

shown later, in the absence of industrial inputs, the cooperative increased the labor-

intensity of agricultural operations, but the decline in production was not reversed until

industrial inputs increased.

5 Inflation complicates these comparisons, especially where the price paid for sugarcane has increased
over these years from 11.32 to 21.00 pesos per 100 arrobas. Therefore, cane-based income for all years
was calculated using the 1991 price of 15 pesos. The unit prices of co-op inputs also increased across the
years shown, but I assume that the imports to which they are being compared increased also, so no
adjustment is attempted for inputs. In any case, the tendencies of steep decline, bottoming out, and a
tentative recovery, hold across the indicators.

Figure CHAPTER 3 -1 Cuban Imports and GDP Compared to Co-op Industrial Inputs
and Gross Income from Sugarcane
8001 35


25 -





- -


------Coop: Insumos

- -Pais: Importaciones

- Coop: Ingresos Brutos de Cafia

-Pais: GDP

Source: Cuba data from Zimbalist 1995: Table 2; Co-op data from co-op records, gross income from
cane is adjusted, not absolute, value in order to reflect amounts produced, instead of varying price.

Cooperative Response to Falling Production and Income

As sugarcane production fell, income from cane sales to the state dropped

dramatically, and the cooperative actually lost money on "industrial" sugarcane for the

first time, with the harvest of 1994. The qualifier "industrial" is important, since that term

indicates cane sold to the mill for production of raw sugar, as opposed to cane sold for






squeezing locally into "guarapo" (fresh cane juice). Although I only have scattered figures

for breakdown of the non-industrial cane, or "other" income category (Table 3-6),

guarapo sales are an important component. More recently, sales of food crops at the free

agricultural market has been an income source of equal, or greater significance. Overall,

the "other" income has been more stable than industrial cane income, and has been vital in

maintaining the cooperative's economic viability from 1992-93 forward. What data is

available suggests that increases in this income from these sources is the result of

increasing prices of guarapo and food crops, rather than increased co-op production.

Another tendency is suggested by the last row of Table 3-6. Even as sugarcane

Table CHAPTER 3 -6 Co-op Income, and Non-member Labor Costs, in Current Cuban
1988-89 1989-90 1990-91 1991-92 1992-93 1993-94 1994-95
Gross Income from
507,318 589,587 727,207 644,933 322,183 433,758 492,480
Industrial Cane
Net Income from
223,220 405,079 465,397 322,467 125,651 99,876 153,084

Industrial Cane
Gross Income from
101,991 133,311 167,134 83,621 136,320 97,475 296,17
Other Production
Ratio, Other to
20% 23% 23% 13% 42% 22% 60%
Industrial Cane

Contract Labor Costs n.a. 16,757 40,777 n.a. 66,472 74,532 116,20(
Source: Cooperative records. "Datos Historicos de Balance, 1983-1995"; "Informe Anual" for each of
1990-91, 1993-94, 1994-95.

production falls, the contracting of laborers from outside the co-op has increased steadily.

To what extent is there a relation between these phenomena? The substitution of scarce

industrial inputs with field labor certainly represents such a link. When ten men with

backpack applicators replace a broken, tractor-mounted sprayer, or when hoes and ox-

drawn cultivators replace fuel-starved tractors for mechanical weed control, then the

cooperative is attempting to minimize the drop in production caused by industrial input



shortages. It is difficult to quantify, even in general terms, the extent and effectiveness of

these substitutions. Figure 3-2 illustrates the temporal relation between sugarcane

production, the 4 industrial inputs, and the amount of labor utilized, by year. The cane

harvest is in arrobas, read off the right-hand Y-axis. Labor costs include both the wage-

like advance paid to each co-op member, and the wages paid to contract laborers. The 4

inputs (fuel, fertilizer, herbicides and spare parts), and labor costs are measured in pesos,

adjusted according to the procedure described in Appendix C, with the baseline period

being the 1990-91 agricultural cycle.

Figure CHAPTER 3 -2 Co-op Sugarcane Production, Industrial Inputs and Labor Costs
400,000 5,000,000

350,000- -4,500,000
250,000 -3,000,000

8 200,000- 2,500,000

S150,000- .. 2,000,000
S100,000 1,000,000
50,000 500,000

0 0
1988-89 1989-90 1990-91 1991-92 1992-93 1993-94 1994-95

Labor Costs 4 Input Costs -- Sugarcane Harvest

Note: Figure for Labor costs 1991-92 is an estimate, since no amount is available for the contract labor
component of total labor, for that year only.
Source: same as Table 3-6.

In Figure 3-2, the slight upturn in cane production coinciding with a very sharp increase in

labor contracting seems to suggest the possibility of at least partially restoring cane yields,

even at reduced levels of industrial inputs. Might it be that more labor intensive

agricultural techniques, together with the increasing income from sources other than

industrial cane, point to a way out of the crisis for this and other Cuban sugarcane


Even those who regard Cuba's economic dependence on sugar as analogous to a

tragic addiction, would probably agree that a sudden, "cold turkey" break with sugarcane

agriculture would lead to untenable economic hardship. The "Amistad Cuba Laos"

cooperative leadership seems to understand and identify with this national reality, and

evinces no interest in moving away from sugarcane. Although the high profits to be

earned at the free agricultural markets are attractive at first glance, members undoubtedly

realize that their cooperative's permission to sell at the markets could be revoked. Indeed,

in a change of policy, the markets themselves could disappear just as suddenly as they

sprang up. Not least of all, it should be remembered that the "Amistad Cuba Laos"

cooperative is a well developed, highly specialized sugarcane farm: the bulk of their

investment in machinery and other infrastructure, as well as their collective knowledge and

experience is inseparable from sugarcane agriculture. It is therefore not surprising that I

encountered no sentiment among the members, in favor of trying to significantly increase

sales at the free agricultural markets. What all members, including the leaders, are

expecting, is an increase in the price which the co-op is paid for its cane.6

The other element noted as a potential solution to the present difficulties of

sugarcane culture, is the substitution of labor for certain industrial inputs. This can be

considered as part of a more general substitution of nationally available inputs for imports.

Unlike any attempt to abandon sugarcane, this alternative enjoys encouragement

6 As of the end of the 1996 harvest, the price paid for cane was still 16.3 pesos per 100 arrobas.

from the government. The use of sugar by-products as soil amendments, to replace some

portion of chemical fertilizers; a re-birth of animal (especially oxen) traction; and

promotion of weeding by hand, to reduce the need for tractor drawn cultivators and

herbicide sprays, are each receiving some degree of official support. In spite of political

acceptability, these alternatives seem to be of little interest to cooperative members.

The co-op will certainly hire additional labor if necessary to accomplish a particular task in

the face of fuel shortages, or experiment with industrial cane residues to improve the soil,

but these are seen as stop-gap measures until the supply of industrial inputs regains a

semblance of normalcy. The members who were "aportadores," i.e. those who combined

their lands into the cooperative in early 1980s, recall all too clearly the nature of"pre-

industrial" sugarcane farming. The memories of isolation, poor living conditions,

drudgery and typically low yields hold little charm for those who formed cooperatives

precisely to escape such circumstances. At the same time, co-op members do not seem to

expect to return to the cheap and abundant agricultural chemicals, machinery and fuels of

the 1980s. To the contrary, there seems to exist a recognition that the co-op in general

must learn to do more, with less. This understanding leads the cooperative directly to the

issues of costs and efficiency.


Economic Importance of Sugarcane Cooperatives
If it is true that hard times make economists of us all, then it is understandable that

"the dismal science" is gaining converts in present-day Cuba.

