are a system of urban organic gardens in Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...
. They often consist of low-level concrete walls filled with organic matter and soil, with lines of drip irrigation laid on the surface of the growing media. Organopónicos
provide access to job opportunities, a fresh food supply to the community, neighborhood improvement and beautification of urban areas.
first arose as a community response to lack of food security after the collapse of the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....
. They are publicly functioning in terms of ownership, access and management, but heavily subsidized and supported by the Cuban government.
During the Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...
, the Cuban economy relied heavily on support from the Soviet Union. In exchange for sugar
Sugar is a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose, characterized by a sweet flavor.Sucrose in its refined form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet...
, Cuba received subsidized oil, chemical fertilizers, pesticide
Pesticides are substances or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.A pesticide may be a chemical unicycle, biological agent , antimicrobial, disinfectant or device used against any pest...
s and other farm products. Approximately 50 percent of Cuba's food was imported. Cuba's food production was organized around Soviet-style, large-scale, industrial agricultural collectives. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba used more than 1 million tons of synthetic fertilizers a year and up to 35,000 tons of herbicide
Herbicides, also commonly known as weedkillers, are pesticides used to kill unwanted plants. Selective herbicides kill specific targets while leaving the desired crop relatively unharmed. Some of these act by interfering with the growth of the weed and are often synthetic "imitations" of plant...
s and pesticides a year.
With the USSR collapsed, Cuba lost its main trading partner and the favorable trade subsidies it received, as well as access to oil, chemical fertilizers, pesticides etc. From 1989 to 1993, the Cuban economy contracted by 35 percent; foreign trade dropped 75 percent. Without Soviet aid, domestic agriculture production fell by half. This time, called in Cuba the Special Period
The Special Period in Time of Peace in Cuba was an extended period of economic crisis that began in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and, by extension, the Comecon. The economic depression of the Special Period was at its most severe in the early-to-mid 1990s before slightly declining...
, food scarcities became acute. The average per capita
Per capita is a Latin prepositional phrase: per and capita . The phrase thus means "by heads" or "for each head", i.e. per individual or per person...
The calorie is a pre-SI metric unit of energy. It was first defined by Nicolas Clément in 1824 as a unit of heat, entering French and English dictionaries between 1841 and 1867. In most fields its use is archaic, having been replaced by the SI unit of energy, the joule...
intake fell from 2,900 a day in 1989 to 1,800 calories in 1995. Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...
consumption plummeted 40 percent.
Without food, Cubans had to learn to start growing their own food rather than importing it. This was done through small private farms and thousands of pocket-sized urban market gardens—and, lacking chemicals and fertilizers, food became de facto organic. Thousands of new urban individual farmers called parceleros
(for their parcelos
, or plots) emerged. They formed and developed farmer cooperatives and farmers markets. These urban farmers found the support of the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI), who provided university experts to train volunteers with organic pesticides and beneficial insects.
Without the fertilizers, hydroponic units from the Soviet Union were no longer usable. The systems were then converted for the use of organic gardening. The original hydroponic units, long cement planting troughs and raised metal containers, were filled with compost
Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment. Compost is a key ingredient in organic farming. At its most essential, the process of composting requires simply piling up waste outdoors and waiting for the materials to break down from anywhere...
ed sugar waste and hydroponicos
The rapid expansion of urban agriculture in the early 1990s included the colonization of vacant land both by community and commercial groups. In Havana, organopónicos
were created in vacant lots, old parking lots, abandoned building sites and even spaces between roads.
Cuba has more than 7,000 organopónicos
. More than 200 gardens in Havana
Havana is the capital city, province, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of — making it the largest city in the Caribbean region, and the most populous...
supply its citizens with more than 90% of their fruit and vegetables. Yields have more than quintupled from 4 to 24 kilograms per meter squared between 1994 and 1999, and currently around a million tons of food per year is produced in the organopónicos
More than 35,000 hectares (over 87,000 acres) of land are being used in urban agriculture in Havana alone. The city of Havana produces enough food for each resident to receive a daily serving of 280 grams (9.88 ounces) of fruits and vegetables. The urban agricultural workforce in Havana has grown from 9,000 in 1999 to 23,000 in 2001 to more than 44,000 in 2006.
The structures of organopónicos
vary from garden to garden. Some are run by employees of the state; others are run cooperatively by the gardeners themselves. The reliance on the state government cannot be overlooked. The government provides the community farmers with the land and the water. The gardens can buy key materials such as organic composts, seeds and irrigation parts, as well as "biocontrols" such as beneficial insects and plant-based oils that work as pesticides from the government . These biological pest and disease controls are produced in some 200 government centers across the country.
All garden crops such as beans, tomatoes, bananas, lettuce, okra, eggplant and taro are grown intensively within the city using only organic farming methods since these are the only methods permitted in the urban parts of Havana. No chemicals are used in 68% of Cuban corn, 96% of cassava, 72% of coffee and 40% of bananas. Between 1998 and 2001, chemicals were reduced by 60% in potatoes, 89% in tomatoes, 28% in onion and 43% in tobacco.
