Urban farms (Cuba)
Cuba has a system of urban organic farms called Organopónicos, which provides a fresh supply of organic food to the community, neighbourhood improvement, beautification of urban areas, as well as employment opportunities. Cuba has more than 7,000 organopónicos, with some 200 gardens in Havana alone, covering more than 35,000 hectares of land, which supply its citizens with 90% of their fruit and vegetables. The urban agricultural workforce in Havana has grown from 9,000 in 1999, to more than 44,000 in 2006. Yields have more than quintupled from 4 to 24 kilograms per square metre between 1994 and 1999. About a million tons of organic food per year is currently produced in the organopónicos.
The organopónicos emerged as a bottom up farmers' initiative when Cuba lost the Soviet Union as a trading partner in 1989. Cubans had to learn to start growing their own food rather than importing it. Thousands of small private farms and pocket-sized urban market gardens emerged. Since Cuban’s also lacked chemicals and fertilizers, food became de facto organic. New farmers formed cooperatives and markets, which have received support from the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture, who provide university experts to train volunteers, organic composts, seeds and irrigation parts, as well as biological pest and disease controls. Although the organopónicos emerged in a particular political and economic context there is interest in learning from the Cuban experience to inspire sustainable food production in urban areas in other countries.
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