Up until a few years ago, the cooperative president was considered to be
much more important than the economist. Now we see things differently. If a
cooperative has a good president, and bad economist, it will not function well;
whereas with a bad president and a good economist, it will function well.l

While the end of "politics in command" is not upon us in Cuba, new economic realities

have certainly reduced the areas over which politics is able to command. Taken as a

whole, the agricultural production cooperatives are one of the key arenas in which a new

synergy of the political and the economic is evolving. The economic importance of the

cooperatives, especially those producing sugarcane, is hard to overstate. According to

economist Jorge Perez-L6pez, the cost of the sugarcane itself represents over 60% of the

total cost of Cuban raw sugar production (Perez-L6pez 1991: 115). Since virtually all

sugarcane in Cuba is now produced on either UBPC or CPA farms (Figueroa 1995:19),

the viability of Cuba's sugar economy today rests to a significant extent upon production

decisions taken, and costs generated, at the sugarcane producing cooperatives.

Although the reconstruction of a detailed accounting of the costs of sugarcane

production at a well-run Cuban cooperative would be a feasible and worthwhile

1 Interview with the head of "Projects" of the ANAP Province of Havana regional office, 7/31/95.

undertaking, pulling together that amount of information was far beyond the material

limitations of this research project. More modestly, this section attempts to provide an

overview of the economic panorama confronting the cooperative members and especially

the chief decision makers. After a word on cost accounting, the focus turns to three

aspects of costs at the cooperative. First, we will consider the basic Cuban statistic of

efficiency, the "costo por peso," or cost-to-income ratio. Next, we will compare farm

input to output prices, and see how those terms of trade within Cuba are changing.

Finally, the structure of costs for the cooperative's production as a whole will be briefly


Cooperative Cost Accounting
Various authors have decried a general paucity of data on costs of production in

Cuba (Edquist 1985: xii; Perez-L6pez 1991: 111). Direct observations at the "Amistad

Cuba Laos" cooperative, however, indicate that far more data are collected, than are

meaningfully organized, analyzed or used.2 There are at least three members whose work

is directly related to bookkeeping, and the shelves in their 2 offices sag under the years'

accumulation of ledger-books. Unfortunately, the motivation for compiling these reams of

hand-written records was more closely related to government requirements, than to felt

cooperative needs, and now the collection of internally generated data itself is widely

viewed by co-op members as a symptom of bureaucratizationn" (Diaz et al 1995:12, 32,

42) Indeed, often missing from the data collected, are the links between numbers which

would permit useful comparisons to be developed. To illustrate, the cooperative regularly

2 Whether or not these data are available depends on whether the permission, and the time are available
to dig them out them.

records costs generated by agricultural machines. The fuel consumed and operators'

salaries are charged to the activity in which the fuel and operators were engaged: for

example, cane cultivation; transportation of personnel; or tending the milk-cow herd.

Maintenance and repair costs are also recorded: each liter of oil, each belt or gasket.

Here, however, the "links" disappear: unlike fuel and operator salaries, maintenance and

repair costs are tied neither to a specific machine, nor to a specific activity. Rather, they

are taken as indirect costs, lumped together, and redistributed across all productive

activities. Since wages are always directly assigned to the productive activity in which

they were employed, they are taken as the indicator of the relative weight of each activity,

and "indirect" costs, such as maintenance, are assigned in direct proportion to the relative

amount of wages attributable to each activity. The cooperative's economic officer

complained that because of this system, the heavily mechanized sugar crop appears to be

somewhat less costly than it actually is, since much of the sugar-generated machine

expense is distributed to other activities. But there may be even worse consequences,

resulting from the cooperative's inability to compare repair costs between machines, or

between time periods for the same machine, or to trace specific repair jobs back to an

individual mechanic. Agricultural machinery is an important example, because machine

costs dominate industrial input costs (Table 4-1).

Table CHAPTER 4 -1 Percent of 4 Main Industrial Inputs, by Input and Year
1990-91 1991-92 1992-93 1993-94 1994-95
Diesel 8% 11% 20% 30% 43%
Spares 47% 55% 51% 32% 47%
Fertilizer 30% 5% 24% 0% 7%
Herbicide 15% 28% 5% 38% 3%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Note: calculated from absolute pesos.
Source: "Registro de Salida: Almacen de Piezas 1990-91", "Registro de Salida: Almacen 1990-91" and
"Sub-Mayor Analytico de Cuentas: Materias Primas y Materiales" for 1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94 and

The Cost-to-Income Ratio

The most common application of cost of production data at the "Amistad Cuba

Laos" cooperative, and indeed in much of the Cuban economy, is the "costo por peso"

statistic. This ubiquitous ratio, which results from dividing costs by gross income, appears

in cooperative records at least as far back as 1983. It is applied to various productive

activities, and always figures prominently in co-op annual reports.

Table CHAPTER 4 -2 Some Cost-to-Income Ratios
1990-91 1991-92 1992-93 1993-94 1994-95
All Income 0.44 0.58 0.85 0.89 0.72
All Production 0.38 1.01 0.79
Industrial Cane 0.36 0.50 0.61 1.04 0.93
Guarapo Cane 0.37 0.47 0.50
Boniato 0.41 0.72
Rice 0.98 9.59
Beans 0.55 8.00
Source: "Informe Anual, CPA Amistad Cuba Laos" years 1990-91, 1993-94, 1994-95
"Datos Historicos de Balance 1983-1995"

Table 4-2 gives the 1993-94 figures as they were recorded, before the state paid a

retroactive price increase of approximately 35% on the cane sold to it by the co-op.3 The

3 From 16.30 to 22.00 pesos per 100 arrobas (2500 lbs), paid in February 1995, nearly a year after the
harvest. If re-calculated, the new price improves the industrial cane cost-to-income ratio from 1.04 to .77,
while the "all production" and "all income" ratios also improve, since they each include the industrial
cane figure. The co-op members were anticipating a similar retroactive price increase after the 1994-95
season, but 2 months into the 1995-96 fiscal year, nothing was known for certain. These large retroactive

"pre-bonus" figures are shown, since they are what the co-op members worked with as

they evaluated 1993-94 and moved into 1994-95. Interestingly, even with increasing

prices for inputs, and without considering any increase in the price paid for cane, 1994-95

showed definite improvement as compared to the previous year. This reenforces the

tendency toward recovery, which was noted in the previous chapter.

The cost-to-income ratio is mainly useful to compare overall economic

performance between similar productive entities or activities within a single entity,

particularly if the accounting procedures behind the cost component are known to be

similar across the productive units compared. For example, in Table 4-2, the analyst

quickly realizes that the bean and rice crops of 1993-94 presented serious problems.

Theoretically, the ratio might also be useful in comparing overall performance within the

same unit, or grouping of units, across time. Unfortunately, the experience of the

"Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative, which has changed accounting systems 3 times during

the past 5 years, may not be unusual. While the cost-to-income ratio has survived each of

those changes, it may not represent strictly comparable quantities. The terse evaluation by

Zimbalist and Brundenius (1989) of the low cost-to-income ratios reported for many

cooperatives in the early 1980s, still rings true:

Here again, it is difficult to decipher what these figures imply about efficiency.
While they suggest high profit-sales ratios, they are skewed by non-scarcity

price increases may be the result of world market price fluctuations beyond the control of the Cuban
government, and they are certainly welcomed by the cooperative members. Even so, they have several
negative side-effects. First, they re-enforce a tendency to believe that the state will ultimately bail the
cooperative out of financial insolvency, precisely as the state's ability to deliver on such an unspoken
promise diminishes. Second, they make many key economic data, and therefore the results of analyzing
those data, tentative, until a final price is established, perhaps many months later. This is particularly
problematic since the principal economic indicator is the cost-to-income ratio, which can be transformed
by a retroactive price increase, from a frog into a prince. Perhaps in part for this reason, the price
increase for the 1993-94 crop, which arrived during the 1994-95 harvest, was entered into "other income"
for 1994-95.

pricing, subsidies, and shifting accounting practices. The cooperatives also suffer
from a lack of experience with practical accounting, making much of the
microperformance data suspect, particularly for financial indicators.

