Cuban’s urban gardens

Hands up if you’re from or live in Cuba? We want to hear about these garden programs; there is all kinds of confusing information about them and some of these stats have probably evolved over time.

Cuban urban gardens started as a response to the economic crisis of the early ’90s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Cuba, heavily dependent on food imports, shifted to local food production. Here’s where things get tricky; there are literally a whole bunch of conflicting statistics about the gardens shared across a range of fairly reputable sources such as:

  • The urban farms produce over 65% of the country’s food on only 25% of its land.
  • The 300,000 urban farms generated 50% of the national fresh produce, annually yielding 20 kg per square meter of fruits, vegetables, 39 million kgs of meat and 216 million eggs in 2016.
  • In Havana, agriculture occupies 46% of the city’s surface. Generated food surplus goes to social needs: up to 10% of the local produce goes to schools, hospitals and universities at subsidized prices.
  • Nearly one-third of Cuba’s land is used for farming (historically these were sugarcane farms for export)
  • Decent govt and external figures however show Cuba currently imports 60-80% of the food it consumes, at a cost of about $2bn a year.

So what’s true? The UN agrees that the country is on track to meet the #SDG on Zero Hunger. In any case, there is clearly quite an amount of urban farming happening; at either a total success or utter failure or somewhere in between. But we can learn that it’s possible to transform our cities, reuse our lands and encourage small scaling farming which is happening in Cuba. And depending on the results we can learn the incentives that are required._

Who knows more or has some extra time for research? We’d love to hear what the impact of all this is in 2020._

Sources: FAO, Resilience, Monthly Review, NACLA, City Lab, Reuters, WEF, Urban Agriculture in Cuba: Alternative Legal Structures, Crisis and Change