Merida, March 19, 2018, (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela revealed that it is looking to expand grassroots and family-based urban food production this weekend, as the government unveiled its National Urban Agriculture Plan 2018.
Areas of expansion include incorporating animal rearing, the Green Rooves project, and seed import replacement, as well as using more lots of land for urban food production than in previous years.
“This plan looks to cover 96,000 hectares across the national territory and produce more than 2,071,000 tonnes of food,” explained Urban Agriculture Minister, Freddy Bernal.
Under the terms of the national plan, urban agriculture, which is normally private or community organised, should “be able to cover 20% of the national population” within three years, he said.
The use of Venezuela’s urban spaces to increase food production has gained momentum in recent years as a way for families to lessen the impact of spiralling inflation and food shortages in the shops.
Small scale productive units of vegetables, fruit, or eggs are now commonplace both in Venezuela’s households as well as in the public green areas, such as schoolyards, squares, or even public institutions. The Ministry for Urban Agriculture was created in 2016 to support such initiatives.
The 2018 Plan looks to incorporate “4,000 tonnes of animal protein” into urban food production, with the ministry providing support for productive micro-projects such as rearing chickens, pigs, rabbits or sheep. It had until now limited its scope to fruit and vegetable production.
Animal proteins such as eggs, chicken, beef, and pork have suffered from some of the highest inflation-based price hikes in comparison to the relatively more stable and less scarce horticultural goods.
“This looks to complete a national nutritional target that looks at the levels of animal protein a human should consume,” stated Bernal. “For example, a human consumes 2,300 kilocalories per person per day, of which 1,100 grams are fruits and vegetables, and 75 grams are animal proteins”.
Similarly, Minister Bernal announced that with Venezuela’s Seed Law, which protects endogenous seed production from multinational imposition, the country should be able to replace importing seeds with national seeds within three years so as to “reaching autonomy in this field”.
The National Plan 2018 has also given greater prominence to Venezuela’s ground-breaking Housing Mission through the Green Rooves and Productive Garden programs.
These programs equip houses with gardens, and apartment blocks with rooftop gardens, bringing productive values into the Mission’s newly created urban spaces. They also provide technical support, seeds, soil, and educational programs for the residents.
Micro-scale urban agriculture is considered a key part of the government’s attempts to combat the country’s economic woes, in which a lack of primary production has contributed to consumer shortages. Increased household production alleviates localised demand and its corresponding inflationary pressure from the commercial market.
According to UNICEF data, more than 88% of Venezuela’s population lives in urban areas with limited growing space.
“Urban agriculture is a challenge we need to address in all of the suitable spaces to grow crops, from balconies, productive garden lots, small greenhouses or small farms,” stated Bernal upon unveiling the plan.
Critics, however, highlight the limitations of micro-solutions for solving national structural problems in production, especially when large state-run rural land plots often remain unproductive.
For his part, President Maduro gave his backing to the National Plan 2018, pointing out via Twitter that “urban agriculture is a revolutionary concept. The path to prosperity is not with capitalism, but rather with a nation of solidarity which produces.”
He also urged all Venezuelans to “produce in their gardens, in their houses, their communities, their towns and in their cities”.
La agricultura urbana es un concepto revolucionario. El camino a la prosperidad no está con el capitalismo, sino con una Patria solidaria que produce. Ya están aprobados los recursos, #JuntosTodoEsPosible pic.twitter.com/lsZaKAuoHX
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 18, 2018
Community Based Production
Recent gatherings of commune and community organisations, such as in El Maizal in Lara State and the Communities to the Fore gathering in Caracas, have called for greater state assistance in their localised, communal means of production.
Last week, the Ataroa Commune in Barquisimeto called on the national government to provide “a new push forward in family plots, egg-laying hens, rabbits and milk-producing goats for families with small children”.
Communal councils and their superstructure, Communes, are vital players in identifying and activating abandoned or idle urban land, and often work closely with the Ministry of Urban Agriculture.
There are currently 2,183 communes registered in Venezuela and 47,297 communal councils. Commune Minister, Aristobulo Istruiz, recently announced the goal of “forming 3,000 communes” this year, specifying that “so far, we have 40% of the [communal councils] organised into communes, and 60% are isolated”.
The Minister also announced the alleged formation of 375 communally controlled banks in the first quarter of 2018, which look to strengthen the creation of communal cities. The target is to reach 1,000 such banks.