Courtesy of Russel Fernandez/ Princeton Architectural Press The following is an excerpt from Carey Clouse's Farming Cuba: Urban Agriculture from the
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Cuba found itself solely responsible for feeding a nation that had grown dependent on imports and trade subsidies. With fuel, fertilizers, and pesticides disappearing overnight, citizens began growing their own organic produce anywhere they could find space, on rooftops, balconies, vacant lots, and even school playgrounds. By 1998 there were more than 8,000 urban farms in Havana producing nearly half of the country’s vegetables. What began as a grassroots initiative had, in less than a decade, grown into the largest sustainable agriculture initiative ever undertaken, making Cuba the world leader in urban farming. Featuring a wealth of rarely seen material and intimate portraits of the environment, Farming Cuba details the innovative design strategies and explores the social, political, and environmental factors that helped shape this pioneering urban farming program.
Cuba’s food crisis highlighted many of the deeply entrenched and largely invisible structural problems within the country’s food system. Flaws in agricultural infrastructure, community-engagement process, modes of knowledge transfer, production methods, and urban planning were plainly exposed with the dissolution of the Soviet bloc. Architectural theorist Mark Wigley links these larger systems failures to design, suggesting that these “crises always appear as the failure of a spatial system, a failure of architecture.” In this sense, periods of extreme breakdown can also act as agents of physical change: according to Wigley, “crises produce new forms.”