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Five cities and the groups that are making them green

Around the world cities are promoting urban agriculture to help feed their growing populations.

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St. Petersburg in action: In 1993 the St. Petersburg Downtown Gardening Club established its first rooftop garden. In 1999, it began collecting kitchen scraps each week from the residents of the building for a vermiculture project (composting with worms). Every month they recycle over 500 kilograms of waste and every year they save 30,000 rubles (almost $1,000). The club has also started gardens at the city prison, therapy gardening at a prosthesis institute, and participated in school gardening projects across the city.

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5. Havana: With the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in 1989 and the US embargo on fuel exports to Cuba, the country had a serious food shortage. But in Havana, residents became creative. The government formed the Urban Agriculture Department to secure land-use rights for urban gardeners as people began planting organic gardens in backyards, empty city lots, and balconies. Today, Havana is a world leader in urban agriculture, growing more than half of its produce within city limits.

Havana in action: The National Urban Agriculture Group (GNAU) has been important to the success of urban agriculture in Havana. Because of successful research and sustainable techniques, yield on urban farms jumped from 1.5 kilograms per square meter in 1994 to 25.8 kilograms per square meter in 2001. Especially productive units may receive various honors (“with excellence” is the highest honor and there are only 82 of these gardens in the country) giving farmers social as well as monetary incentive to be productive. These farmers also serve as facilitators when new technologies are developed, helping educate other people in the community. By giving prestige to urban farmers, effectively disseminating organic technology and information, the government of Cuba has done a great deal to help Havana feed itself.

• Jenny Beth Dyess is a research intern with Nourishing the Planet. To purchase "State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet" please click HERE.

• This article first appeared at Nourishing the Planet, a blog published by the Worldwatch Institute.

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