To the extent that management is concerned with increasing efficiency, detailed

information is required. Yet the cost-to-income ratio hides all the details, and is therefore

of limited use as a farm-level management tool.

Terms of Exchange: Farm Input to Output

A fundamental economic question for cooperative management is the relation

between the prices they must pay for inputs, and those they receive for outputs, especially

sugarcane. Of course, under the conditions of input scarcity which were previously

described, the price is seldom a factor in deciding whether to purchase. It may well be a

factor in deciding how much of a certain input to use, or how to substitute inputs for each

other. In a more general sense, the cooperative members, including the leaders, sense that

input prices may be rising faster than the prices they receive for sugarcane. Table 4-3

checks this perception by listing the quantity of each input which can be purchased with

the income from the sale of a metric ton of cane. Since the 1989-90 season is generally

considered a "pre-crisis" year, it can be used as a kind of "control."

Table CHAPTER 4 -3 Rates of Exchange Between Farm Inputs and Outputs
1989-90 1993-94 1994-95
M Ton M Ton M Ton
Pesos Pesos Pesos
Cane Cane Cane
Arroba of Cane 0.1251 88.2 0.163 88.2 0.220 88.2
Diesel Fuel (ltr) 0.065 169 0.170 85 0.179 109
Labor per day 8.26 1.34 7.55 1.90 7.56 2.57
Lube oil (ltr) 0.24 46.5 0.58 24.79 0.65 29.9
N Fertilizer
(metric ton) 33-0-0 174 0.06 na 187 0.10
Herbicide (ltr)
azulox 4.09 2.70 na 7.71 2.52
sal amina 0.99 11.15 3.06 4.70 3.62 5.36
Source: Cooperative records.

The first row states the average price that the cooperative received per arroba of cane for

the harvest in each given year.4 The shaded column then indicates that there are about

88.2 arrobas in a metric ton. That relation obviously remains constant across the years!

Each of the following entries in the shaded column is derived by dividing the product of

pesos per arroba and arrobas per metric ton, by the unit cost of the input in question. For

example, the calculation for diesel fuel in 1989-90 was:

.1251 88.2
= 169

Worth noting is the relative decrease in the cost of labor, over the time span. Might this

help explain the increase in hired, contract labor which has characterized the period? It

appears that the cooperative members are correct in thinking that input costs have risen

faster than output prices. Given the changes in the international terms of trade which

Cuba has experienced during the time span, this is hardly surprising. Indeed, it is

surprising how little change there has been, especially if the government maintains the .22

peso per arroba price.

Overall Cost Structure
Finally, what amount of costs are generated by each of the major ingredients that

the cooperative combines to produce sugarcane and food crops? Although this report

focuses on sugarcane production, the difficulty of assigning discreet amounts from each

category of input data, to corresponding productive activities, prohibits a strict focus on

sugarcane at this point in the study. In Table 4-4, each of the first 6 rows indicates

4 "Average," because in some years, several different rates of pay were used, in order to stimulate above-
plan production.

absolute yearly expenses for a major input category, with the 5-year total of expenditures

for each input appearing in the last column.

Table CHAPTER 4 -4 Major Costs of Production by Item and All Crops, In Pesos
1990-91 1991-92 1992-93 1993-94 1994-95 Input Total
Diesel 14,292 10,696 16,782 32,597 57,551 131,918
Spares 86,726 53,232 43,230 34,681 63,270 281,139
Fertilizer 55,058 5,006 20,626 0 9,092 89,782
Herbicide 27,299 26,995 4,071 40,798 4,637 103,800
Member Advances 204,098 234,376 191,566 179,572 226,245 1,035,857
Contract Labor 40,777 na 66,472 74,532 116,200 297,981
Yearly Total 428,250 330,305 342,747 362,180 476,995 1,940,477
Cost of All
Production A335,847 384,193 393,183 422,179 522,636 2,058,038
Source: 4 industrial inputs from "Registro de Salida: Almacen de Piezas 1990-91"and "Sub-Mayor
Analytico de Cuentas: Materias Primas y Materiales" for 1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94 and 1994-95.
Member Advances and Cost of All Production from "Datos Historicos de Balance", Contract labor from
"Informe Anual" from each of 1990-91, 1993-94 and 1994-95. CPA "Amistad Cuba Laos"

The 7th, or "Yearly Total," row reports the annual sum of all major inputs. Since

sugarcane, which usually accounts for over 70% of the total production costs, is not an

annual crop, costs of production of a particular harvest are spread over several years. For

this reason, annual expenditures are not the same as cost of crop production expenditures

for a given year. Of course, over a several year period, these figures will tend to

converge, as is demonstrated by the two final lines of the last column. Assuming that

some amount was spent on contract labor in 1991-92, the only year for which that

information could not be located, the convergence would be closer.

From this overview of costs during the "special period," some of the events and

processes previously discussed are clearly visible:

* The input shortages, most notably of diesel and fertilizer in 1991-92, and again of
fertilizer in 1993-94.

* The continual dominance of machine related costs (diesel fuel plus spares), among the
industrial inputs.

* The increase in contract labor throughout the period, and the related increase in costs
of production.

* The large increase in fuel costs, stemming from a near-tripling of the price of diesel
during the period.

The largest of the expenses, "Member Advances," deserves special mention. This

amount is what the cooperative members pay themselves for working. It is generally the

same daily rate as the cooperative pays wage workers for the same work, but since the

members are the farm owners, it is considered an advance against the cooperative net

income, as tabulated after the harvest. Member profits ("utilidades," which will be

discussed in Chapter 6) accrue only after all expenses, including advances, are deducted

from gross income. The most important point is that this large category of cost is not

directly comparable to the other expenses shown, since it is paid to the owners of the



The "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative distinguishes between 4 categories of

workers: cooperative members, individually contracted workers, labor brigades and

volunteer labor.

By definition, the work at an agricultural production cooperative is carried out

principally by the owners (i.e. members) themselves. 1 The number of hired workers at

"Amistad Cuba Laos," though definitely a minority when compared to members, is

growing. Furthermore, neither the membership nor the hired workers represent

homogeneous groups, either in terms of social origins or function within the cooperative

farm. The outline below is provided as a guide to the discussion which follows.

1 This is one of the characteristics which distinguishes the production cooperative from a "partnership",
where there may be 2 or more owners, but where hired non-partners typically form a majority of the

I. Cooperative Members
A. Origin
1. contributors or poolers of land
2. specialized skills
3. laborer
B. Gender
C. Function
1. managerial
2. repair shop specialist or helper
3. administrative
4. machine operation
5. livestock tending
6. co-op kitchen
7. field labor
8. other (guard duty, odd jobs)
II. Individually Hired Workers
A. Origin
1. landless and jobless
2. retired
B. Type of contract
1. 3 month
2. unlimited
C. Function
1. field labor
a) sugarcane
b) autoconsumo
2. guard duty
III. Collectively Hired Workers (Brigade or "Contingente")
A. Origin

B. Functi(

urban workers

1. sugarcane
IV. Volunteer Workers
A. Origin
1. Ariguanabo Textile Factory
2. Complejo Agro Industrial
B. Function

Cooperative Members

Rights and Obligations

The manner by which an individual achieves cooperative membership differs

somewhat depending upon whether that person has land to "contribute" to the cooperative

pool. If the applicant has land, admission appears to consist of negotiations over what the

cooperative will offer the farmer. For example, besides payment for his or her land, the

prospective entrant may sometimes hold out for the promise of a new house constructed

close to town,2 or permission to maintain a small portion of the land for personal use. On

the other hand, applicants without land are generally contracted for a limited period of

time, usually 3 months, to perform the job for which the co-op needs them. Most entrants

begin as field laborers, with a lesser number filling positions requiring technical or

professional skills.3 If they perform well during this contract period, the general assembly

(all members) will vote on whether to admit them.

