Urban Agriculture Provides Cubans with Food, Jobs

city scape
Amidst the concrete and buildings of their cities, Cubans grow vegetables, fruit, and grains.

More than 1 million tons of vegetables and spices were grown in Cuban cities from January to March of 2006, according to the news service Latin America Press. Peppered throughout Havana and the nation’s other cities are more than 35,500 hectares (88,000 acres) of small plots, high-production gardens, and container gardens growing mostly organic vegetables, spices, bananas, rice, and other crops. This small-scale farming has produced food for the nation and created 350,000 jobs, 20 percent of which are filled by women.

During Cuba’s economic crisis in the 1990s, the state-sponsored National Urban Agriculture Program launched civilian cultivation projects across the country. The government monitors more than 4,000 of the urban organic plots to gauge production, soil use, and other agricultural techniques. Since the program’s inception, three strong hurricanes have hit the island, but the small size of the plots helped to minimize damage, says Adolfo Rodr'guez Nodals, head of the National Urban Agriculture Group.

Rodriguez Nodals notes that another advantage to urban farming is reducing the use of fossil fuels, since the crops do not need to be transported far to reach the 76 percent of Cuba’s population that lives in cities. Sustainable agriculture experts like Peter Rosset and Miguel Altieri also commend organic urban agriculture as a healthy way for families to stretch their budget.

Cuba’s success in transitioning away from larger-scale agricultural production and fossil-fuel based pesticide use was documented in the May 2006 film, “How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.”

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.