GCCA+ Cuba, Municipality of Martí: Towards a low-carbon sustainable development model

GCCA+ Cuba, Municipality of Martí: Towards a low-carbon sustainable development model

At a glance

As Small Island Developing State, Cuba ́s natural resources and economy are strongly affected by climate change. Energy and food (imports and production) are the most vulnerable sectors and the greatest Green House Gas (GHG) emitters (76 % and 15 % respectively as per data of the National Determined Contributions). Sustainable bioenergy and agroecology are recognized as innovative economic models that would allow Cuba in keeping low carbon and environmental footprints while pursuing energy and food sovereignty, provided the necessary biomass to produce bioenergy is produced in a sustainable way. In that sense, the Renewable Energy Directive defines sustainability criteria that have been reinforced in its recast (RED II). This GCCA+ action foresees to upgrade the use of sustainable biogas and brings the production of biomethane for public transport in a rural context, where fuel shortage is a limitation to productive and social activities. Agroecology’s principles, citizen participation and improved Municipality’s management and governance skills will help promote social and economic inclusion and environmental sustainability of this innovative solution and test which are the opportunities of replication and scaling up in Cuba. The action will directly benefit the 22 000 habitants of Martí by providing a cleaner and more efficient transport service, healthier agriculture products and better working conditions in farms, increased resilience of the agriculture and energy sectors and decreased GHG emissions.

Active programmes
Countries involved
Total budget
4,40 M€
GCCA priority area(s)
Country Context

Cuba’s National determined Contributions (NDC) well evidence how natural resources and economy have been strongly affected by environmental degradation (soil salinization and degradation, invasive species, water and air pollution), the impacts of climate change (sea level rise, water salinization, an increase of temperature of 0.9°C and a decrease of 10% in precipitation) and the intensification of weather and climatic extreme events (tropical hurricanes and droughts) .

Energy and agriculture are the most vulnerable sectors and the greatest GHG emitters (76 % and 15 % respectively). The two sectors are rooted on conventional economic models, highly dependent on fuel-fossil and external unsustainable inputs. Imports for both sectors of around 80% of national needs expose the country to other external shocks, namely global price fluctuations and strengthening of the economic embargo.

In pursuing energy and food sovereignty, the Ministry of Economy and Planning (MEP) recognises bioenergy and agroecology as innovative economic models that will allow Cuba in keeping low carbon and environmental footprints while satisfying the needs of Cuban people. However, this depends on the supply of biomass in sustainable conditions, in order to avoid negative impacts like deforestation, biodiversity loss or reduced carbon sinks. The use of residues and manure to produce bioenergy, in line with circular economy principles, is also an option. In 2017, Renewable Energy (RE) represented 4.5% of the country's total primary energy production.

By 2030, NDC plans for 24% of RE of which 14% by biomass. Conversion of biowaste in biogas is a great opportunity for Cuba. The Cuban biogas sector is steadily growing. Records for 2013 report an annual increase of 88.4% of bioenergy by State plants (with 279 operative digesters out of the existing 390) while individual biogas plants increased from 3,000 in 2015 to 5,000 in 2019 . The NDC mentions the importance of biogas for the production of biofertilisers so to replace chemical fertilisers, further reducing GHG emissions and pollution and closing nutrient cycle. In response to the economic hardship during the periodo especial , agroecology applied ecological principles to agricultural systems and practices in Cuba in order to achieve food sustainability, sovereignty and security. The agroecology model is recommended to achieve greater resilience in the face of climatic adversities which are frequent to the island (hurricanes, droughts, floods); restoration 

of soils degraded by intensive agrochemical use; healthy food; greater productivity in the mid-long term; increased number of green jobs; less dependence on external inputs, investments and foreign exchange. By 2018, 136,000 farmers incorporate the Farmer-to-Farmer Agroecology Movement (MACAC), practicing sustainable land management in 30,000 ha and agroforestry in other 20,000 ha. Despite this tendency, the agriculture conventional model is still largely used in Cuba.

