The Cuban Garden Revolution


The campaigns in Cuba to promote urban and organic agriculture was a novel idea in the highly urbanized country. When Cuba faced food shortage in the 1990’s, the government was forced to create new pathways for the distribution of food. Interestingly enough, part of the problem in Cuba was due to a shortage in fossil-fuels which impacted the production through fertilizers, and the distribution through vehicles. Sounds terribly similar to the threats that face us today..

By proposing and creating incentives, the Cubans began to plant gardens in their homes that grew fruits and vegetables, a departure from the traditional Cuban diet which was ‘redundant in carbohydrates’ as white rice, sugar and sugarated drinks. It was easier to grow vegetables and fruit in the urban setting, as grains and meat require a higher input of energy and are better to grow in rural areas. Before the special period obesity, rates in Cuba were 30% and then fell to 16% due to food depravation. It should be noted that nutritional programs were implemented in order to educate people on the value of a balanced diet composed of fruits and vegetables, and debunking the myth that greens are food for rabbits.

The creation of these gardens was interesting because of the attempt to make them sustainable. Compost for example, can be a misplaced resource. The Cuban ‘Green Revolution’ (not to be confused with the Green Revolution in India) was attempting to reduce waste and use every output and so compost was used as a fertilizer. By being organic and diversified, they eliminated the need for pesticides. Then packaging, refrigeration and transportation were eliminated from the equation, taking away the dependence on fossil fuels. The output of these farms tripled during the 90’s city farms now grow enough food to meet the minimal nutrition needs of the population.

Another interesting element that arose from this system was the creation of an exchange market. When people had a surplus of a vegetable or fruit, they would exchange it for other goods instead of selling them. That way less food goes to waste. Sometimes people would give away their produce, because the focus of this program was to feed its people–not to depend on a market that can thrive in throwing away food in order to maintain a desired market price, while people die from hunger.

What can be taken from this story? That people. in the face of urgency are forced to come up with creative solutions. That people survive and adapt, and that it is possible to bring about positive change through difficult times.


One Response to “The Cuban Garden Revolution”

  1. But what about the causes of hunger? It is interesting to see people`s innovative reactions, but one should remember why they had to innovate in the first place….

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