Recent historical challenges in Cuba
In the 1990s, the collapse of eastern European block has triggered a massive economic depression that resulted into dislocation of its economic growth and the social fabric of the city. Within the same year, the country experienced the “strengthening of the US 40 year long economic, financial and political sanction -a blockade” (Viljoen, 2005). This collapse has severely affected the food supply of the country and ended an extensive collaboration of trades between the two countries. This has resulted a whooping 67% reduction of food available in 1994 and huge lost of exportation of sugarcane (Lovell, 2010). Cuba that time is heavily influenced with the Soviet Union. The country practiced with industrial scale agriculture since in 1970’s particularly with the production of sugar. After the collapse, within a day, fuel, gasoline, trucks, agricultural machinery, fertilisers, pesticides has become a scarce commodity (Koont, 2009).
Figure 2: (Cuba: An Urban Agriculture Utopia?, 2010)
Resolution of crisis
Considering the sudden and abrupt issues of food production, the shift to urban agriculture has been introduced to the general populace. The introduction of urban agriculture has saved workers the need of large scale machineries and the lessen the production cost of its individual’s produce. The production sites were within the close proximity and range of their homes. At the same time, the use of pesticides and chemical based fertilisers has been greatly reduced.
The organoponico and the movement
According to Koont (2009), In the year 1994, just few years after the collapsed of Soviet Union, the national government created a systematic introduction of ‘organoponico’ (Koont, 2009). Organoponico defines as a high yielding market gardens located in Cuba. It is inspired by the chinese, bio-intensive model and producing food for commercial purposes using raised beds with organic farming methods (Viljoen, 2005). The organoponico methods converted in the ‘Urban Agriculture National Movement’. This entails the condition of usage of lands were changed. According to Diaz and Harris (2005), before the collapse, lands are either owned by the privately owned or state own. However due to the movement, lands are distributed by individual by plots and cooperatives (Diaz and Harris, 2005).
Figure 3: (Miroff, 2020)
From Lovell’s literature, from 1997 to 2003, the city of Havana experienced on average of 38% growth annually of urban agriculture. This resulted into 13 times increase of vegetables and fruits production and in regards of lands 35,000 ha were transformed in to urban agriculture to provide the necessary crops, vegetables and fruits for consumption for the country (Lovell, 2010). According to Koont (2005), citizens of Cuba has benefited largely on their personal diets as vast majority of food are locally produced. He emphasises that the general environment has affected well as it is greening the entire city as well as ‘agro-ecological methods of planting’. In addition, places that are unsafe are transformed into productive lands. In regards of contribution of the economy, it boosted local employment, heavy incorporation of women and economic inactive such as retirees providing incomes and social cohesion all throughout.
All in all, the concept of urban agriculture has provided great many benefits into the city particularly in Havana, Cuba. The government has found a way to deter the economic downfall into something productive that encourages health, social, environmental and economical betterment into their populace.
Figure 1 (Cover Photo): Clouse, C., 2014. Cuba’S Urban Farming Revolution: How To Create Self-Sufficient Cities. [online] Architectural Review. Available at: <https://www.architectural-review.com/cubas-urban-farming-revolution-how-to-create-self-sufficient-cities/8660204.article?blocktitle=Featured&contentID=7573> [Accessed 20 April 2020].
Figure 2: down the garden path. 2010. Cuba: An Urban Agriculture Utopia?. [online] Available at: <https://tgcgarden.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/cuba-an-urban-agriculture-utopia/> [Accessed 20 April 2020].
Figure 3: Miroff, N., 2020. NPR Choice Page. [online] Npr.org. Available at: <https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/12/07/166676952/in-farmers-market-a-free-market-rises-in-cuba?t=1587396576598> [Accessed 20 April 2020].
Koont, S., 2009. The Urban Agriculture of Havana. Monthly Review, 60(8), p.44.
Lovell, S., 2010. Multifunctional Urban Agriculture for Sustainable Land Use Planning in the United States. Sustainability, 2(8), pp.2499-2522.
Viljoen, A., Bohn, K. and Howe, J., 2016. Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis.
Viljoen, A. and Howe, J., 2005. Continous Productive Urban Landscape. 1st ed. Oxford: Architectural, pp.147-180.