Month: August 2013

How healthy is urban horticulture in high traffic areas? Trace metal concentrations in vegetable crops.

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A study by:

Ina Säumel a,*, Iryna Kotsyuk b, Marie Hölscher a, Claudia Lenkereit a, Frauke Weber a, Ingo Kowarik a

a Department of Ecology, Technische Universität Berlin, Rothenburgstr. 12, D-12165 Berlin, Germany

b Botanical Garden of Khmelnitskij National University, str. Instytutska 11, Khmelnitsky 29016, Ukraine

High traffic burden near the planting site, i.e. <10 m, resulted in 67% of crops having Pb values which exceeded the standards of the European Union. In contrast, only 38% of the crops grown at the distance of more than 10 m from the nearest street exceeded these values. Only 37% of samples had critical Pb values when crops were grown behind a barrier (buildings and/or tall vegetation) between the cultivation site and the next street, while more than half (52%) of all samples collected at sampling sites without such a barrier had critical Pb values. Almost no sample collected in this study exceeded the standards of the European Union for cadmium concentration in food crops. Surprisingly, vegetables which had been planted directly in urban soil beds had lead values above the critical value less often (40%) than vegetables planted in beds filled with commercial soils or planted in pots (50%).

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The organopónicos and intensive gardens are the primary methods of urban cultivation. The only difference between the two is the structure of the garden: whether cultivation occurs in raised beds or in the preexisting soil. Because of the poor quality of many urban soils, the organopónico method is the most popular. Although statistics are still being compiled, official estimates in 1996 calculate the total number of organopónicos in Cuba to be about 1,613, covering about 250 hectares. They have an average yield potential of 16 kg of produce per square meter, with a total production of about 840,092 qq. [1 quintal equals 100 pounds]. There are about 430 intensive gardens with a total area of 165 hectares and a total production of 421,000 qq., or about 12 kg. of produce per square meter. More data are available for the capital city of Havana, which has the largest and most developed system of urban agriculture in the country (Table 2). Urban agriculture in Cuba has rapidly become a significant source of fresh produce for the urban and suburban populations. A large number of urban gardens in Havana and other major cities have emerged as a grassroots movement in response to the crisis brought about by the loss of trade, with the collapse of the socialist bloc in 1989. These gardens are helping to stabilize the supply of fresh produce to Cuba’s urban centers. During 1996, Havana’s urban farms provided the city’s urban populationwith 8,500 tons of agricultural produce, 4 million dozens of flowers, 7.5 million eggs, and 3,650 tons of meat. This system of urban agriculture, composed of about 8,000 gardens nationwide has been developed and managed along agroecological principles, which eliminate the use of synthetic chemical pesticides and fertilizers, emphasizing diversification, recycling, and the use of local resources. This article explores the systems utilized by Cuba’s urban farmers, and the impact that this movement has had on Cuban food security.


The greening of the “barrios”: Urban agriculture for food security in Cuba

Miguel A. Altieri,1 Nelso Companioni,2 Kristina Cañizares,3 Catherine Murphy,4 Peter Rosset,4

Martin Bourque4 and Clara I. Nicholls5

1College of Natural Resources, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA; 2Instituto de Investigaciones Fundamentales en

Agricultura Tropical (INIFAT) in Havana, Cuba; 3Department of Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management, University

of California, Berkeley, CA, USA; 4Institute for Food and Development Policy (Food First) in Oakland, CA, USA; 5Department of

Entomology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA