Farming Cuba, urban agriculture from the ground up. By Carey Clouse.
Princeton Architectural Press, New York. 2014.
-Urban farming offers people logical, affordable, and accessible food. It gives people the power to choose the food they produce, the seeds they save, etc.
-Benefits of urban farming:
1. Reduction in physical distance between space of production and consumption.
2. Reduction in the dependence on corresponding energy-intensive systems (ex. Refrigeration, storage, distribution, and transportation.)
3. Small land parcels reduces a crop's vulnerability to diseases and pests.
4. Small land parcels reduces demands for broad-scale inputs.
5. Small land parcels reduces demand for heavy machinery (reduction in dependency of oil).
6. Small land parcels reduces demand for large scale irrigation.
7. Encourages productive use of vacant/underused areas of the city.
8. Promotes a healthy eating culture (increased consumption of fresh food).
9. Promotes physical activity and mental well being.
10. Elimination of informal dumpsites.
11. Increase in green space which therefore improves water management and air quality.
12. Gives people control over quality and quantity of their food.
13. Reduces the urban heat-island effect.
-The negatives of urban farming:
1. Possible environmental pollution and urban toxins from salvaged materials, contaminated soils, and motorized vehicles could compromise the health of food products.
2. Irrigation, access to clean and plentiful water, becomes a difficult problem to address.
3. The climate of the country dictates the amount of food production.
-86,450 acres of urban Cuban land was dedicated to intensive farming by 2002, after the almost overnight loss of food imports in 1989 from the Soviet Union (which accounts for approximately 1/3 of their daily calories).
-"A decade after the food crisis, +50% of the perishable produce consumed in Havana was also produced in Havana."
-The support through policy and provision of supplies from the Cuban government (Fidel Castro) was a big factor that allowed citizens to move forward in this urban farming revolution. (page 41-42)
-Fixed salaries and the fact that it is illegal to engage in most other forms of private entrepreneurship, (a type of handcuffed capitalism), made farming very popular in Cuba.
-1999: approximately 22, 781 agricultural labourers alone. The job was becoming more popular.
-Small plots in dense, central, and the oldest part of Havana. Medium-sized plots in the residential, suburb areas just outside the central core. Largest growing spaces occur in the peri-urban zones.
-Must consider the ownership of the land. In Havana, much of the land is state owned meaning the laws passed by the government allow for farmers to step in if the land has been abandoned.
-Make note of how my design would be resistant to natural disasters. If no time to address this, mention that this would need to be taken into consideration before the design is actually implemented.
-Havana's crops include: vegetables, herbs, medicinal and ornamental plants, flowers, fruit, -plantains, coffee, cocoa, roots and tubers, oilseeds, rice, beans, corn and sorghum.
-Havana's livestock includes: poultry, rabbits, guinea pigs, sheep, goats, pigs and cows. Few aquaculture and apiaries can be found within city limits.
-Non physical factors that play a part in Cuba's progressive urban agriculture:
1. Government support in agrotechnology, economic incentives, land tenure and use, social programs, research, and education.
2. Government provision of technical farming assistance at agricultural stores, veterinary clinics, compost centres, artisanal pest control centres, seed houses, state-sponsored workshops, and informal gardening clubs.
3. Infrastructure like seed banks and markets allow for improved access to resources, information, physical space between growers as well as strong partnerships between people and the government and each other.
4. Decentralized distribution network to state agricultural markets, free markets, child-care centres, schools, hospitals, and sales to the tourism industry.
-Water and soil testing of the land and area in which you are growing food.
-Farmers are highly regarded in Cuba. Because of the free education system, you can meet farmers with a wide range of degrees, from a Bachelors to a PhD. Fidel Castro's intention was to "convert farming into one of the most honored, promoted, and appreciated professions."
-Reasons people in Cuba farm:
1. Access to and control over an independent food source.
2. Higher social status.
3. Gratifying work.
4. Competitive salaries.
-Cuba relies a lot on it's government and foreign aid from NGOs to provide the resources needed to sustain this type of urban agriculture.
-"Urban agriculture is a city function, like housing, but gardens should be properly designed." While guerilla gardening is great and revolutionary and all, the initiatives, the farms that will survive long term are the ones that are well planned and well designed.
-Havana's current office of urban agriculture prescribes these design mandates:
1. Agroecology: the study of ecological processes that operate in agricultural production systems.
2. Sustainable agriculture.
3. Production diversity.
4. Small-scale crops for state, cooperative and private groups.
5. Economic adequacy.
6. Preserving harmony with the urban environment.
7. Preservation of the goals of the Revolution.
-Farming is very political. Cuba's agricultural programs might flounder under other less autocratic forms of government.
© Fion Fong, all rights reserved