Urban Farming in Cuba

For the previous 30 years, Cuba’s sugar and other products had been exported at extremely favourable prices to the communist partners, while the island’s basic inputs for its highly mechanised agriculture - oil, machinery, fertilisers and pesticides - arrived at low prices. Most of Cuba’s food also came from the U.R.S.S.
While this commercial relationship was in place, the consequences of the US-imposed embargo were not so severely felt. But after 1989 the fate of the Cuban Revolution became highly uncertain.
The once healthy and educated population became hungry. To overcome starvation the population, mostly in urban centres, cleared up unused plots in the cities and grew their own food.
Over 15 years later, in 2006 Cuba’s urban farming produced 4.2 million tons of food, employing 354,000 people. It provided 300 grams of vegetables per citizen per day.
It also contributed to the establishment of a network of 1,270 points of sale of agricultural products and 932 agricultural markets. It is undoubtedly a successful case of ingenuity in times of struggle.
Today there is much talk in the industrialised world about fundamental issues to the preservation of mankind like global warming, sustainability, clear energy production, bio-fuels, genetically modified agriculture, fair trade, permaculture or organic cultivation.
The private sector, governmental agencies, the academic and scientific circles, environmentalists, politicians, are all engaged in discussing the present condition of our planet as well as future scenarios. In this discussion, the Cuban case – achieving self-sufficiency in vegetable production on an urban environment leaving behind a highly mechanised model – points to an encouraging direction, as controversial as anything else in that tropical island, through which men take advantage of pure nature to produce healthy food, provide employment, care for the community and protect the environment.

With the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in 1989 a dark period in Cuba’s history began, called by Fidel Castro the “Special Period”.