Urban Farming in Havana and London by Lulu Ash

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and in the face of ongoing US embargoes, Cuba lost its supply of oil, machinery and petrochemical fertilisers, leading to a severe economic crisis. The agricultural system, which relied heavily on imported chemical based pesticides and fertilisers became unsustainable.

The Cuban government responded by mobilising domestic resources to avoid acute food shortages and mass starvation. Cuba is now at the forefront of sustainable agriculture based on organic local food production. In Havana, Ash documents Organoponicos, community growing spaces covering 8% of land in the capital, which have transformed derelict urban spaces into thriving organic farms. The Organoponicos produce four million tonnes of organic produce each year using integrated pest management, crop rotation, composting and soil conservation as well as providing employment to many thousands of local people. Ash’s photo essay combines urban landscapes, intimate portraits of the farmers and the techniques they employ, as well as highlighting the benefits to health, environment and community life in Havana.


In the UK we rely heavily on imported food and crops grown with the intensive use of oil based chemicals and fertilisers. We are now more reliant on food imports than at any other stage in the last 40 years.

In response to this and to complement her photo essay on Havana’s Organoponicos, Lulu documents Capital Growth a food growing initiative in London. The project aims to create 2,012 new community food growing spaces across the capital by the end of 2012. Capital Growth is a partnership initiative between London Food Link, the Mayor of London and the Big Lottery’s Local Food Fund.

Lulu’s photo essay highlights a local food movement in Britain, which is creating practical solutions to the issues of finite oil supplies and food security. Many of the growing spaces, previously plots of derelict land, have provided benefits in health, safety, community cohesion and employment.