HAVANA: ANTECEDENTS AND CURRENT DEVELOPMENT

The presence of Chinese farmers in the outskirts of Havana during the first decades of the twentieth century is still part of Cubans’ collective memory. This practice declined probably as a consequence of the reduction of the Chinese community. It shows however that any type of UPA in Havana has had an alternate presence, especially during the last 40 years. In this period it has always appeared as a response to extraordinary situations: in the 1960s in the inspiring atmosphere that the radical trans­formations of Cuban society brought to the capital. Havana’s green belt was proposed in the 1964 Master Plan. It was envisaged as a way of over­coming the capital’s dependence on food provi­sions from the inner territories. After an effervescent period of activity it decayed. Later, in the nineties, in the face of major economic and financial shortcomings, UPA appeared again amid a group of innovative measures within the ‘Perfodo Especial.’ In the capital many had started to grow vegetables in the backyards, a practice with a long tradition, and even in the parterres in front of their houses. When the national and provin­cial governments encouraged people to occupy every single free space with crops, vegetables were planted even in front of the Ministry of Agriculture and in the backyard of the state council building.

In the early 1960s the proposal of creating El Cordon de La Habana (Havana’s green belt) repre­sented a noticeable change in the infrastructure of agriculture, in the improvement of the farmers’ lifestyle, as well as an increase in the supply of food to the population of the capital. An ideological con­ception envisaged the city as a parasite of the countryside (Segre et al., 1997). The objective was to provide the city with a productive surface that would empower the self-feeding capacity, but also provide it with a number of recreational areas for the urban population of the largest city on the island. The plan conceived of a Fruit trees belt on the land closest to Havana, followed by a milk producer belt, providing it with additional environmental commodities, and health assur­ances, achieving a more efficient use of lands (most of them were abandoned plots or were previously used with speculation purposes) through the integration of the public and the private sectors (Ponce de Leon, 1986). Around 21 566 hectares of land were put on an exploitation regime, 5032 hectares of them for pasture and 16 533 hectares for fruit trees, citric trees, coffee, gandul, and forestry. Forestry areas were con­ceived as micro-forests and parks, such as the (National) Botanical Garden, (National) Zoo, Metropolitan Park, (the so-called) Solidarity Park, and the Lenin Park. Several tree-nursery areas were supposed to produce 100 million units neces­sary to plant the belt. It also included: ‘the construc­tion of 80 small-size dams and micro-dams for irrigation, more than 180 km of agricultural roads and paths, around 1000 houses and 8 small vil­lages for the farmers and workers of the territory, the terracing of the hills for coffee plantations and the planting of tree-curtains against the wind.’ (Ponce de Leon 2000).

The plan was carried out, and between 1967 and 1969 millions of nursery plants of different species were planted. 41 per cent of these plantations remained 20 years later. In 1986 it represented around 2416 hectares of fruit tree plantations located in the eastern part of the province, composed mainly of mango trees, 940 hectares of coffee to the south and southwest zones, 268 hecaters of citric trees, 3019 hectares of pas­ture and more than 1721 hectares of forestry. 52 micro-dams and the Ejercito Rebelde dam with a capacity of 52 000 000 m3 to be used for irrigation and leisure purposes, were also built. 2850 houses were built between 1967 and 1973, both individual ones and ones in the 12 residential communities. Also, around 200 km of roads were built and there are still remainders of the Tree-Curtains against the wind (Ponce de Leon, 1986).

5 The two most compact municipalities, Old Havana and Centro Habana do not have urban agriculture production.