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The Growth of Urban Agriculture
Guiding Principles
Guiding principles:
Organic Methods (do not contaminate
Rational use of local resources
Direct marketing of produce to consumers
Reasons for the reemergence of
Urban Agriculture
World trend towards more natural agriculture
after Earth Summit in Rio (1992)
Economic difficulties in the 1990s
Low quality of vegetables available on the
Shortages of traditional spices and seasonings
The under-exploited potential of city
Urban Agriculture
Diversity of production and participation: different
models for different geography and intended market
Urban agriculture must be low input, non-toxic, water
efficient and soil fertility must be carefully managed
In Cuba Urban Agriculture receives special attention
from the highest levels of the Ministry of Agriculture
Farming in the suburbs is considered urban agriculture
Simplicity of production, Increased in yields and
improving technology have created 160,000 jobs
Employ people from varying backgrounds (workers,
housewives, professionals and retired people)
Changes driven by opportunity for increased income
State support for land, credit, services and inputs
Urban Farm Enterprise
Territorial units are grouped into municipal
administrative Urban Farm Enterprise
Determines appropriateness of different technologies
for its subunits
Urban Farm Enterprise:
Coordinates urban agricultural activities in the municipality
Dispenses extension and technical assistance
Links farmers and gardeners
Links education, research and service centers
Premises of Urban Agriculture
Urban centers have highest demand for perishable
foods stuffs. Perishable foodstuffs should be produced
near the consumer.
Vegetables, fruits, spices and intensive animal
production require a large labor force. 75% of Cuban
population is urban and many are from rural areas and
have empirical knowledge about agriculture.
The growth and spread of cities creates empty spaces
in peripheral areas. Make these spaces productive
instead of dangerous.
Basic Principles
Uniform distribution throughout the country
Logical correspondence between production and number of dwellers of each
Crop-animal integration with maximum use of synergies to boost the
production of each
Intensive use of organic matter to boost and preserve soil fertility and
biological pest controls
Use of each patch of available land to produce food, guaranteeing intensive
production and high yields of crops and animals
Multidisciplinary integration and the intense application of science and
A fresh supply of good quality products, offered directly to the population,
guaranteeing a balanced production of not less than 300g of vegetables daily
per capita and an adequate variety of animal protein sources
Maximum use of the potential to produce food, such as labor force available
and the recycling to wastes and by-products for plant and animal nutrition
Organization of Urban Agriculture
in Cuba
National Urban Agriculture Group
Scientific and government institutions and urban
Regulates and directs Urban Agriculture through
provincial and municipal groups
Local groups organize, develop, and regulate urban
agriculture in their zone and coordinate entities of
production, processing and distribution within their
Popular Council and Agriculture
Within each council one delegate coordinates
their urban agriculture method
Municipal Urban farms carry out the
coordination of the popular councils
There are 26 administrative sub-programs
within urban agriculture which vary from soil
management and conservation to oilseed
crops, to fruit trees and marketing.
Vegetables and Fresh Herbs
First and most developed and successful initiative
• Organoponics:
-located in areas with infertile soils and production
-container is filled with mixture of organic matter,
substrate and soil
• Intensive Vegetable Gardening:
-practiced on good soil.
-Organic matter is applied directly during preparation
for planting
Small Plots, Patios and Popular Gardens:
-makes significant contribution to food supplies
-individual areas cultivated are very small
-currently 104,087 parcels covering 3,595
hectares in production
-produce more than organoponics and
intensive gardens combined
Self-Provisioning at Factories, offices and
Helps meet cafeteria’s demand for food without
putting strain on the neighborhood
More than 300 farms in Havana
Make up 5,368 hectares
Grow vegetables, root crops, grains, fruits, meat,
milk, fish, eggs and herbs
Suburban Farms:
Typically between 2 and 15 hectares
Infrastructure, recycling of waste products, crops
grown, animals raised and marketing of products
are influenced by surrounding population
Intensive cultivation, efficient use of water and
maximum reduction of agro toxins
In city of Havana, suburban farms (2,000 small
private and 285 state farms) cover 7,718 hectares
and are highly productive
Shaded cultivation:
-Make shade houses with mesh tents to grow crops
and germinate seedlings (step towards year-round
Apartment-style production:
-diverse soil substrates and nutrient solutions
-mini planting beds, small containers, roof, balconies
and minimal use of soil.
