Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Strategic Document for the Urban Sustainability Program

"Antonio Núñez Jiménez" Foundation for Nature and Humanity

City of Havana December 1, 2000.
Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation For Nature and Humanity
© 2000 All rights reserved (FANJNH)

Address: 5ta B # 6611 E/ 66 y 70, Miramar, Playa, Ciudad Habana, CUBA.
Telephones: (537) 209-2885 (537) 209-2833
Fax: (537) 204-0438
Project Area tel/fax: (537) 204-5947
Project Area e-mail:

and in Spanish


The Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Humanity (FANJ) is a cultural and scientific non-governmental institution, dedicated to research and promotion of programs and projects for the protection of the environment as it relates to culture and society.

Our main office is located in the City of Havana and we also have a presence in the provinces of Pinar Del Río, Matanzas, Sancti Spíritus, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo and as well as in Mexico City.

As part of the process of strategic planning initiated by the Foundation, we have defined a vision and a mission under which it plans to work in the coming years.





In order to achieve this, the FANJ has four Programs:

Geo-historic Research Program: Expressed in the collection of 50 volumes, titled "Cuba: Nature and Humanity", written by our Founder Dr. Antonio Núñez Jiménez. This work puts together all of the author’s rich research of over 50 years of expeditions and investigative work, covering aspects such as climate, geology, anthropology, history, culture and other areas related to the constant evolution of the Cuban nation.

Environmental Education Program: The mandate of this program is to work in this area with the participation of all sectors of the population, through action and initiating projects. The main objectives are the provision of information, the promotion of dialogue in environmental issues, training and consulting in methodology, production of educational resources, naturalisation of schools and their grounds and developing local solutions to environmental problems.

Cultural Services Program: Its main goal is to integrate the historical and cultural patrimony of our Foundation into a service offered to the community through public access to the Library, Museum and the Archives. It promotes diverse artistic expressions which will contribute to the formation of aesthetic values linked to the harmony between Humans and Nature. As well as it spreads the knowledge and work of renowned Cuban intellectuals.



Sustainable Development is the demonstrated capacity of a society or system to function indefinitely and independently, without failing to function due to the exhaustion of fundamental resources, the way our current system depends on. This sustainability implies the need for patrons to encourage development and a different life style, which permits society to resolve our generations current needs without compromising the possibilities of future ones, including those needs which we are unaware of to this date.

Nowadays, cities and other types of human settlements are consumers of natural resources while depositing their waste back in the very same place they consume from, the earth. This current world reality creates the premature exhaustion of natural resources and environmental contamination. In order to make a transition to sustainability it is essential to recoil what we use and to produce only what is necessary. To sum up this point we have:

Graphic (not included here).


Permaculture and its introduction to Cuba.

In the 90s, the peak of the renewed Cuban economic crisis, a group of Australians and New Zealanders visited Cuba through a program called the Southern Cross Brigades, organised by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People and the Australia Cuba Friendship Society. Members of this group came with the knowledge of a new system of sustainable techniques called "Permaculture" and decided to unite in support of food security in our country, forming the "Green Team".

"Permaculture" is a practical concept developed for the first time by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Tasmania, Australia in 1974, which encourages us to think carefully about our environment, the use of resources and how to satisfy the necessities of the present and future generations through a philosophy of co-operation.

Permaculture techniques are as applicable to a balcony as to a farm, to a city as to wild ecosystems, and allow people to establish productive environments which are inserted harmoniously within the economic and social structure that supports them. These environments are designed to possess the diversity, stability and endurance of natural ecosystems.

Within this broad and useful concept there is concrete action on problems of: food production, low cost methods of food preservation, solutions for building with local materials, saving water and energy and the strengthening of a true environmental culture. Permaculture provides us with tools to better take advantage of our surroundings, it makes us think positively about things that we might have considered as problems, or of no importance, such as garbage, , and it prepares Humanity to see the world through different eyes.

More than a practical and ecological system of agriculture, it is a way of thinking about and planning human settlements in general, and how people can satisfy their needs in life without damaging the earth. Permaculture gives us the instruments to face this issue without pre-conceived ideas, and to evaluate any situation with an open mind to all the possibilities.

