HAVANA, April 24 (Xinhua) -- Not far from Havana's iconic Revolution Square, a green plot of land offers a welcome break from the uniform skyline and hubbub of Cuba's capital.
More importantly, it guarantees an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables year-round.
This urban farm, like numerous others like it, grows leafy greens, such as cabbage, lettuce, chard and occasionally arugula, ensuring fresh vegetables feature on local dinner tables.
Thanks to a government program begun three decades ago, urban farms today produce more than a million tons of organic crops.
The program, which has spread across the country and is present in almost all major cities, was strengthened in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, then Cuba's main political and economic ally.
"The product practically goes from the plot to our plates," said retiree Francisca Lopez, 70, who "at least once a week" visits the urban farm near her house in a populous Havana neighborhood.
It is a good source of vegetables to complement the typical Cuban dish of rice, beans and pork, she said.
By 2020, government plans to invest more than 96 million U.S. dollars -- 80 percent from international financing -- to expand urban farms, according to Nelson Campanioni, the program's executive director.
"The investment will be earmarked to develop irrigation, seed production, organic fertilizers, agro-ecological management and use of renewable energy, among other aspects," Campanioni recently told a congress of urban, suburban and family agriculture in Havana.
Increasing and diversifying food production in Cuba is a challenge, due to changing climatic conditions, such as severe drought, which currently affects the island, he said.
As part of the program, locals will receive training "to produce organic vegetables and fruits," including local production of seeds, organic fertilizers, farm implements, biocontrol and other factors.
Director of development for Cuba's Agricultural Business Group, Alina Beltran, said the program has in the past year produced 70 percent of the lettuce seeds it needs, 80 percent of the Chinese cabbage seeds and 40 percent of radish seeds.
The program also teaches young children how to plant and harvest vegetables, herbs and fruits.
By 2019, officials expect to produce around 1.2 million tons of organic fruits and vegetables at 10,000 hectares of urban farms throughout Cuba.
Agricultural production is a priority of the national push to modernize the economic and productive system, with the goal of producing up to 60 percent of the country's food needs.
Cuba currently spends some 2 billion U.S. dollars a year on imported food products, according to government officials.