Cuba Points to Urban Farming to Boost Organic Food Production
Not far from Havana’s iconic Revolution Square, a Green plot of land offers a welcome break from the skyline and “hubbub” of Cuba’s capital.
More importantly, it guarantees the people an assortment of fresh Organic fruits and vegetables year-round.
This urban farm, like numerous others like it, grows leafy greens, such as cabbage, lettuce, chard and occasionally arugula, ensuring fresh vegetables feature on local dinner tables.
Thanks to a government program begun 30 yrs ago, urban farms today produce more than 1-M tonnes of Organic crops.
The program, which has spread across the country and is present in almost all major cities, was strengthened in the early 1990’s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, then Cuba’s main political and economic ally.
“The produce goes from the plot to our plates,” says a retiree, who “at least once a week” visits the urban farm near her home in a populous Havana neighborhood.
It is a good source of Organic vegetables to complement the typical Cuban dish of rice, beans and pork, she said.
By Y 2020, government plans to invest more than $96-M, 80% from international financing to expand urban farms, according to the program’s executive director.
“The investment will be earmarked to develop irrigation, seed production, organic fertilizers, agro-ecological management and use of renewable energy, among other aspects,” he recently told a Congress of urban, suburban and family agriculture in Havana.
As part of the program, locals will receive training “to produce Organic vegetables and fruits,” including local production of seeds, organic fertilizers, farm implements, bio-control and other factors.
Director of development for Cuba’s Agricultural Business Group, Alina Beltran, said the program has in the past year produced 70% of the lettuce seeds it needs, 80% of the Chinese cabbage seeds and 40% of radish seeds.
The program also teaches children how to plant and harvest vegetables, herbs and fruits.
By Y 2019, officials expect to produce around 1.2-M tonnes of Organic fruits and vegetables at 10,000 hectares of urban farms throughout Cuba.
Agriculture production is a priority of the national push to modernize the economic and productive system, with the goal of producing up to 60% of the country’s food needs.
Cuba currently spends some $2-B a year on imported food products, according to government officials.
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