Saturday, August 15, 2009


The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has an interesting report on the status of urban farming in Cuba.

Organoponicos are walled structures containing soil and compost that were originally built on military bases. The government later began building them in urban centers, especially Havana, in response to the collapse of the USSR, which had been a critical trading partner.

By 2005, the organoponicos were producing 4.2 million tons of herbs and vegetables. The farming was organic perforce, as they had no easy access to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Growers sell the food where its grown, saving expense and pollution. They also solved another civic problem by building these things in vacant lots, alleys, and lots of other locations that would have been eyesores or trash dumps. These centers were notoriously run-down, underdeveloped, and dirty; now they are farms.

What a slam dunk. Beautifying the capitol, averting a food crisis and in fact building food sovereignty, proliferating organic agriculture, getting good food to people cheaply and conveniently.

Moreover, the great socialist boogeyman actually permits some private enterprise among the farmers, and they are doing quite well.

It is, in short, a success story in organic agriculture. As COHA reports, there is a danger this good work could all be undone as Cuba opens up to global trade in the future. If the U.S. embargo is dropped, Monsanto will be eager to convert every last acre to its "roundup-ready" program and larger agribusiness companies will be eager to colonize if and when the government lets go of the land.

From COHA:

Cuba’s successful implementation of urban agriculture should serve as a model for other developing countries, particularly in Latin America. By embracing more modern and effective methods of farming, countries theoretically have the opportunity to transform their local markets, augmenting the labor force and cultivating capital and infrastructure. Introduction to the global market would allow a country like Cuba to become an important economic actor, ultimately expanding its profits through competitive transactions and trade. Considering the increasingly overbearing nature of contemporary power-house economies, as well as the improvements that would address many of the social and economic issues that plague struggling nations, Latin America, as well as other regions, should acknowledge the practicality of a low intensity urban approach to agriculture, if only as a supplement to other major approaches.

Agricultural urbanization is not only inevitable, but also may be the best available option in ensuring food sovereignty and security for increasing populations, and facilitating economic opportunities for the poor. The prospect of growth and development, as well as increased global cooperation and communication, should serve as incentive for industrializing countries to integrate and harmonize urban agriculture into their local communities.

1 comment:

quid said...

This is very exciting. Thanks for the background.