The application of such a system provides broad benefits to diverse spaces in urban and peri-urban areas, allowing the integration of the traditional functions of the urban environment with the provision of food security for the population. This is done though agricultural production designed and managed as a green and multi-functional space, which also contributes to the sanitation of the city and its surroundings, the better use of leisure time, to the rescue and preservation of the agro-culture, to the decrease of consumerism, to the generation of new jobs and to the construction of an urban landscape more related to our needs and traditions.


Historically Cuba has always depended on food imports in order to meet its needs. This is partly explained by the fact that approximately 30% of the arable land in the territory has been and is dedicated to growing sugar cane, the product of which (sugar) was for many years the main export of the country.

In the late 80s the fall of the Soviet Union, precipitated a severe economic crisis. Since they had previously provided 80% of Cuban imports, , which was immediately reflected in the scarcity of food products to meet the population’s needs.

The search for alternative solutions introduced food production without the use of chemicals, in several cities of the country. From 1990 the government of the City of Havana, where 20% of the population is concentrated, authorised the provisional use of vacant state property by people who wanted to produce food for themselves, creating "people’s plots" which occupy more than 2000 hectares.

The provision of training and technical advise to interested parties was a priority from the beginning, because it was necessary to teach the skills of successful food production to people that needed training on agro-culture. It is the State, through the Ministry of Agriculture and local government, that has been the principal provider of this training. Over the years, this area of work has progressively incorporated, in a complementary fashion, the work of other institutions such as the Fundación Antonio Núñez Jiménez de la Naturaleza y el Hombre.

This massive development of Urban Agriculture, as it was named at that time, included the growth of "organoponicos" (high yield system that produce vegetables and fruits in rows of concrete boxes full of soil to sell to the population) seedling houses, and other areas of support. The field of Urban agriculture has been developing and improving during these past ten years with numerous positive results. Examples of the success to date are that there are more than 1800 urban producers located in the City of Havana, of which a great number have some produce to sell apart from the needs of their families and their commitment to support local services. Furthermore, there is continuing research into the development of agriculture in this city and the ways of incorporating it into physical planning.

Cuba is entering the year 2000 with solid signals of a revitalising economy and as part of this, we need to appreciate the actions propelled by the real estate sector. This, along with the tourist industry, which is now the main economic sector of the country, are using spaces which were always destined for the city’s "own" functions, for example, housing, recreation and others. Many of the spaces now targeted for development had been occupied by farming plots and organoponicos. Today with the changing conditions it is important to re-think how to incorporate the traditional urban functions with the environmental and social benefits of Urban agriculture.

While the production of sugar cane has decreased in importance in the Cuban economy, it continues to be one of the most important agricultural exports. Therefore, food security will have to be achieved using other areas for production. Urban agriculture can continue to contribute to this objective, possibly with a smaller presence in Cuban cities, in terms of the hectares of production, but in a more permanent and stable way than the ones generated by the period of economic crisis.

On the other hand, the number of cities involved in Urban agriculture world-wide is increasing, especially in Latin America & the Caribbean, where poverty is worsening both in the rural and urban areas and where wealth is more and more polarised everyday. Urban agriculture in this region is appearing both spontaneously and through promotion by local governments and institutions as an alternative food source for the less fortunate sectors of the population. Also, agriculture in small family spaces of the urban and peri-urban sectors is being practised for personal and community interests in order to increase the nutritional value of the diet and to improve the use of free-time.

But there is still a lot of ground to cover. There is a lack of: social and economic indicators that can measure the activities of Urban agriculture; a conceptual framework that can define it in all its dimensions; a higher commitment from all the different levels of government and of the institutions that work for the community; more effective understanding and practices of the agencies that can support its development, and a greater promotion of the benefits of urban agriculture.

When talking about Urban agriculture in Latin America, the Caribbean, and world-wide, the use of agro-chemicals, despite their environmental costs, is not by definition excluded, neither are the biological products of high costs to which only a small proportion of the world’s population have access. Cuba, with the economic crisis of the 90´s, has had the historic timing for the massive development of Urban agriculture without the use of agro-chemicals, but is has had challenges set by its own development. For the whole Latin American and Caribbean region there is ample space for outreach work. The promotion, research and definition of the best and more permanent ways of inserting Agriculture into the Urban Environment has been part of the work of the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Humanity in the last few years, and there is a commitment to continue with this work in the future.


