Facing a national food crisis, Venezuela's pumpkin-growing socialist president is exhorting compatriots to grow fruit and vegetables on balconies and roofs and in barracks across the country. Nathan Frandino reports.
Knee deep in vegetable gardens sprouting up across Caracas, Venezuelans are getting their hands dirty for their country. It's part of President Nicolas Maduro's "Great Agro-Venezuelan Mission" to promote city farming to offset widespread food shortages. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT, NICOLAS MADURO, SAYING: "Eighty-three percent of the inhabitants of Venezuela live in cities and only 17 percent live in the countryside. That means we must build an urban productive culture, necessarily new, absolutely new, that is urban agriculture." The push for produce comes amid unprecedented hardships, as Venezuelans line up daily at supermarkets across the country... though often times they leave with nothing. Government policy and rock bottom oil prices have left the economy in tatters. For Luisana Galvis, urban farming is the answer. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) LUISANA GALVIS, A RETIRED ADMINISTRATOR WHO HELPS PRODUCE 30 DIFFERENT TYPES OF VEGETABLE ON A STATE-OWNED PLOT IN A WEST CARACAS SLUM, SAYING: "If we sow and cultivate in our own homes, nobody can come to take that away from us and nobody is going to sell it to us so we reduce the cost of living." But despite the enthusiasm, in three months, only 273 tons of food have been produced -- far short of the annual goal of 3,500 tons. Casa Bistro Restaurant owner Omar Sharam - who already grows his own food - isn't convinced by Maduro's plan.. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) OMAR SHARAM, OWNER OF THE UPMARKET CASA BISTRO RESTAURANT, SAYING: "It's illogical to have a grand plan for urban agriculture given how fertile the land is in Venezuela. If I have to give an answer, no, I think they will fail." But for Maduro, failure might not be an option...in a country hungry for change.