Following three hurricanes which flattened 30 percent of Cuba’s farmland and crops earlier this year, urban agricultural cooperatives – set up across the Caribbean island as a way of growing food locally and maintaining food supplies for the population – are playing a significant role in feeding the nation.
In response to the crisis, Cuba is relying on local agricultural plans implemented after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 – Cuba’s biggest benefactor at the time – when thousands of urban gardens were planted to make up for reduced rations of imported food.
These farming cooperatives have become highly popular and currently occupy around 35,000 hectares (86,000 acres) of land on the island, including disused parking lots and city rooftops. Even prior to the devastation caused by the hurricanes, urban gardens produced half of the leaf vegetables consumed on the island.
These urban garden schemes and farms are relatively immune to the unpredictability of fuel costs, as they sell directly to their customers and do not depend on transportation.
Members of one cooperative in Alamar, who earn more money the more crops they grow, receive a salary and divide up the garden’s profits. On average they earn around 950 pesos ($42.75) per month, which is more than double the national average
Cuban President Raul Castro has adopted ideas from the city gardens for new reforms to reduce the country’s $2.5 billion annual food importation bill, predominantly goods from the US. In September, the government began renting out unused state-owned land to farmers and cooperatives.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, 15 percent of the world’s food is grown in urban areas, a percentage expected to rise as food costs climb, urban populations expand and environmental issues grow in nations around the world.
Planet Ark – World Environment News