Organoponicos is a system of urban organic farms providing a fresh supply of organic foods to the community around, beautifying the urban areas and also providing employment opportunities to the Cuban residents. The entire Cuba has about 7000 organoponicos with 200 of them located in Havana. The organoponicos in Havana alone occupy 35,000 hectares of land and are capable of supplying its residents with 90 percent of their fruits and vegetables. The improved workforce can be evident from its rise from 9,000 in 1999 to 44,000 in 2006. The yields have since increased from 4 to 24 kilograms per square meter between 1994 and 1999. The organoponicos are said to produce a million tons of organic foods annually. These farms have boosted Cuba’s food security over the past two decades, solving malnutrition cases that had stuck the country in the past.
The beginning of organoponicos was motivated by the loss of Cuba to the Soviet Union as its trading partner in 1989. Cuba then saw the importance of investing into their homegrown foods rather than importing from other countries. There followed emergence of small private firms and pocket sized urban market garden markets. The Cubans also had the problems of chemicals and fertilizers that made them turn to purely organic food production. Farmers began engaging in cooperative societies that received much support from the Cuban ministry of agriculture. The ministry took a great role in providing university experts to train volunteers in issues such as organic composts, seeds and irrigations parts, biological pests and diseases control (Green economy coalition 2012). Although the organoponicos in Cuba came as a result of political and economical problems, there is still the need to learn from the Cuban experience for the promotion of food production in urban areas in other countries. The urban farming system could help me to design a food growing space where there is an opportunity for residents and visitors to learn new skills and meeting different people in an architectural context.
Photographer: Dr. Andrew Ormerod