Havana’s Changing Urban Agriculture Landscape: A Shift to the Right?
AbstractFor two decades Havana, Cuba, has served as a living laboratory for practitioners and scholars of urban agriculture, particularly in its well-documented role in helping stave off food insecurity during a period of severe resource constraints. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the austere economic conditions that followed, the Cuban government enacted a series of radical agrarian reforms aimed at seeding the growth of private urban gardens—a new phenomenon in this country once dependent on trade subsidies and food rations. As a result of the reforms, close to 300 private urban agricultural cooperatives and thousands of small home gardens sprouted up across Havana. Yet in the ensuing decade and a half, Cuba’s increasing desire to integrate with the global economy, and its adoption of free-market principles, has forced the urban agriculture sector to make dramatic adjustments. Using secondary data, reports by other observers, and our own structured interviews with 11 of Havana’s urban gardeners, this study examines the challenges and opportunities that urban agriculture has experienced, and will continue to experience, in Cuba’s post-communist society. We hope to stimulate continuing inquiry into Havana’s evolving urban agriculture scene, as it continues to provide valuable lessons for other cities in the Global North and South that are increasingly likely to experience their own future resource constraints and food insecurity.
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