14 August, 2009 — Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Sunlight brightens the paved streets and historic buildings of Havana, Cuba, bouncing off the tents of vendors and the tin drums of a street band. Once stricken by poverty and inequality, the city has slowly blossomed as a result of the bustling enterprise of urban agriculture. Between buildings and behind street walls, in every green space available, locals have cultivated crops, utilizing the techniques of sustainable urban farming. After years of isolation from the United States and the former Soviet Union, Cuba has independently fostered development of urban agriculture and now provides an environment of growth and structure for its economic, social and political policies.
Cuba is the only country in the world that has developed an extensive state-supported infrastructure to support urban food production. Functionally, this system was established in response to acute food shortages in the early 1990s, which occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the island was forced to find an alternative manner of cultivating crops. Havana has established and expanded on this innovative model since this time, and it continues to lead the island nation in its quest for self-sufficiency. The increasing prevalence of urban agriculture benefits the economy, environment, community and health of Cuban citizens.