Small Urban Farms Show Success In Cuba

Small organic farms are scattered throughout Cuba that have been providing food for the country ever since the fall of the Soviet empire 20 years ago. The collaboration between the government and local farmers has benefited the whole country.
August 11, 2006, 6am PDT | Nate Berg
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For many small islands in the Caribbean, producing cane sugar was just about the only way to contribute to the global economy. But for Cuba, the fall of the Soviet empire meant the end of a cooperative helping-hand system that provided the small island with many essential goods like food in exchange for the country's sugar. In response, the Cuban government under Fidel Castro set up a system of local farming, employing hundreds of urban farmers with small plots of land to grow the country's food. The program experiences continued success after nearly 20 years of operation, offering an example to other small countries with a heavy reliance on imported food.

"Cuba is filled with more than 7,000 urban allotments or 'organoponicos', which fill perhaps as many as 81,000 acres. They have been established on tiny plots of land in the centre of tower-block estates or between the crumbling colonial homes that fill Havana."

"Once the workers had grown their set quota of food and given that to the government, the surplus was theirs to sell with the profits then divided among them. Such a sense of co-operation - along with the free meals for the workers - added to the heady sense of idealism at Alamar, the sort of socialist idealism that has earned Cuba many international supporters over the years, despite Castro's dictatorial rule and his repression of political dissent."

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Published on Tuesday, August 8, 2006 in The Independent
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