A member who does not abide by cooperative rules, particularly with regard to

work attendance, can be expelled. Like admission, this requires a vote by the membership.

Members can, of course, withdraw from the cooperative if they so desire. The decision to

transfer one's land to the cooperative is irrevocable, but payments still due for property

contributed will be made by the cooperative whether the former owner remains a member

or not. Aside from pensions for those who reach legal retirement age, this is the only

2 The co-op president reported that 25 small farmers, with a total of 19 caballerias (255 ha) of land, will
enter the co-op as soon as they can be assured houses.
3 Economic hard times have drastically curtailed the co-op's ability to procure cement and other building
materials. The last house fully constructed, just as materials "dried up," belongs to the agronomist. This
may indicate that a person with no land, but highly valued skills, can also bargain for housing.

type of payment made to those who leave, since no liquidation of "equity" in the

cooperative seems to exist.

Besides payments for the sale of land to the co-op, members receive a wage-like

advance on profits, and a portion of profits after each harvest. Whereas advances may be

paid either on the basis of time worked, work performance, or a combination of the two,

after-harvest profits are paid only according to number of days worked. Each member is

also entitled to receive a share of milk and food crop production, at very low prices.

These and other issues related to payment will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter 6.

Members who wish to work a plot of land for their own family consumption are

encouraged to do so. This practice has only existed since the 1993-94 fiscal year. During

that year, as well as 1994-95, rice was planted by the cooperative on a sugarcane field

from which old ratoons had been uprooted (see Chapter 2), but which was not scheduled

to be planted for several months. Plots were then assigned by the agronomist to each

interested cooperative member, and many workers. The plots can only be tended after

work, or on weekends, and the production belongs entirely to the individual.

Finally, members have the right to participate in decision making through electing

the members of the executive committee ("junta directive,"), voicing opinions, and voting

on major decisions at meetings of the general assembly.


The founding members of the "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative were small

farmers. According to the cooperative's first president, the original collective was

founded in December of 1979 by 12 members.4 Eleven were to work in the fields, while

one kept the books. The former president himself reports having contributed the 23.5

hectares (1.75 caballerias) of land on which he farmed sugarcane, root crops and rice. In

1983, the original "Amistad Cuba Laos" merged with the "Antonio Maceo Grajales"

cooperative. Although the records from this early period are sketchy, it appears that after

the merger only 19 of 51 members were "aportadores" (contributors of land), with the

balance having entered without any means of production.5 The most recent entry of a

farmer with land was in 1985.6 The ideological concerns and relatively high incomes of

Cuba's remaining individual farmers provide at least partial explanations for their apparent

lack of interest in joining the cooperatives during the past decade (Deere 1992:137-138).

Another factor that may contribute at "Amistad Cuba Laos," and probably elsewhere, is

the seniority system through which jobs are assigned (see Table 5-1). The farmers who

joined the cooperative in the early years did so in part to escape the drudgery of non-

mechanized farm life. Now however, a new member without special skills is almost

certain to spend years doing field work, before a machine-operating job becomes available.

The cooperative does not offer an escape from field work as it once did. Thus, it may be

that few if any land-pooling farmers can be expected to enter, except perhaps to trade their

land for a house and/or a cash payment, and retire.

4 As mentioned in Chapter 1, documentary evidence indicates that the "original" (pre-merger) "Amistad
Cuba Laos" cooperative was formally begun in December of 1980, with 18 members.

5 Although "aportador" is often translated as contributeer" the latter does not clearly convey what
occurred: each farmer was paid by the cooperative, in installments, for the land he or she "contributed".
Thus "poolers of land" is probably a better translation.

6 Three sons of land-owners entered after 1985, but none actually possessed land upon joining.

Of the 162 people who joined the cooperative from 1984 through July 1995, only

7 are listed as "aportadores," and 3 of those are sons of farmers who had been among the

original contributors of land. During the first years, the motivation for taking on non-

landed members was the need for more field labor. Hence, the typical member without

land was admitted in order to do work much like the small land-owning members had

done. Several factors operating during the 1980s caused the management of cooperatives

to became more complex. First, the scale of operations increased, as average cooperative

land holdings of sugarcane producing CPAs grew from 271.1 hectares (20.2 caballerias) in

1980 to 953.1 hectares (71 caballerias) in 1985 (Pollitt and Hagelberg 1994: 556).

Meanwhile, the cooperatives became increasingly mechanized: whereas no cooperatives

owned harvester combines prior to 1980, in 1990 approximately 400 sugarcane

cooperatives owned 506 combines (Pollitt and Hagelberg 1994: 556-7). Finally, various

government measures taken in 1986 and 1987 tended to increase the need for cooperative

record keeping, planning and reporting to state entities (Deere et al 1992: 136-137, 139;

Meurs 1989: 196-199). At the same time, enrollment in Cuban universities grew from

35,137 in the 1970-71 school year, to 212,155 in 1984-85 (Zimbalist and Brundenius

1989: 100). Within this increase were many students from rural backgrounds, who were

not adverse to returning to work, as professionals, in agriculture.

Each of these elements played a role in the gradual increase in the number of

specialists who were admitted to the "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative. Unlike the

landless workers who became members, the specialists were brought in to carry out

functions quite different from what the small farmers could accomplish on their own. At

present, the cooperative counts among its membership mechanics, welders, bookkeepers,

an accountant, agronomists, a veterinarian and an agricultural engineer. Predictably, many

"professionals" tend to assume management, as well as technical functions.

Women Members
During 1986, 14 women constituted a "peak" 18% of the total cooperative

membership. By July of 1995, 11 women comprised less than 13% of membership. Both

of these figures are well below the national mean for women's participation in all CPA's:

25.4% of membership in 1985, and 22% in 1994. (Stubbs and Alvarez 1987; ANAP

1994). In general, women's limited participation in the cooperatives has been explained

by several factors, including:

* the difficulty of the "dual role," i.e., running the home plus full-time work.

* the administrative and economic difficulty for the co-ops to pay for casual, non-full
time "family" labor.

* a consequent tendency by women to renounce field work, and concentrate on the
home (Stubbs and Alvarez 1987).

In addition to these factors, at the "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative, the nature of

available work itself seems to limit the involvement of women. Nearly all of those

without land who become members fall into one of three categories:

* field laborers.

* machine related workers, particularly mechanics and welders, and to a lesser extent,
machine operators.

* a limited number of professionals such as accountants, engineers, agronomists.

Field labor in sugarcane is heavy work, and is not considered appropriate for women by

either men or women co-op members. Neither have women become significantly

involved in machine-related skilled trades, such as mechanical repair, welding or even

tractor driving. This leaves only the last "entry-path," that of office or other professional

work, plus an occasional opening in the kitchen, as available for women. In fact, the

woman most recently admitted to membership, in February of 1991, is an experienced



Production at the "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative involves considerable work

specialization, ranging from extremely repetitious field labor, to agricultural and financial

decision-making which clearly benefits from university education. Between these

extremes are jobs, mostly in equipment operation and maintenance, which require

knowledge and skills beyond those needed for field work, but which are achievable by

nearly any cooperative member who makes an effort to learn. These mid-level jobs are

usually filled from within the co-op, according to seniority of membership, and

competence to handle the job. The relatively few jobs requiring considerable training or

experience (mechanics, welders), or higher education (agronomist, economist) are filled by

admitting people specifically for those positions. Table 5-1 illustrates how this

Table CHAPTER 5 -1 Present Members in Each Work Category, by Period When
1979-83 1984-86 1987-89 1990-92 1993-95 Total
Managerial 2 0 1 3 2 8
Repair shop 0 0 2 4 5 11
Administrative 1 2 1 2 2 8
Machine operation 13 3 2 3 2 23
Livestock tending 2 1 0 1 1 5
Co-op Kitchen 2 1 1 0 0 4
Field 3 5 1 0 16 25
Other 2 2 0 0 0 4
Total 25 14 8 12 27 88
Source: "Lista Consolidada de Socios de Cooperativa 'Amistad Cuba Laos' "; interviews with members;
observation of work.