Results of Vegetable Sub-Program
1999 production in organoponics and intensive
gardens provided 215 g/day per person of
fresh horticultural crops
This program was especially successful in
specific provinces ranging from 88g/day per
person to 399g/day per person
Other Projects
Medicinal Plants and Dried Herbs
Portions sold to Ministry of Public Health
An intensive educational and promotional campaign has
promoted knowledge of preservation processing and home
Grown in organoponic and intensive vegetable gardens
Recent introduction
Small Scale “Popular” Rice Production
Production Growing in all provinces
Generated yields above 5 tons/ha which is higher yields than
at state rice farms
Fruit Trees
New program, but not new practice
Mangoes, avocados and citrus have high productive potential
Plans for nurseries and grafting to accelerate urban fruit
Ornamental plants and flowers
Least advanced subprogram
Only a few places dedicated to flower production
Initial goal to have 5 dozen flowers per capita per year
Specialize in ducks and hens
Most advanced of the animal production programs
Chicken breed created by crossing Rhode Island Red
and a local breed: for resistance to environmental
adversity and high productivity of meat and eggs
Chickens produce 200 eggs annually
Ducks have the fastest growth rate, are more resistant to
disease and less sensitive to environmental stress and
food quality
Focused in suburban areas
Can find or produce own feed, but must buy vitamin and mineral
Prospective producers must sign agreements with swine
production groups and the territorial Technical Service for Swine
• Purchase piglets at a reduced price when pigs reach a certain
weight a purchase contract is reached with the government
and the rest is sold at higher prices
conditions defined by Institute of Veterinary Medicine:
• adequate food supply, sufficient water supply for drinking and
hygiene, confinement, a residue pit or biogas digester, a
cement or tile floor and a roof for protection from weather
Organic Matter
Systematically apply organic matter by using local
alternative and to systematically develop local programs to
assure adequate supplies of organic matter
Coordinated by national Urban Agriculture Group
Popular councils receive assistance from technical
operations group made up of specialist and farmers from a
variety of organizations and institutions
Territorial Organic Fertilizers Centers organize and advise
activities in their territories
Use animal manures and sugarcane filter cake mud
Processing of urban agricultural wastes to turn them into
organic fertilizers is still insufficient
Regional self sufficiency of seed production
and distribution
Keep the supply of seeds flowing
All urban farms are self sufficient in easily
produced seeds (cucumber, cow peas)
Animal Feed
Created to supplement the use of household
scraps and crop residue with production of
feed on urban farms
Feeds consist of grains, tubers, roots and
Most units are not self sufficient in terms of
animal feed
Science Technology and Training
Focus on practical on-site training
Extensions system the depends on the
participation of extension agents, research
center, experienced farmers and gardeners
and other individuals and institutions related to
urban agriculture
Extension is tailored to local conditions and
Other sub-programs
Very recent still in formative stages
Key Issues in the Development of
Urban Agriculture in Cuba
Conservation and management of soil fertility
Productive potential of land is directly related with soil
Erosion is a large problem in Cuba due to heavy rain
Periodic application of organic matter to growing areas is
indispensable to the replacement and recycling of
Appropriate crop rotations and pest management
systems adapted to local conditions have been essential
Integrated disease and pest
Characterized by low pest and disease incidence because of small plot
sizes and generous application of organic material to soil
Biological pesticides
BT and Beauveria bassiana are in common use against pests
Tricoderma used to control soil diseases
The development of new technology and it’s artisanal and semiindustrial production are critical for urban agriculture
Cultural techniques:
Site selection
Planting dates
Crop varieties
Elimination or alternate hosts of pests and diseases
Adequate soil management
Crop rotations
Eliminations of infected plants through thinning and pruning
Crop-Livestock Integration
Organic farming is most productive when crop
and livestock production are linked and
Over half of urban farms have linkages
between crop and livestock production
Urban Agriculture and
To achieve sustainability must be rationalized and integrated
Have developed sustainability indicators:
Amounts of organic matter collected, processed and applied
Used of soil conservation methods to prevent erosion
Degree to which seed and starter-animals are produced locally
Degree to which varieties are breeds are adapted to local conditions
degree of crop-livestock integration
Local water availability and soil moisture
Efficiency of water use
Amount of food produced per capita
Use of integrated pest and disease management systems
net profitability of production
Degree of participation of farmers in training courses and extension
Cuba has clearly demonstrated the food producing
potential of cities
Urban agriculture is an important source of food for
Decisive effort by farmers and support of the
High level of organization will make other ambitious
plans possible
Expects that urban agriculture will satisfy a high
percentage of Cuban food needs