Applicability beyond Cuba
There is some speculation onto which the organopónico
system can be applied to other nations. For example, the film The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil is an American documentary film that explores the Special Period in Peacetime and its aftermath; the economic collapse and eventual recovery of Cuba following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991...
argues that world oil production will reach its all-time peak and begin to decline forever. It also argues that Cuba has gone through such a crisis—a massive reduction of fossil fuels—and the organopónico
system is an example of a proper response to peak oil and can be replicated in other parts of the world.
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...
, the socialist government of Hugo Chavez
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías is the 56th and current President of Venezuela, having held that position since 1999. He was formerly the leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when he became the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela...
is trying to introduce urban agriculture
Urban agriculture is the practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in, or around, a village, town or city. Urban agriculture in addition can also involve animal husbandry, aquaculture, agro-forestry and horticulture...
to the populace. In Caracas
Caracas , officially Santiago de León de Caracas, is the capital and largest city of Venezuela; natives or residents are known as Caraquenians in English . It is located in the northern part of the country, following the contours of the narrow Caracas Valley on the Venezuelan coastal mountain range...
, the government has launched Organoponico Bolivar I, a pilot program to bring organopónicos
to Venezuela. Urban agriculture has not been embraced in Caracas as it has in Cuba. Unlike Cuba, where organopónicos
arose from the bottom-up out of necessity, the Venezuelan organopónicos
are clearly a top-down initiative based on Cuba's success.
Another problem for urban agriculture in Venezuela is the high amounts of pollution
Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light...
in major Venezuelan urban areas. At the Organoponico Bolivar I, a technician comes every 15 days to take a reading from the small pollution meter in the middle of the garden.
- Allotment gardens
- Community Supported Agriculture
- CPA (Agriculture)
A CPA , or Agricultural Production Cooperative, is a type of agricultural cooperative that exists in Cuba today.- History of CPAs :...
- Food security
Food security refers to the availability of food and one's access to it. A household is considered food-secure when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation. According to the World Resources Institute, global per capita food production has been increasing substantially for the past...
- Garden sharing
Garden sharing is a local food and urban farming arrangement where a landowner allows a gardener access to land, typically a front or back yard, in order to grow food....
- Guerrilla gardening
Guerrilla gardening is gardening on another person's land without permission. It encompasses a very diverse range of people and motivations, from the enthusiastic gardener who spills over their legal boundaries to the highly political gardener who seeks to provoke change through direct action. It...
- List of community gardens
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of union, an interdependent relationship and mutual responsible position with all living and non...
A UBPC , or Basic Unit of Cooperative Production, is a type of agricultural cooperative that exists in Cuba.- History of the UBPCs :...
- Urban gardening
Urban gardening may refer to:* Container garden - Growing plants in pots or other containers, rather than in ground* Urban horticulture - Growing crops or ornamental plants in urban or semi-urban setting* Urban agriculture - Food production in urban setting...
- Urban horticulture
Urban and peri-urban horticulture includes all horticultural crops grown for human consumption and ornamental use within and in the immediate surroundings of cities. Although crops have always been grown inside the city, the practice is expanding and gaining more attention...
- Case Study in Urban Agriculture: Organiponicos in Cienfuegos, Cuba
- Garden Activist: Cuba's Second Revolution
- The Growing Success of Organoponicos, Greenhouse Canada, by Gary Jones
- Changes on the Horizon for Cuba's Sustainable Agriculture
- Eat Local: Cuba's Urban Gardens Raise Food on Zero Emission
- Greg Morsbach Cuba's organic revolution BBC, June 27, 2001.
- Food Photography: Organic Agriculture in Cuba
- Bill McKibben The Cuba diet: What will you be eating when the revolution comes? Harper's Magazine April 1995.
- Esteban Israel In "eat local" movement, Cuba is years ahead Reuters, December 15, 2008.
- Andrew Buncombe The good life in Havana: Cuba's green revolution The Independent
The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. It is nicknamed the Indy, while the Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday, is the Sindy. Launched in 1986, it is one of the youngest UK national daily...
8 August 2006
- Scott G. Chaplowe Havana's Popular Gardens: Sustainable Urban Agriculture, WSAA Newsletter, Fall 1996, Vol. 5, No. 22. Reprinted at cityfarmer.org
- VIDEO: Urban Food Growing in Havana, Cuba, A clip from the BBC's "Around the World in 80 Gardens" (2008)
- VIDEO: Seeds in the City - Cuba
- VIDEO: Urban Agriculture in Cuba
- VIDEO: The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil
- VIDEO: Organoponico! An Agricultural Revolution
- VIDEO: Cuban tribute to Australian permaculturists
- VIDEO: Cuban Permaculture Presentation - Berkeley Ecology Center