For what feels like a lifetime, The Citizen team has been talking to you, our precious reader, through this diary. You've met most of us, warts and all; experienced our laughs, tears, musing and tribulations – but after 60-odd days it's time to call it a day, because we are returning to "normal" as Level 3 starts. And it's that "normal" that set me thinking: I love Cuba. No, not the Cuban doctors helping us now – although they're doing a good job, I'm sure – and no, I'm not a communist, but does that country have a lesson about...
For what feels like a lifetime, The Citizen team has been talking to you, our precious reader, through this diary. You've met most of us, warts and all; experienced our laughs, tears, musing and tribulations – but after 60-odd days it's time to call it a day, because we are returning to "normal" as Level 3 starts.

And it's that "normal" that set me thinking: I love Cuba. No, not the Cuban doctors helping us now – although they're doing a good job, I'm sure – and no, I'm not a communist, but does that country have a lesson about "normal…"

Remember their oil crisis of the '80s when the Russians cut off their supply? The effect was immediate: no fuel. Nobody can get to work; farmers can't bring their food to the towns and cities… All faced starvation.

The government did their little bit: Fidel Castro ordered more than 700,000 bicycles from China – and the people of Cuba rode the wave. Is your usual 10km trip to your work a bit of a tough cycle?

No problem: form a self-sufficient community in your suburb. Every couple of blocks became a thriving hub, each with its own school, doctor, dentist, grocery store.

And in those blocks not an inch of ground was sacrificed for flowers, unless they can keep a pest at bay. Everybody grew food. Communal gardens were set up; parks were converted to plant thousands of vegetables; pavements became gardens where hungry people can pick what they need and leave lots for others; balconies had groaning hanging baskets of trailing tomatoes, beans, cucumbers…

No fuel also meant no pesticides, so the people of Cuba quickly learned about organic. Calendula flowers were growing with peppers and spinach, cilantro with strawberries, and yellow nasturtiums with trellised sweet potatoes.

So that is my wish going forward: let's start using our pristine pavements for food. Let's stop mowing lawns in our parks and make vegetable patches. Let's feed the hungry – and ourselves – for free.

And while you're at it: let's get this nation reading. Put a box on a pole on that same pavement where your chard is sprouting, fill it with books and paint "Free Library" all over it. People can take one, return it, add to your collection with no policing, no stamps. All free, all nourishing.

Just a germ of an idea… and hopefully a new normal.

Lockdown Diaries: Grow food on pavements to feed the poor


Carine Hartman.

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