Building on the knowledge acquired thanks to the EU-Cuba Experts’ Exchange Programme, this GCCA+ action foresees to upgrade the use of biogas and bring the production of biomethane for public transport in a rural context, where fuel shortage is a limitation to productive and social activities. Agroecology’s principles, citizen participation and improved Municipality’s management and governance skills will help in promoting the social, economic and environmental sustainability of this innovative solution and test which are the opportunities of replication and scaling up.

Martí, in the Province of Matanzas, has been selected as a pilot Municipality due to its representativeness of the Cuban rural context, including its vulnerability to extreme events, the long term collaboration with MEP and its experience in: coping with the negative environmental impacts of conventional agricultural extensive systems; decontaminating large State pig-rearing farms; producing biogas at State Farms; promoting agroecological farming; piloting different internationally funded projects at municipality level; capitalising the support of the research centre Indio Hatuey on forage and biogas and of Matanzas University.

GCCA's action programme
Geographical scope
Country groups
Initial GCCA/GCCA+ contribution
4,400,000.00 €
Specific objectives

The specific objective is to support the municipality of Martí in adopting a climate-resilient, economic, social and environmentally sustainable, circular economic model integrating food and energy production..

As outlined in Cuba ́s NDC, energy resilience and decreased GHG emissions can be achieved by maximising the use of biomass and biowaste as energy sources within more sustainable farming and agricultural systems. Participatory processes led by the Municipality will ensure the active involvement of all sectors and all groups of people including the people living in vulnerable situations, with specific transformative actions towards women and young people.

Main activities per result

Output 1: Enhanced capacity and infrastructure for the production of economically and environmentally (low carbon) efficient biogas and its use in public transport.

This output entails six activities, chronologically articulated in the following steps:

1.1.  Launching of the tendering and construction phases for biomethane production

1.1.1.  definition of the sustainable, low-carbon biowaste used for the production of the biogas, its quantity and quality stabilisation along the year (i.e. % of CH4) to reduce the energy demand of the cleaning and pressuring phases and identification of sustainable value chains (e.g. through sustainable animal husbandry);

1.1.2.  revision of the design and planning of the implementing activity based on the studies carried out by the work group of Martí and an additional study to be carried out before the end of the year in compliance with safety measures for: i) resilient biogas upgrading plant with control panels for quality checks; ii) fill refuelling plant including accessory installations; iii) best method of transport from the farm to the filling station (ad-hoc gas pipelines, cylinders with compressed biomethane)

1.1.3.  request and obtention of the needed authorizations, including environmental impact assessment and technological study;

1.2.  Developing of a comprehensive tender dossier and launching of works contracts

1.2.1.  tendering, bidding and importing of climate-proof equipment for biogas upgrading and filling and construction phase

1.2.2.  tendering, bidding and importing of buses for public transport adapted for biomethane and/or their conditioning

1.3.  Testing of the introduced systems and needed adjustments

1.3.1.  connection and testing of biogas upgrading plant will allow in producing biomethane of high quality and responding to required international norms and standards. The analysis will also consider the relationship existing between the quality of biogas and biomethane and required energy consumption.

1.3.2.  connection and testing of the filling plant and testing of biomethane in imported buses will make operative the filling plant, including the type of connection to the source of biomethane and the filling of buses.

1.4.  Implementation, supervision, monitoring and evaluation of bus services using biomethane will track the performance of the production of sustainable biogas and biomethane and their use in the public transport and the performance of the buses in different climatic and road conditions and the maintenance of the different equipment and investments.

1.5.  Realisation of support technical studies for informed decisions in the use of biogas and biomethane for scaling-up of activities

1.5.1. realisation of specific studies on economic, environmental, technical, socio-cultural (human-rights and gender sensitive) and institutional factors and include analysis of barriers and identification of key success factors, covering sustainable value chain and market analysis, economic and financial analysis of the pilot and opportunities for scaling-up at local, regional and national level. Among them, studies will be carried out for ensuring the normalisation of biomethane in Cuba following international standards and optimisation of bus routes to reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions.

1.5.2. developing a monitoring and evaluation plan that can help measure avoided GHG emissions at local level and will allow measure the cost effectiveness and efficiency of the intervention (Euro/kW installed or m3 biogas per year and tCO2 eq saved).