First Permaculture Projects

The first Australian volunteers came to Cuba in 1994 as part of a work agreement established between the Green Team and Cuban governmental institutions to introduce Permaculture to the country. After several administrative changes, in November of 1995 the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Humanity took on the project, financed by the Australian international aid organisation AUSAID, through the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and the Green Team.

This project, entitled "Urban agriculture Education in La Habana", began in March 1995 and has continued through four different projects and represents the most fundamental effort in Permaculture in Cuba up to date. The main objective of these years’ efforts has been to help increase the number and effectiveness of the popular plots, with the intention of achieving an increase in food security and diversity for the population of the City of Havana.

The principal achievements of these projects have been:

The priority of these first projects was education and training in Urban and Organic Agriculture in the City of Havana, without special emphasis on Permaculture. Not withstanding, after all these years of experience we can say that it is this system (Permaculture) that defines and sets apart our projects, and makes them complementary with others developed by the Head Office of Urban agriculture in Havana, and other partner organisations. We are already recognised both in the country and internationally as the promoting centre of this technique in Cuba.

2. Permaculture Training Project for nutrition, health and the making of organic compost in small spaces of the urban area of Havana and Cienfuegos, with the Australian Conservation Fund (ACF)

For 13 months, this project has followed up the tradition of the first Permaculture projects; with the difference that it concentrates its actions in the central municipalities of the capital. It also works for the first time in a city of the interior of the country.

Furthermore, it has supported mainly, through training and design, the development of a human settlement in harmony with the environment ("El Jovero"). This is our first attempt for bigger scale Permaculture (16 ha).

The promoting group in Cienfuegos, called the"Theatre of the Elements", joins different art forms, farming, environmental education and promotion of tradition. This group is striving for a project with a strong cultural base that expands the use of the arts, while building its roots on the Earth and community.

3. Research Project of the IDRC of Canada

The research project "Evaluation of Urban agriculture as a component of the local economy in two areas of Havana" has been financed for three years by the International Development Research Centre of Canada. Unlike other Urban agriculture projects which are more specific and sectorial (i.e. aimed at increasing yields, etc) this project’s main objective is to investigate Urban agriculture in an inter-institutional and inter-disciplinary manner, in correspondence with the complexity of the urban environment in which this form of agriculture operates.

In the first year of work (July 98/July 99) a Research Team was created, composed of 13 professionals from different backgrounds. This team, which is coordinated by the FANJ, represents: the Provincial Direction of Physical Planning and Architecture, the Metropolitan Park of Havana, and the Urban agriculture Group of the Havana Delegation of the Ministry of Agriculture. The team defined, through workshops and meetings, the tools and indicators to use and the actions to undertake during this period. The team also collected information, evaluated it and interviewed agricultural producers and other related persons, from which a base of information was created with the intention of developing it at a later date.

The results of this project were shared at national and international levels on the different stages of the research process and gathered in a book. The main contains are an evolution assessment of urban agriculture in Havana City and particularly two of its zones, and a proposal for the insertion of this productive activity on the Urban planning.

4. Permaculture Action with OXFAM UK

Designed for a one year term, this project’s main objectives were the consolidation of a training system based on community workshops and three levels of specialised Permaculture courses. This project evolved from the Cuban Permaculture experience and which are led by staff formed in Cuba thanks to previous projects.

The implemented results allowed for the development of a monitoring system for the Demonstration sites that contributed to the systematisation of the Cuban Permaculture. New Permaculture sites were also created, the information system was improved and new promotion material were distributed to interested people all over the country.

Promotion and Public Relations

The promotion of permaculture techniques and of Urban agriculture in general has been a priority during these years. In multiple national and international events and through the media, our specialists have made known the improvements, achievements and benefits of these two systems in the search for sustainable cities.

The promotion of Permaculture and Urban agriculture in Cuba, through the magazine "Se Puede Vivir en Ecópolis" shows its results in the increasing contributions and numerous letters that our readers send us. Among our readers are scientists, teachers, farmers, urban farmers, youth, children, the elderly, women home-workers, handicapped persons, and others.

