Urban agriculture in Havana’s home gardens and small-scale plots
Student does research on the ground in Cuba for her master’s thesis on urban and peri-urban agriculture
By Marion Girard Cisneros
My research findings are initially disappointing. Small-scale urban farmers are partially able to decrease the share of the income they spend on food. The sustainability of self-sufficiency depends on farmers’ ability and capacity to cope with structural constraints posed by urban pollution and insufficient access to water and land. In other words, almost in every case, household food production does not confer high levels of food security.
But the crux of the matter is that UPA has a significant potential in securing other households needs, which can be traced to the attitudes of the farmers. On the one hand, high levels of human capital resources available to farmers (agricultural skills, knowledge of the local environment and resourcefulness) results in to higher output levels (be it in fungible or real income) and lesser dependence on external inputs.
This can be considered as an achievement considering that, since 1959, the socialist State has centralized the task of food distribution, discouraging self-sufficiency be On the other hand, in the Cuban context, where fifty years of socialism have forged a propensity for reciprocal trust and connectedness between individuals, farmers genuinely contribute to the enhancement of neighbourliness. They tend to put their social capital not only at the service of improving their productive plots but also at the service of improving their surrounding community. Just like Magalys does when she says she does not claim money to her “supermarket visitors”.