process has shaped the cooperative's present division of labor, by associating the period

during which a member was admitted, with the type of work that member performs. Each

row enumerates all members whose primary function falls within a particular category of

work,7 while each column contains all current (July 1995) members who were admitted to

the cooperative during a given period. Job categories are listed in descending order, from

higher to lower levels of complexity. The life experience of most able-bodied rural

dwellers (particularly men, as explained above) would prepare them to carry out most jobs

within the last 4 categories. "Machine operation" is not so universally practiced, so

members wishing to exchange a life of manual labor for tractor driving might need to find

a tutor among the farm's equipment operators.8 Although some members "move up"

7 The jobs in each category are as follows:
* Managerial: Co-op president, economist, agronomist, and heads of areas such as repair shop,
procurement and production in general. Generally participate in executive committee meetings, and
most have received higher education.
* Repair shop: Mechanics, welders and their helpers. Helpers are usually harvester operators who
spend much of the non-harvest season preparing their harvester for the next harvest, or doing other
jobs around the shop.
* Administrative: A wide variety including storeroom attendants, payroll and book keeping, and
technical specialists who advise and supervise, but who are not on the board of directors.
* Machine operation: Members who spend most of the year driving track-type or wheel tractors. Does
not include combine operators, or those who drive tractors only during the cane harvest, since they
spend most of the year doing other work.
* Livestock tending: Those who directly tend the milk herd, the pigs, rabbits and chickens.
* Co-op kitchen: Three cooks and a server, who prepare lunch daily for co-op members.
* Field: Manual field laborers.
* Other: Guards who watch for stealing of cattle, food crops or other goods; those who perform other,
low skill jobs which do not fall into previous categories.

8 An entry from my field notebook (8-16-95) illustrates the point: "Emilio entered the co-op as a field
hand. Within a year and a half, his number came up for a tractor driver position. Fortunately, he had
been watching and practicing, and was able to get his license, in order to become a "movedor de cafia"
[pulling wagons along side the combines, to be loaded with cane: an entry level tractor-driving position].
He and [the repair shop supervisor] explained that had he not been able to get his license, the co-op might
have had to hire, then admit, an experienced driver. In that case, if he did eventually get the license, he
could "reclaim" the tractor driving position, due to his lower number."

into the first three categories, the majority of these positions are filled by members who

join specifically to fill them.

Job openings are filled according to seniority among interested, and qualified,

members.9 Given the heavy concentration of field labor among those with least seniority

(the "class," or column, of 1993-95), it is fair to conclude that members prefer almost any

job over field work. At the other end of the spectrum, most of the full-time machine

operators are members who joined prior to 1984, and have sufficient seniority to acquire

"plum" jobs. This means that field labor is the entry path for membership among those

who possess no special skills needed by the cooperative. 10

Stability of Membership

Another tendency evidenced by Table 5-1 is the heavy representation in the two

highest skilled job categories, "managerial" and "repair shop", among those entering since

1990. This is partly due to an increasing demand by the co-op for skilled and educated

members. At the same time, these skilled "outsiders" tend to be men, who enter the

9 Beginning with the first member as #1, each member is assigned a consecutive number upon
admission. Seniority is then determined by the magnitude of the member's number, with the lower
number indicating greater seniority. Numbers are retired when members leave, which leaves "gaps" in
the member numbers, but permits maintaining the same number throughout one's permanence. At
"Amistad Cuba Laos," the numbers corresponding to the 88 members as of 7-95 ranged from 1 to 216.
This numbering system (which is used at many, but not all CPAs), facilitates tracking of demographic
trends within the cooperative.

10 The qualifier "needed by the cooperative" is important: one field laborer hired on a contract basis and
hoping to be admitted to the cooperative was said to have several years of post-secondary education in
agronomy, and to have previously worked at an agricultural research center. The cooperative had an
experienced agronomist, however, so that applicant's qualifications were irrelevant at the time: his "entry
path" remained field labor.

cooperative without land, and as Table 5-2 indicates, this a category with a relatively high

likelihood of leaving the cooperative. 11

Table CHAPTER 5 -2 Years of Membership, by Origin
Men (non-
Origin of Member Aportadores Women
Mean Years of
12.6 12.4 4.9
Source: "Lista Consolidada de Socios de Cooperativa 'Amistad Cuba Laos' "

In July of 1995, the "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative consisted of 88 members,

including 21 "aportadores," 11 women (4 of whom were "aportadores"), and 60 men who

did not bring land to the cooperative. Table 5-3 further demonstrates that instability does

not affect all types of members equally. As of mid-1995, two-thirds of the non-land

contributing men who had ever joined the cooperative, had also left. With 66% of the

membership in this "high turnover" population, it is not surprising that membership

instability has been a source of preoccupation for the cooperative's leadership.12

11 In order to gauge whether the stability of the aportador group was merely a function of the period
during which men joined, I looked at current (7-95) membership for men entering 1979-1983, and
distinguished between aporatdor and non-aportador. Of the 31 men non-aportadores who entered the co-
op prior to 1984, only 6 (19%) remained in July of 1995, whereas of 16 male aportadores who entered
during the same period, 13 (81%) remained.

12 As part of the explanation for the cooperative's 1993-94 worst-ever sugarcane harvest, the annual
report notes that 75% of those who participated in the harvest were new to the cooperative, or at least new
in the job they performed. This even included the combine-harvester operators, who had never driven
combines before that harvest!

Table CHAPTER 5 -3 Members Entering and Leaving During Each Period
1979-83 1984-86 1987-89 1990-92 1993-95 Total
Join 19 4 1 1 1 26
Leave 0 0 2 0 3 5
Join 7 7 0 1 0 15
Leave 0 0 2 1 1 4
Men (not aportadores)
Join 32 41 32 32 42 179
Leave 3 27 24 21 44 119
Source: "Lista Consolidada de Socios de Cooperativa 'Amistad Cuba Laos' "

Table 5-4 examines average length of membership of present members, by job

category. Here again, the more complex areas of management and repair shop show

some of the lowest accumulations of time in the cooperative. The repair shop is

particularly interesting, because, as implied by Table 5-1, it is an area with virtually no

participation by aportadores. The short "collective memory" of the shop personnel may

be a factor in recurring criticisms of the shop organization, by cooperative leadership.13

Table CHAPTER 5 -4 Mean Years of Membership of All Members in Job Categories
Machine All
Type of Work Manage Shop Admin Livestock Kitchen Field
operator members
Qty ofMembers 8 11 8 23 5 4 25 88
in Category
Mean Years of
MeanYearsof 5.7 3.3 6.7 10.8 8.9 11.8 4.5 7.3
Source: "Lista Consolidada de Socios de Cooperativa 'Amistad Cuba Laos' "; Interviews with members.
Note: The "Other" category is not included, although those members are included in All column.

But why has turnover been so prevalent? Although it cannot provide a causal

answer that question, Table 5-5 does indicate that the reasons may have changed over

13 For example, ". in the period under evaluation, there were major problems with management in this
[repair shop] area, which led to the impression of unsightliness, disorganization and lack of supervision
over repairjobs" (Cooperative Annual Report for 1994-95, pg 3). Similar comments are found in the
1993-94 annual report. Interestingly, in both years the reports went on to commend the shop personnel
for doing an apparently good job in keeping machinery running, in the face of shortages of spare parts.

time. In the early years, nearly all withdrawals were voluntary resignations, apparently

initiated by the member. Although the amount of detail included in these records varies

greatly from year to year, a number of entries recorded members leaving to obtain

industrial employment. Over the years, a shift occurred, and by 1993 most who left did so

involuntarily, through forced separations, i.e. expulsions.

