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Vivero Organoponico Alamar Horicultural Tour, Cuba

Alamar, around 20 minutes to the east of Havana Vieja, is at first glimpse an unremarkable residential suburb, where Cubans go about their daily lives. However, nestled between the harsh lines of the Soviet style apartment blocks is the Vivero Organoponico Alamar, effectively a four hectare urban allotment.

The collapse of the Soviet Union combined with the US trade embargo drastically affected Cuba in the early 1990s and the country was left with insufficient food as well as dwindling supplies of fertiliser, insecticides and fuel for cars and modern machinery. Faced with the crisis of the 'Special Period', an organic revolution began to take place all over Cuba, with the imaginative use of any spare space to grow food; crumbling walls supporting plant pots and old parking lots converted into small vegetable plots.

The government realised that the only way out of the crisis was through self-sufficiency and introduced Organoponicos, organic urban market gardens, giving land and water to cooperatives in return for a share of the crops. The Vivero Organoponico Alamar is one of the largest and most successful in Havana, with up to 160 full time employees, all of whom receive a share of the profits and possibly some of the best food in Cuba.

Your guide and a local gardener will walk you through the impressive gardens pointing out familiar fruits and vegetables as well as exotic plants from all over the island such as the curious Noni fruit and a vast array of medicinal and decorative plants. You are also able to visit the small shop at the entrance where the locals come to stock up. The tour takes around two hours and is a great insight into everyday life in Cuba.

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