There are two radio stations such as "Radio Portada de la Libertad de Níquero" in the Granma Province that read the magazine to its audience in an ecology and environmental education show. There are also teachers that develop their "Círculos de Interés" based on the magazines’ themes.

Four field journals have been published, two about general themes and one specific to the conservation and use of seeds. These works have helped disseminate advice to producers and outreach workers. With these journals we have prepared Permaculture workshops for children, organised by the Community Patios Project in Cerro and by the Association of the Friends of Botany.

The informative bulletin "El Permacultor", of which 12 issues have been published, has publicised the existence of the "Seed Savers Network" organised by the FANJ and the Urban agriculture Department in the City of Havana, as well as other projects in development. Several television and radio shows have presented the Foundation´s work on training, promotion and implementation of demonstration sites.

The Foundation and its urban agriculture program have already gained the recognition from different regional organisations such as the Latin American Urban Agriculture research Network (AGUILA). This organisation, together with the Fundation and Urban agriculture Department in the City of Havana, organised its II Assembly, celebrated in November 1999 in Cuba with the participation of more than ten countries of the region.

The aforementioned is also shown through the Foundation co-operating in the development of urban agriculture and Permaculture in other Latin American countries. One example is the work developed by our specialists, together with the municipality of Cuenca, Ecuador in which an Agriculture Program was implemented and has been active now for 2 years. This program was selected among more than 50 cities by the United Nation´s Urban Management Program as a model to promote in other municipalities and institutions of civil society in the region. The Foundation has also initiated a collaborative effort with the Municipality of Santiago de Los Caballeros in the Dominican Republic, to support the design and implementation of an Urban agriculture Program in that city.

Our Urban agriculture Program can be distinguished within Cuba for its participatory work style and effective labour in co-ordinating joint action between community groups, Government and Non Government Organisations.


To contribute to the sustainable development of urban settlements and their territories of influence, consolidating the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Humanity as an urban centre for the Promotion and Extension of Permaculture, as a means towards improving the quality of life of people and the environment as a whole.



The evaluation of the work executed during these years has given us the conviction that Permaculture, within the urban agriculture setting, is one of the most environmentally sustainable and more economically viable systems that there is.

On this basis we have defined the need to direct our work in the coming years to disseminating the work of the Permaculture projects and plans in the City of Havana as well as in other cities throughout the country where delegations of the FANJ exist. Our principal tasks are: improvement of the training activities and their practical expression; the theoretical and practical systematisation of results and impacts; the research and results in other environmental, social and economic components of urban agriculture; and the promotion, through community forums and institutions at the national and international level. All of this work will continue within the ethic of working in co-operation with other institutions and people.

The objectives of each of these work areas are the following:


  1. To identify the urban and peri-urban areas and communities that practice urban agriculture or other activities related to Permaculture, as well as seek out support teams and potential promoters in each territory, their interests and training needs, with the objective of progressively establishing projects for the development of Permaculture.

  2. To continue and to expand the training options for outreach workers, producers and promoters related to urban agriculture and those who are interested in improving their design skills and Permaculture techniques.

  3. To integrate the theoretical and practical training in Permaculture techniques and components of urban agriculture into the regular teaching courses of the country, giving priority to those centres that have requested support and that train teachers.

  4. To expand and deepen, within the training activities, the themes of production and use of medicinal plants and themes related to nutrition in terms of food quality and eating habits. To establish in that respect, joint projects works with other people and institutions.

  5. To establish for interested individuals a regular annual training program (Permaculture courses, workshops, conferences) to ensure broader participation.

  6. To implement advanced courses, designers forums, invitations to professors from other countries and inter-disciplinary designs of large and medium sized spaces, for the improvement of skills of the graduate designers.

  7. To establish a system that will allow a registry of the training projects in Permaculture being implemented in the country, and that promotes the integration and interaction of related institutions, with the objective of defining the program areas, activities and impacts of those activities.


  1. To consolidate the Permaculture Demonstration Sites Network of Havana City through providing technical, individual and collective information to the producers and keeping them informed about activities that can be developed inside and outside their plots.

