May 9th 2012, by Tamara Pearson
Urban agriculture in Caracas (Patriagrande)
Mérida, May 9th 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s urban agriculture program has seen urban communal and family based food gardens developing rapidly over the last two years, to a current total of 19,000. The program provides free training, information, seeds, and other materials, in order to encourage healthy and environmentally friendly food production and food sovereignty.
Martha Bolivar, president of the Training and Innovation Foundation in Support of the Agrarian Revolution (CIARA), said yesterday that the urban agriculture program is aiming to produce 18 thousand tonnes of garden produce this year.
The program comes under the government’s Agro-Venezuela mission, and aims to take advantage of unused spaces in cities to produce vegetables, fruit, medicinal and ornamental plants on a small scale, in order to promote self-supply and community and family based micro economies.
It is prioritising twenty products, among them; radishes, parsley, tomatoes, and capsicum, and according to Bolivar, the vegetables are 100% free of agro-toxic products.
Venezuelan Vice-president and minister for land and agriculture, Elias Jaua, said over the weekend that the program is also aiming to create 21,000 more productive units dedicated to urban agriculture this year, as well as 125 greenhouses, 44 nurseries, 16 artisanal seed units for producing certified seeds, 6 organic fertiliser units, and 40 aquaculture (water farming) units. So far, 19,000 urban agriculture units have been constructed, and these include family, community, and school gardens.
Jaua made his comments while touring the Agro-productive Socialist Base of Urban Agriculture in the Valles del Tuy, Miranda state, where he said 1,200 families have received training and are now cultivating crops in their small yards or patios, as well as small communal spaces, for the consumption of the community.
One urban garden in in Miranda state, Los Charavares, involves 17 Venezuelans, who are using agro-ecological techniques to plant a range of crops including tomatoes and capsicums. The area they plant on used to be rubble and a rubbish dump, until it was recovered by the national government.
Belkis Aponte, coordinator of the Los Charavares base, said that there they carry out the whole productive process, from planting to direct distribution of food, selling products at about half the market price.
“We have fifty flower beds and organoponic tables, where we recycle thrown-out tires,” she said. Organoponicos are a Cuban system of urban organic gardens, often consisting in low-level concrete walls filled with organic matter and soil, and drip irrigation lines laid on the surface.
In Caracas metro stations there are CIARA stalls explaining urban agriculture and what individuals, families, or collectives can do. People can also apply for seeds and small parcels of land at these stalls.
“CIARA has supplied us with everything we need to have a kitchen garden on the patio; the seeds, tools, compost, pallets, and soil,” Zafra Miriam in Caracas told Venezuelanalysis.com. “And they are incredibly responsive, always available to give advice or more materials as necessary,” she said.
“We can plant in any available space… on balconies, patios, flat roofs… there are many options available for the people to contribute to food sovereignty,” said Bolivar.
Last week President Hugo Chavez approved a further Bs 97.6 million (US$ 22.7 million) to support urban agriculture.