by MA Altieri, N Companioni, K Cañizares, C Murphy, P Rosset, M Bourque, CI Nicholls
Agriculture and Human Values 16:131-1401999
The collapse of the socialist bloc in 1989 and the 1992 Torricelli Bill, which tightened the United States’ economic embargo, prompted the emergence of many urban gardens in order to combat the food shortages in Cuba. This paper examines the various characteristics and socioeconomic implications of the urban agriculture movement, and addresses its impact on food security in Havana, Cuba. Organopónicos, which is a system of urban agriculture that relies on organic gardens, is the most popular method used for urban cultivation because the gardens are widespread and easily accessible to the public. These gardens operate under agroecological principles which emphasize the use of local resources and advocate for the elimination of synthetic chemical pesticides and fertilizers in crop production. Approximately 5,000 gardens developed by the city’s residents have become an important source of fresh produce for the urban populations throughout Havana’s 15 municipalities. The authors suggest that the success of the urban agriculture movement is due to the integration of social, economic, and environmental strategies, which target increased food production and supply nutritional resources to the most food-insecure communities. By utilizing affordable Integrated Pest Management strategies which rely on biological inputs, Cuban gardeners can thrive even in adverse economic conditions and avoid the use of pesticides that would likely contaminate the urban environment and potentially affect the health of its population. Based on this research, urban farmers and producers can continue to scale-up and recoup benefits if promoted social techniques remain accessible, affordable, and sustainable.