  2. To expand through projects, the establishment of Demonstration Sites to the peripheral municipalities of the City of Havana and other urban settlements in the country, giving priority to those provinces where there are representatives of the FANJNH.

  3. To promote lobbying at a local level for the creation of more Permaculture garden plots, which would contribute to the improvement of the quality of life with the objective of establishing Permaculture Gardens of the most vulnerable sectors of the population such as the elderly and the citizens that live in precarious housing.

  4. To establish training areas where Permaculture techniques will be applied to integrate crops, animals, natural spaces, ecological housing, sustainable forms of energy, and to select one to function as the headquarters for the courses and controlled experiments.

  5. To select, design and build, together with local institutions, diverse disciplines, specialists and informed citizens; a productive green space located in an urban area. The purpose will be to turn it into a demonstration site that shows the Permaculture Design Techniques applied to urban environment in order to do the practical validation at this scale. To use this working process model for collecting data and applying the experience to the larger social system.


  1. To identify and work on projects with a research-action philosophy that gives support, from an environmental, social and economic focus, to the permanence of Permaculture as a viable urban agriculture system, giving priority to projects in Cuba and the Caribbean.

  2. To establish a process of participatory systematisation of the Cuban experience with Permaculture that guarantees the ongoing collection and analysis of information. This process would also produce indicators and tools that would allow for the identification and assessment of the environmental, economic and socio-cultural factors that arrive through action and project building.

  3. To produce documents that would scientifically support the work on training and promotion of Permaculture and in general of urban agriculture.

  4. To initiate and implement inter-institutional and inter-disciplinary research projects that evaluate the diversity and complexity of the urban environment in which agricultural activity can be implemented.

  5. To implement through various means, both within and outside of the country, the research experiences with the purpose of enriching the development processes of urban agriculture in general.


  1. To organise, preserve, enrich and promote the Permaculture section of the Foundation´s Information Center.

  2. To contribute and to maintain the publication of "Se puede vivir en Ecópolis", considered one of the very few grassroots environmental magazine that circulates in the country, and improve it’s design, content and distribution.

  3. To continue publishing the annual Field Calendar, the newsletter "El Permacultor" and other promotional materials which are valuable to the work of producers, promoters, outreach workers and other interested people.

  4. To promote correspondence from our readers as part of the monitoring of the effectiveness of the publications, and to set up throughout the provinces a Friends of Permaculture, Urban agriculture and other Environmental Interest Groups.

  5. To implement and promote, through various means, a data-base of: all the courses given throughout the country; professors and assistants; and provide activity reports on the designs created by the graduates of these courses with the purpose of providing a resource for citizens and institutions to learn about the development of these projects.

  6. To promote the Annual Training Program to interested sectors of the community and relevant institutions (Permaculture courses, workshops, conferences) to ensure broad participation.

  7. To use diverse technical methods to produce promotional materials oriented to the promotion of the work of the Urban agriculture Program of the FANJ for all the sectors of the population.

  8. To broaden the promotion and motivation actions of Permaculture, through contests, festivals and other participatory activities, directed mainly to children and youth.

  9. To continue the promotion of Permaculture, urban agriculture and their relation with environmental problems, giving priority to events in Cuba, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Institutional Relations

The implementation of the actions and projects of our Urban Agriculture Program is done through strengthening of institutional and community links so that these actions and projects may be consolidated from the very beginning, through the creation of work commitments and capacity building.

The development of effective partnerships with institutions, communities and people will be based on complementary values and skills. This will encourage better organisation of the work and time of the parties involved so that the results and impacts may be better measured.

The FANJ´s Urban agriculture Program continue to broaden their the relationship at the regional and international level with institutions and people involved in Permaculture and Urban agriculture in general, and in particular to continue our co-operation in the region through exchanges and consultation.

We also propose to further Cuba’s relationship with the Support Network for Latin American Permaculture (RAPEL in Spanish) and with the Global Network of Ecovillages, as well as contribute to strengthening of the RED AGUILA, Support Group for Urban agriculture and the Group of Cities of PGU/ALC.

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Revised Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture