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Venezuela, Social Unrest and Urban Farming

Posts: 1542
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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I just read this in the Washington Post:

As food continues to get more and more scarce, the Venezuelan government is encouraging people to grow their own food.  Available bits of land are being tilled and planted as the food security situation continues to deteriorate.

I find this interesting on a number of levels.  While this has been discussed in another thread about how to hide your food forest from potential marauding hordes, I think it merit enough significance for its own thread.

First, people are not rioting.  There is still a strong, well-fed police/military/security structure.  These people will be the last ones to go hungry.  So while people may occasionally break into a store or warehouse, there isn't widespread social unrest.  People continue to wait in line for hours, only to find out that there isn't anything for them to buy once they reach the front of the line.  Tomorrow, they just get up a bit earlier still --- only to wait.  This mirrors what took place in the failing Soviet Union (2+ decades ago): people complained about the lack of basic goods, but they complained quietly even as they stood in line for hours.  So the expectation that people will go crazy and turn into marauding zombies just does not bear scrutiny.  

Second, people are resourceful and resilient.  The government is say, "Plant veggies", as if people hadn't already considered that.  Perhaps this is their way to try to act as if it were their idea—people are already turning their yards and balconies into gardens, so why not take the credit for it and say, "that was our idea".  While the majority of urban dwellers have never grown a cabbage in their life, this isn't brain surgery.  Take seed, place in soil, add water, wait.  People will figure it out, and the agrarian knowledge will quickly pass through social networks.  "Hey, how do I get my tomatoes to grow like yours?  Pee around the base of them?  Are you sure?  OK -- thanks."

Third, this isn't a new pattern.  If you read the history of the siege of St. Petersburg or Stalingrad, when outside food sources were closed-off, people quickly converted all available land for agricultural purposes.  In the case of Stalingrad, the siege lasted for something like 1000 days.  People resorted to cannibalism and all sorts of horrific acts, but there were not riots.  They grew whatever they could.  When Cuba was embargoed by the United States in 1962, they responded in a similar way: every available space was converted into gardens and farms.  Venezuela is not under siege, per se, but the lack of social mobility and economic freedom has "captured" people and prevents them from picking up and moving elsewhere.  Where will you go?  So you convert a 5-gal pale into a medium to grow a few cucumbers.  You convert your patio into space for greens, chickens, whatever.  People have done it repeatedly throughout history.

Finally, it is relatively inexpensive.  Soil is all around us.  Biomass is available to convert to mulch or compost, you just have to gather it and put it to use.  Urine is plentiful—a tremendously accessible source for nitrogen.  Buckets, old bathtubs, used boards, scraps of metal . . . these become the building blocks for planters and trellis's.  Seeds are cheap.  Water, particularly in a place like Venezuela, is inexpensive.  God gives us the sun for free.  Gardening is a low-barrier, high return on investment proposition.

Frankly, it shouldn't take a crisis like this to get people to consider how they might grow a greater percentage of their needed calories just steps from their back door.
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Good idea Marco,
Cuba used a similar situation to develop permaculture as the new normal.  Their society is much healthier for it.
John S
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