1.6. Capacity assessment and training of technical personnel and municipality authorities: the different stakeholders will be trained in the use of climate-resilient equipment, data collection and management skills for cope with emergencies, especially those related to safety measures. Tendering documents will also require a maintenance contract between the municipality and the provider(s) of biomethane equipment. Local staff and artisans will be trained for maintenance and repairing of biomethane buses and filling plant. The coordination with activity 1.5 will empower key actors in collecting and using monitoring data and create the local capacity for the correct management and maintenance of service and equipment. The UEB of Colón will be supported in improving its quality service, including improved bus trajectories and environmental compliance. The possibility to include longer term capacity building courses at university level will be analysed and if possible the action will support the development of the curricula.

Output 2: Climate-resilient and low carbon agroecological systems are scaled-up

2.1.  Identify the most suitable agroecological approaches for small farmers to include or enhance the production of sustainable food, fodder and biogas

2.1.1.  realisation of participatory analysis of the agroecology models implemented with pilot farmers on behalf of the Biomass project and opportunities for further adapting it to local situation (poor soils, farmers living outside their lands, specific food and fodder needs, limited women and young involvement).

2.1.2.  identification of low-input solutions, simple machineries and productive models that will benefit of the production of biogas (decontamination, valorisation of biowaste, access to energy and biofertilizers).

2.2.  Facilitating the access to simple technologies and productive inputs (e.g. local bio-products, adapted seeds), resilient equipment for biogas production at farm or house level and other technologies that could enhance the use of biogas (e.g. shared biodigesters among nearby farmers, or shared use of equipment for biogas compression, storage or distribution).

2.3.  Training and testing of adapted agroecological models and use of simple technologies with farmer and/or groups of farmers sharing equipment (including women and young people)

2.3.1.  Provide technical assistance and, as part of the farmer to farmer approach, facilitate exchange of experiences on agroecology and biogas with other experiences in the Province and at country level, these can include farm’s days or visit tours to MACAC members.

2.3.2.  Promotion of targeted productive activities at farms or group of farms to promote the use of energy for joint economic enterprises (at family, cooperative or other type of association level) that favour the use of biogas products (bioenergy, digestates) that provide added value to the sustainable biogas chain at farm level (e.g. preparation and commercialisation of fertilizers, use of surplus energy for farm products’ transformation) and that facilitate the participation of women and young people (quota of at least 30%).

2.4.  Realisation of support technical studies for informed decisions in the use of sustainable biogas at farm level or among groups of farmers, improvement of the quality of the fertilizers (correction of pH, use of bioproducts).

Output 3: Enhanced Municipality’s capacity for project management and promotion of diversified, inclusive environmental and climate-smart campaigns and actions

3.1. Development and implementation of a communication plan to promote climate and environmental awareness in the municipality related to sustainable biogas and biomethane production and agroecology

3.1.1. Actively involving producers and citizens in the scope of the action and the definition of diversified sources of sustainable biowaste in the agricultural and residential areas near the biomethane plant and opportunities to develop to sustainable value chains (of feedstock);

3.1.2.  Actively involving schools, students and parents: students of the higher classes can promote awareness actions involving younger students (e.g. student climate change movement), women and men can be actively involved in programmes for school and home- orchards

3.1.3.  Schools, parents and students are actively involved in practical activities (e.g. collection of food waste from communal kitchens and houses for the production of sustainable biomethane, biogas or used in school orchards)

3.1.4.  Awareness actions and trainings on the benefits and opportunities provided by agroecology shared with producers, at least 30% women and young people

3.2. Identification and design of economic diversification projects that favour access to work for women and young people as well as people with reduced mobility or/and disability, with a focus on a green and resilient economy (e.g. suburban orchards, production of greenery)

3.3. Technical assistance and training to the municipality (e.g. through technical trainings or vocational schools) and the institutions related to this GCCA+ action in the design and management of sustainable, resilient projects and activities with a participatory, inclusive and gender and rights based approach (e.g. support in the management of this GCCA+ action and its novelties; creation of a monitoring system; restructuration of the thermal facilities affected by Irma Hurricanes; evaluating pathways for improving climate resilience of the services provided by the Municipality; use of biogas for refrigeration).