INFRASTRUCTURE AND URBAN AGRICULTURE

In this section three situations are examined. First, the infrastructure supporting urban agriculture at a municipal level (Rodas), second the role and obser­vations of an independent foundation in Havana (Fundacion Antonio Nunez Jimenez De La Natualeza Y El Hombre) and finally an overview of the practice of urban agriculture in a particular neigh­bourhood (Consejo Popular Camilo Cienfuegos).

Rodas provides an example of how a small town has actively encouraged urban agriculture. The ‘Programa Especial De Desarrollo de la Agricultura Urbana’ supports a team of advisors helping farm­ers manage their sites and business. A meeting with this team, held in Rodas on the 16 February 2002, clarified the role of the municipality and urban agriculture advisors.

In 1994 urban agriculture was introduced to Rodas, the main town in Rodas municipality (population of 33 600). Initially only vegetables were produced, but the goal was expanded to provide fresh fruit and vegetables for all of the population. Currently all twenty-nine settlements in the municipality have productive urban agriculture sites.

Vets provide advice to urban farmers on animal husbandry and horticulturists advise on organic pest control, based on no use of chemicals. A programme also exists to supply urban farmers with organic fertiliser from two sugar mills, and cat­tle raising and chicken farming opportunities.

The office for urban agriculture will supply families with ten chickens and one rooster for egg production. In addition to food growing sites, there are floral organoponicos (for cut flowers), seed farms and nurseries. Communal orchards have previously been established, and fruit trees are also supplied for planting in private gardens and a small pineapple farm has been established to supply the tourist trade.

Urban agriculture sites are partnered with schools, medical centres and old people’s homes and contribute to programmes promoting healthy eating.

School clubs have been set up, with programmes developed in consultation with the pupils.

It is planned to concentrate vegetable production in organoponicos rather than intensive farms, as their yields are higher. Yields from intensive farms have been found to be 1 kg of vegetables per square metre per month, while organoponicos yield about 2.5 kg of vegetables per square metre per month. These yields which are high (see Chapter 20) are due to the inten­sive farming of the organoponicos and in part due to Cuba’s climate which allows multi-cropping per year.

In 2001, the town of Rodas was self-sufficient in fruit and vegetable production. Output has increased from 350 grams of fruit and vegetables per inhabi­tant per day in 1994 (127 kg per year) to 1600 grams in 2000 (584 kg per year).The aim is to increase the output to 2000 grams per inhabitant per day (730 kg per year). This level of production compares with 115 kg per inhabitant per year in 2000 for Havana (Caridad Cruz and Sanchez Medina, 2003).

In ten years’ time the province of Rodas aims to:

• be self-sufficient in fruit and vegetable production

• be able to export organic crops

• have trees in towns to help provide fresh air.

In Havana, state and municipal support for urban agriculture is complimented by the work of the Fundacion Antonio Nunez Jimenez De La Natualeza Y El Hombre. The foundation was estab­lished by the founder of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, and believes that only through culture can the relationship between humanity and nature be ameliorated. Thus, promoting urban ecology within a broad context of environmental and social sustainability, is one of its many activities and as part of this work, urban agriculture is supported (Caridad Cruz and Sanchez Medina, 2003). Permaculture and organic urban agriculture are vigorously promoted by working with local communities and supporting local initiatives by means of workshops and networking (see Chapter 22). The Foundation provides capacity building programmes for the urban agriculture community and since 1994 has promoted permaculture, which was introduced to Havana in 1993 by practitioners from New Zealand

and Australia. Six or seven small-scale projects were set up in Havana, followed by 43 permaculture farms, although not all of these farms have proved successful. In practice permaculture remains a fringe activity, which is not integrated into wider, state supported programmes.

A meeting in Havana on the 18 February 2002, with Roberto Sanchez Medina, who manages the Fundacion Antonio Nunez Jimenez De La Natualeza Y El Hombre’s sustainable cities programme, provided insights into the role of urban agriculture in Havana.

As yet Havana is not self-sufficient in fruit and vegetable production. A potential 28 000 hectares are available for urban agriculture. Up to the year 2000, excluding state enterprises, about 8000 hectares were used for urban agriculture. Of this about 1500 hectares were located within the city of Havana, but most urban agriculture is located on the urban periphery or in the suburbs.

The Cuban government defines urban agriculture by the distance of fields from the city. The limits are set at 10 km for a typical city and 5 km for a small city. Havana is a special case and any food growing within the metropolitan area is considered urban agriculture.

There are four large parks within Havana but since the special period few resources have been available to manage these spaces. The largest of these, the Parque Metropolitano de la Habana, already contains some urban agriculture and there are plans for the future expansion of urban agriculture in these parks.

Since 1994, urban agriculture in Havana has had support from the department of agriculture and there are now 17 urban agriculture advice shops in the city. These support individuals who wish to establish urban agriculture sites. The state supplies land to individuals, or groups of individuals who sign a contract to produce particular crops, which may be sold on the open market. A rental for the land is paid to central government.

The improving economic situation has provided lim­ited access to pesticides, but the law prohibits the use of most chemicals. A few very specific chemi­cals are permitted for use in a controlled manner.

It was noticeable that the people we spoke to in Havana were more cautious about predicting the future for urban agriculture than those in Rodas. They observed that changes in the economic order could alter its status and perceived importance. One of the major issues to face in the future will be the value and ownership of land. Currently this is not a problem, as sufficient state owned land exists.

The feeling was that if the benefits are well under­stood, then urban agriculture has a good chance of succeeding.