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FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

Proceedings. International Seminar on Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture

Recent volatility in food prices has raised awareness of the importance of urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA), also known as backyard gardening or family farming, as a source of food and nutrition security. In addition to supplying food, UPA generates employment and income for the urban poor, and contributes to balanced local development and an improved urban environment. During the Thirty-First FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean in 2010, member countries identified the promotion of UPA as one of FAO's medium-term priorities for the region. Also in 2010, Ministers of Agriculture of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) endorsed the FAO-CARICOM Regional Food and Nutrition Security Policy, which includes UPA. To unlock the full potential of UPA, a number of important challenges must be overcome, including the need to develop a conducive institutional framework, to identify and address gender gaps, and to provide training and extension services to urban producers.

Since the 1990s, the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean have assisted the implementation of UPA programs in the region and have sponsored several workshops. The first international workshop on UPA was held in La Paz, Bolivia in 2007, followed by two additional workshops in Medellin, Colombia in 2009 and 2011. However these workshops mainly focused on experiences in South and Central America.

The first international workshop focusing on the needs of Caribbean countries was held in La Havana, Cuba, 14-17 May, 2012. The workshop included 24 presentations in three academic sessions and a field trip to one of Cuba´s iconic periurban garden (organoponic). The workshop provided an opportunity to share experiences and gain understanding of how to articulate and promote UPA in the region. Sixty six participants analyzed the status of UPA in the region, identifying main research and cooperation lines under the UPA program for the region, and key actors from various countries. Participants formulated The Havana Declaration for UPA, 2012. Outcomes from the workshop will contribute to regional coordination and collaboration among programs and projects on UPA in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the aim of establishing a regional strategy and program on UPA to enhance food and nutritional security in the region. Strategies should focus on two modalities of family farming, urban and peri-urban, differentiated by location, scale, commodities, but with sustainable agro-ecological management practices in common.

There was a two-way exchange of information and experiences. Thus, Cuba which is now implementing a peri-urban program, benefitied from experiences from other countries. At the same time, the workshop provided the international participants the opportunity to learn from the Cuban experience. The importance of UPA to Cuba is reflected by a dedicated training institution, Escuela Superior de Agricultura Urbana y Suburbana, under INIFAT. The high level of education of the Cuban population has been key to the success of UPA programs. It is recognized that education levels in other countries are not as high as in Cuba and this may pose a challenge in the implementation of UPA in other countries. Important aspects from the Cuban experience that can be learned includes the use of semi-protected and protected cultivation systems for year-round vegetable production, maximum plant diversity in each production unit, integrated pest management strategies, and use of organic materials for soil improvement and amelioration. Cuba's UPA monitoring and evaluation system is very articulated and intensive, therefore adoption and transferability of UPA as adopted in Cuba by other countries may depend on cost and personnel availability.

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