Table CHAPTER 5 -5 Reasons for Leaving "Amistad Cuba Laos" Cooperative, for
Selected Years
Resignations Separations Retirements Other Unknown Total
1984 5 0 0 0 0 5
100% 0% 0% 0% 0% 100%
1986 12 0 0 1 1 14
86% 0% 0% 7% 7% 100%
1987 1 2 1 1 0 5
20% 40% 20% 20% 0% 100%
1988 4 2 1 2 0 9
44% 22% 11% 22% 0% 100%
1993 0 22 3 0 0 25
0% 88% 12% 0% 0% 100%
1994 0 11 1 1 0 13
0% 85% 8% 8% 0% 100%
Source: "Lista Consolidada de Socios de Cooperativa 'Amistad Cuba Laos' "

During the first half of the 1980s the Cuban economy was indeed growing, with a

large textile mill near the cooperative employing thousands of workers. In the later 80s

however the economy was stagnating, and with the collapse of socialism in Eastern

Europe and the USSR, stagnation turned into crisis in Cuba (Pastor and Zimbalist

1995:8). Thus it may be that hard times at the co-op led to a tightening of labor

discipline, and an elimination of those who were not felt to be "pulling their weight." On

the other hand, the interplay of national economic conditions and the cooperative's

incentive system may also have played a role (Chapter 6 will examine this in more depth).

Table 5-6 offers national level statistics on reasons for leaving cooperatives.

Although the span of years is not identical, the tendencies here are very different from

those apparent at the "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative. Nationally, high numbers of

members entering retirement in the early and mid-1980s seriously affected the growth of

cooperatives (Deere et al 1992: 131). Somewhat paradoxically, the percentage and

absolute numbers of those leaving the CPAs through retirement decreased substantially

over the 6 year period. From this, it appears that many older farmers joined the

cooperatives largely to obtain retirement benefits unavailable to farmers outside the CPAs.

The data do not show this phenomena to have occurred to any significant extent at the

"Amistad Cuba Laos" co-op. Also in contrast to "Amistad Cuba Laos," the national

figures show voluntary resignations increasing dramatically, while forced separations

maintain a low, and fairly constant level. If nothing else, these dramatically different

trends underline the limitations of making assumptions about the cooperative movement as

a whole from a few specific cases, or visa-versa.
Table CHAPTER 5 -6 Reasons for Leaving CPAs, all Cuba
Resignations Separations Retirements
1985 34% 9% 57%
1986 51% 9% 40%
1987 48% 16% 36%
1988 57% 11% 32%
1989 58% 13% 30%
1990 73% 11% 16%
Source: Deere et al 1992: Table 4, pg 131

According to Table 5-7, the number of members and rates of growth achieved by

"Amistad Cuba Laos" appear much more typical when compared to CPA cooperatives in

the province of Havana alone, rather than for Cuba as a whole. 14
Table CHAPTER 5 -7 Average Number of Members (mean), by Year
1980 1985 1990 1991 1992
Cuba 29 51 48 48 50
Havana Province 28 79 90 94 97
ACL Co-op 24 77 85 100 93
Source: for Cuba 1980-1990, Deere et al 1992 pg. 123; for Cuba 1991-92 Nova 1994 pg 63; for Havana
Province, Nova 1994 pg. 66; for ACL Co-op, "Lista Consolidada de Socios de Cooperativa 'Amistad Cuba
Laos' "

Bringing some of the previous details together, Figure 5-1 displays membership

growth and turnover graphically. The solid line charts the number of members at the end

of each semester. The vertical lines indicate the number of members entering (above the

14 Since the number of "Amistad Cuba Laos" members varies throughout the year, the co-op has a
statistic which they call "average of members during the year," which I used for Table 5-7. It may not be
a mean.

Figure CHAPTER 5 -1 Total Membership, and Those Entering and Leaving, by


110 -----------------------------------






-0-Total oflEnbasatFdofSanc nibaSFisE igDu lgSener io N1ibasligmS o Mwg Sester

Source: "Lista Consolidada de Socios de Cooperativa 'Amistad Cuba Laos' "

membership line) or leaving (below the membership line) during the semester. Thus, the

net change in membership from one semester to the next, is the result of member entrances

minus member exits. Since a longer vertical "arrow" means more comings and/or goings

during the previous six months, mid-1992 through mid-1995 indeed stands out as an

extended period of relative instability. Recalling Table 5-5, available data for the 1990s

shows that members who left during those years were generally expelled. This contrasts

to previous years, when the impetus for turnover was voluntary resignation from the

cooperative. During the economic crisis, the co-op seems to have become relatively more

attractive, compared to available alternatives. But the same nation-wide economic

conditions which made the cooperative more attractive, also made profitable production

more difficult for the co-op to achieve. As already suggested, requiring greater labor

discipline may have been one management response to a deteriorating economic

environment. Unfortunately, the threat of expulsion is probably an inappropriate tool for

eliciting work discipline within a cooperative,15 and may indicate serious problems with

work incentives. The issue of co-op incentives will be discussed further in Chapter 6.

Non-Member, Contracted Labor

Individually Contracted Workers

Rights and obligations. Although there are several types of individual contracts,

the most prominent is a three-month agreement that is the main entry route for

cooperative membership. When seen as a probationary period, the similarities and

differences as compared to membership are comprehensible. Gaining employment of this

sort with the cooperative is not difficult: the cooperative leaders complain that it is hard to

find workers, and seem willing to hire almost any able-bodied applicant for a three-month

contract. The individually contracted worker's wage is the same as the cooperative

member "advance" for the same work, but the contract worker is not entitled to share in

the profits.16 Like members, contracted workers are provided very inexpensive lunches,

and a share of food crop production at nominal prices. If sufficient land is available, they

will be offered a plot to tend during their free time, on which to grow rice for their

15 Unlike the traditional investor-owned firm, in which labor discipline is typically based on workers'
fear of being fired, a cooperative requires the existence of social solidarity among its members. This
feeling of solidarity is not compatible with frequent forced separations.
16 Profits corresponding to the three contracted months are paid, if the worker is accepted as a member.

families. Contract workers are permitted to attend general assembly meetings, though not

to vote. Although the work rules for contract workers are the same as for members, in

practice the probationary nature of the three-month contract is emphasized in rather strict

enforcement. Only the decision of the management committee is required to terminate the

contract, and through a combination of attrition and firing, the vast majority of those

contracted are never offered membership.

Origins. Workers on an "entry-path" contract are generally young men from the

area, many of whom seem to have less-than-excellent employment records, and limited

options. The cooperative offers a somewhat different type of individual contract to

retired workers, either to perform relatively light work in the food crop (as opposed to

sugarcane) production, or to perform guard duty as night watchmen. Unlike the entry-

path contracts which must either offer the worker membership, or terminate the contract

after 3 months, the contracts for already retired workers, and for night watchmen of any

age, are not constrained by time limitations, nor are they intended to lead to cooperative


Functions. At the end of July 1995, the cooperative economic officer reported the

following breakdown of individually contracted workers:

* 17 in the sugarcane area performing mechanical (hoe) and chemical (backpack
sprayer) weed control, plus some replanting.

* 18 night watchmen, including one man hired to coordinate their activities. 17

* 11 food crop field workers, including 7 retired men.

* 5 in assorted non-agricultural, unskilled jobs.

17 The co-op's proximity to Havana seems to make it a high risk for thievery, particularly cattle rustling.
The placement of 2 watchmen at key points each night has reportedly halted these losses.

Notice that the 17 sugarcane workers plus 11 food crop workers hired by the

cooperative constitute a larger group than all the members classified as field laborers in

Table 5-1. It is not unusual therefore that field work be accomplished by groups

comprised of contract workers, overseen by a cooperative member.

Labor "Contingents": Collectively Hired Workers

Another source of labor for the cooperative is known as the contingent

contingentnte". The agricultural labor contingents are groups of urban workers, first

organized in 1990, as a mechanism for transferring excess urban labor into food crop

production in the areas around the major cities of Havana and Santiago. To attract these

workers, they are guaranteed either a relatively high minimum wage (225 pesos/month),

or the same salary they were earning in the city, whichever is higher. They are also

supplied good lodging, and abundant food. For this, they volunteer for 2 years of service,

and work every day, 12 days on 2 days off, often in excess of 60 hours per week (Deere

et al 1994: 199). The "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative utilizes contingent labor for

weed control in sugarcane. This form of labor organization offers some advantages for

the cooperative, as compared to individually contracted workers. The co-op deals directly

with the organizers, or bosses: to a large extent, supervision is part of the "package."

Although the agronomist or production manager will have to spend some time verifying

the work accomplished, they emphasized that the contingent is made up of good, hard

workers. The drawback however is that the contingent is expensive. Once they are

contracted, the cooperative must pay 40% of their salary expense, plus a stipend for living

expenses, every day. These costs must be paid even if weather conditions prevent any

work from being done: not an unusual situation in the rainy tropics. On the days worked,

there is an additional, established amount paid for the task accomplished that day. The co-

op calculates the cost of contingent labor at 20 to 25 pesos per day per laborer. This can

be contrasted with the individually contracted workers, who receive 7 or 8 pesos per day,

plus a partially subsidized lunch. On days for which weather conditions cause work to be

canceled, they are not paid. The relative cost of individually contracted workers is

increased somewhat by the limited food crop ration they receive, and the supervision they

require. Furthermore, their daily output is said to less than that of the contingent workers.

Even so, the co-op leadership considers the overall cost of individually contracted labor to

be less than contingent labor.

Volunteer Labor

According to Cuban mass media accounts18, during critical moments in the

sugarcane cycle, volunteers from all around Cuba are mobilized to work in the cane fields,

usually hoeing weeds. The concept is that since the Cuban economic progress depends

heavily on the success of the sugarcane harvest, all Cubans have a stake, and even a duty,

to contribute directly to the effort. The cooperative managers confirm that such groups

occasionally arrive at the cooperative. The co-op perspective is that, while the volunteers

might not work terribly well, they cost little or nothing, and are therefore worthwhile. On

two occasions I observed groups of volunteer workers who spent a day at "Amistad Cuba

Laos." One group of 12 men came from the sugar mill to which the co-op sells its cane.

18 In particular, the evening news regularly features reports involving volunteers laboring in the cane
fields. Newspaper accounts are not unusual either: "The Cuban Youth plans a nationwide mobilization

The other consisted of about 30 textile workers from a factory located only 5 kilometers

from the cooperative base of operations. This latter group was almost evenly divided

between men and women. In both cases, I was told that the participants had nothing to

do at their respective workplaces, and were therefore working in the cane fields. To what

extent either group qualified as "volunteers," or how typical these groups are of the

volunteer phenomenon in Cuba as a whole, I cannot say.19 What is clear, is that only a

very small proportion of work at the cooperative is performed by such groups.

into the cane fields tomorrow, where they will work for the economic recovery of the country" (Granma
19 Jorge P6rez-L6pez mentions that sugarcane cutters are drawn from several sources, including "workers
who are temporarily assigned to sugarcane harvesting activities by their workplaces. These workers fall
into two categories: "habitual" cane cutters, who have cut cane in previous campaigns, and "volunteer"
cane cutters, who most likely have not engaged in the task previously;" (1991: 61). Although P6rez-
L6pez refers only to cane "cutters," his description seems to apply to those who work in weed control as


From the simplest exercise in game theory, such as the "prisoners' dilemma," to

the striking real-word success of Hutterite collective farms,2 there are many indications

of the superiority of cooperative problem solving, if individuals are capable of sufficiently

identifying with, or adopting, group goals. Cuban policy-makers evidently believe that a

considerable degree of individual-to-group identification is plausible: with the conversion

of most state farms into UBPCs beginning in 1993, Cuba's agriculture became heavily

dominated by cooperative farms. Yet, referring to this reform of the state agricultural

sector, a prominent Cuban economist warns,

"A key problem confronting the viability of the reform comes down to its capacity
to produce sufficient incentives to attract and stabilize the rural workforce .. ."

This chapter examines the incentive structure at the "Amistad Cuba Laos"

cooperative. In particular, it focuses on the ways in which the incentives succeed or fail in

harmonizing individual and group interests.

1 For a discussion of the prisoner's dilemma game and other models of institutional choice in relation to
collective action see Ostrom 1990.

2 These little-known collective farmers are located on the Canadian and U.S. northern Great Plains.
Their willingness to work, plan and participate as a community "baffles those who see individual gain as
the motivating force of all activities" (Peter 1987: 43). See also Bennett 1967.

The "Free Rider" Problem: A Recurrent Theoretical Concern
Within the literature concerning production cooperatives, the "free rider," i.e. the

individual who reduces output while maintaining income, is a commonly recognized

problem (Denininger 1993 p. 10). On the other hand, a recent study based on data from

Nicaraguan and Honduran cooperatives, suggests that the free rider problem is neither as

universal, nor as intractable as is commonly assumed (Carter et al. 1993: 189).

Observations at "Amistad Cuba Laos" indicate that the incidence of free riding may vary

from nil to highly significant within the same cooperative.

Alexander Chayanov, writing in the mid 1920s, provided several suggestions for

minimizing the free rider problem, all of which are utilized in some degree by "Amistad

Cuba Laos," and other Cuban CPA's. First, Chayanov counseled, activities which are the

least amenable to collective execution, should be placed under the responsibility of

individuals, or families. Tasks which are not mechanized, and require particularly close

attention, tend to fall into this category. As will be described, raising of pigs and poultry,

as well as some food crop production are examples of this at "Amistad Cuba Laos." Next,

Chayanov asserted that payment to each member should be based on work done, rather

than merely on membership. A wage should be paid at the time work is performed, then

after selling the harvest, profits which are not re-invested should be divided among

members according to the amount of work done by each of them. Finally, the

management body must have the institutional authority and personal will to enforce work

rules (Chayanov 1991: 218-220).

Member Incomes
Members, and to a lesser extent individually contracted workers, at "Amistad Cuba

Laos" receive a variety of material benefits as a result of their affiliation with the

cooperative. All of these will all be considered here as a type of income, whether in cash

or in-kind.

Wage, or Advance on Profits

The wage received by hired workers is analogous to the advance on profits

received by the cooperative members. Even though the member's advance and non-

member's wage are of the same amount for the same work, it is important to recognize

that they are not synonymous. A wage is paid by an owner to a worker: since the

members are all owners, they share profits, not wages. Since with sugarcane, profit can

only be determined after the annual harvest, an advance is provided for members to live on

between harvests. In the event that income from the harvest does not cover all expenses,

the members will obviously not have profits to distribute. Although they are, as members,

collectively responsible for paying of debts, this would involve a debt rescheduling with

the bank, rather than requiring that members somehow return or repay the advance on

profits which never materialized. The "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative is quite proud of

the fact they have never failed to have at least a small profit at year's end.

The payment to each member is made every 15 days, in cash. The actual

tabulation and obtaining of the correct quantities of bills and coins of each denomination is

quite time consuming, as is the placing of each exact amount into small envelopes for

distribution. But cash is more convenient for the members, and the members are the

owners, so that is how things are done.

The advance is nearly always expressed in an amount "per day." The only

exception I noticed to this rule was for the repair shop personnel (mechanics and welders),

who earn 1 peso per hour. This may be due to the absence of norms for maintenance and

repair work, so that when a mechanic puts in more than 8 hours in a day, there is no

"above norm" amount of production by which to determine the extra payment. At the

time data was collected, in the summer of 1995, tractor drivers earned 8 pesos per day,

and field hands earned 7 to 7.5. The nine members of the co-op executive council are

each paid an amount equal to the average of the 5 highest paid members for each period.

Overall, the range of advance-based earning differences among the members is not

large. Table 6-1 provides an indication of the range of annual advance payments across

most of the life of the co-op. The random sample of 8 current members who

Table CHAPTER 6 -1 Advances to Members: Descriptive Statistics from Sample
(current Pesos)
Year Ending Mean Minimum Maximum Range Standard Range/
Mean Minimum Maximum Range
July Deviation Mean
1984 1835 1622 2150 528 188 29%
1985 2174 1770 2528 758 300 35%
1986 2372 2215 2647 432 164 18%
1987 2439 2002 2895 893 278 37%
1988 2365 1996 2729 733 255 31%
1989 2498 2275 2728 453 164 18%
1990 2747 2152 3093 941 334 34%
1991 2726 2416 3020 604 229 22%
1992 2765 2501 3016 515 169 19%
1993 2647 2496 2940 444 160 17%
1994 2669 2348 2799 451 158 17%
1995 2525 2081 3177 1096 383 43%
Source: "Registro de Anticipos Amistad Cuba Laos." Sample of 8 randomly selected from
current members entering co-op prior to 1983-84 fiscal year.

entered the co-op prior to the 1983-84 crop year, includes 5 machine operators, and 3

field hands, but no executive committee members.3 Selecting from among long-time

members permits following trends over time using the same set of members, but has the

disadvantage of eliminating all the professionals, since none of those currently at the co-op

joined prior to 1983-84.


Each July, the co-op economist develops a financial statement for the July 1

through June 30 fiscal year. Among other things, this statement records the distribution of

cooperative profits, as shown in Table 6-2. The proportions fall within limits set by

national, legal guidelines (Consejo de Ministros 9-20-1990: 22).4

Table CHAPTER 6 -2 Distribution of Profits, Selected Years
1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 1994 1995
Divided among the members 50% 50% 50% 50% 50% 50% 50%
Equipment, buildings and other investments 10% 10% 10% 17% 15% 15% 15%
Social welfare 10% 10% 10% 3% 0% 0% 5%
Sports, recreation and culture fund 5% 5% 5% 5% 5% 10% 5%
Payment for pooled lands 25% 25% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Operational Inputs 0O% 0% 25% 25% 30% 25% 25%
Source: calculated from Datos Historicos de Balance cooperative "Amistad Cuba Laos"
Note: In 1988, the cooperative finished paying off members for land which had been pooled, for that
reason, there are no Pia inme in for pooled land" after that year.
The portion of the profits which goes to the membership creates a direct connection

between the efficiency of the collective, and the income of each member. The profits

distributed also reward those who work, or at least are present during working hours,

since the profits are assigned based solely on days worked during the year, without regard

to either the nature, quality or intensity of the work. A day spent cleaning the pig sty

3 The entire payroll for these years was available, but time constraints prevented me from hand-copying
more than a limited sample.

4 The legislation governing cooperatives lists ranges for each of the categories.

earns precisely the same amount of profit as a day scheduling the deployment of machines

and drivers for the harvest. This implies that there might be less variability of profit

income among the membership, than of advance income; a suspicion confirmed by

comparing the last columns of Tables 6-1 and 6-3. It also means that there is a less

tangible connection between profit income, and the quality and intensity of work, than is

the case with advance income, where work norms have a role. In most years, the total

amount dedicated to advances has been larger, and sometimes much larger, than the

portion of profits distributed to the membership.

Table CHAPTER 6 -3 Year End Profits to Members:
Descriptive Statistics from Sample (current Pesos)
Year Ending Mean Minimum Maximum Range Standard Range/
Mean Minimum Maximum Range
July Deviation Mean
1984 1516 1435 1545 110 37 7%
1985 1525 1390 1560 170 59 11%
1986 1726 1675 1744 69 24 4%
1987 1740 1600 1793 193 59 11%
1988 981 888 1023 135 46 14%
1989 1824 1782 1899 117 41 6%
1990 2747 2460 2904 444 150 16%
1991 3372 3260 3579 319 115 9%
1992 2049 1765 2250 485 157 24%
1993 646 621 693 72 25 11%
1994 366 340 406 66 23 18%
1995 1350 1255 1490 235 84 17%
Source: 'Registro de Utilidades Amistad Cuba Laos." Sample of 8 randomly selected from
current members entering co-op prior to 1983-84 fiscal year.

Food Crop Allotment

During 1995, the "Amistad Cuba Laos" cooperative dedicated 39 hectares (2.9

caballerias) to the production of food crops, and another similar size area to grazing

animals, mainly milk cows. The production from this 8% of the farm's agriculturally

productive lands is overwhelmingly destined for consumption by the cooperative

membership, and to a smaller extent, the individually contracted workers. Food crop

("autoconsumo") production, and the livestock operation are each organized as stable

work groups. The supervisors of each of these areas are men with particular expertise,

and those who work in these areas do not generally work in sugarcane, with the

occasional exception of participating in the harvest.

Production from the food crop area represents a very important part of the income

received by each cooperative member. Each Friday, an allotment which, during the 1994-

95 fiscal year, averaged 25 pounds of root crops, 12 pounds of rice, and 22 pounds of

vegetables, is supplied to each member, apparently regardless of family size. A similar

amount is supplied to each individually contracted worker. For the majority of members

who live close to the cooperative, the food is delivered door-to-door. This is an important

detail, since most members live a distance from the local market where similar items could

be purchased, and transportation to and from shopping would be a problem. From the

milk herd comes 1.5 liters of milk per day per member.5 The members pay a nominal fee

for this food, which is only rarely as high as 10% of the free market value (with no home

delivery!). The only requirement for receiving a full allotment is membership in the

cooperative; the amount of food received bears no relation to days worked, much less to

work norms.

Individual Family Plots

The 1994-95 fiscal year was the second year that the "Amistad Cuba Laos"

cooperative had assigned land to each member for family rice production. This rice is

produced in rotation with sugarcane, in a field chosen because of its poor drainage. The

old cane ratoons were uprooted ("demolidos") after the harvest, and the ground was

prepared for planting. Most of the co-op's cane is planted during April, May and June, in

part to take advantage of the first rains. If cane is planted during the rainy season on ill-

drained fields however, waterlogged soil conditions reduce the probability of germination.

Therefore, even though the field is prepared by June at the latest, it will not be planted

until after the rains diminish, in November. Rice, on the other hand, is suitable for areas of

poor drainage, and if planted in June will have plenty of time to mature for harvest in

October. The co-op plants the rice area as a unit, by machine, and then each member is

assigned a specific "strip," 14 rows wide, of the 525 meter long field. The rows are 30 cm

apart, so the standard area is 4.2 meters by 525 meters, or .22 hectares. Individually

contracted workers are assigned somewhat smaller plots. Once planted and assigned, the

rice plot is the responsibility of the individual owner. It must be worked, which basically

means weeded and harvested, during one's free time, and/or by family members.

Members sometimes organize after-work trips from the co-op staging area, to the rice

field, with co-op a tractor and trailer. The previous year, a number of members with

contiguous plots arranged among themselves to rent a rice harvester (which the "Amistad

Cuba Laos" cooperative does not own). According to the agronomist, a well tended,

fertilized plot should yield about 2000 pounds of rice, or perhaps 1300 pounds without

fertilizer.6 Fertilizer is quite scarce, and the cooperative does not have a fertilizer

allotment for this purpose, so little is applied. The harvested rice can be "hulled" using co-

5 One informant told me that the original contributors of land receive 2 liters per day. This was the only
overt perquisite for the "landed founders" which I noticed, although there may well be others.
6 Production could be considerably less, depending on the effort invested. One member contacted after
the harvest said she had done little or no weeding, and harvested 490 lbs of rice, before hulling.

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