An Update on the Social Determinants of Health in Venezuela

Achievements of Hugo Chavez
by Charles Muntaner, Joan Benach, Maria Paez Victor

While Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez is fighting for his life in Cuba, the liberal press of both sides of the Atlantic (e.g., El Pais”) has not stopped trashing his government. The significance of his victory (12 points ahead of his contender) has yet to be analysed properly, with evidence. It is remarkable that Chávez would win, sick with cancer, outgunned by the local and international media (think of Syriza’s Greece election) and, rarely acknowledged, an electoral map extremely biased towards the middle and upper classes, with geographical barriers and difficult access to Ids for members of the working classes.

One of the main factors for the popularity of the Chávez Government and its landslide victory in this re-election results of October 2012, is the reduction of poverty, made possible because the government took back control of the national petroleum company PDVSA, and has used the abundant oil revenues, not for benefit of a small class of renters as previous governments had done, but to build needed infrastructure and invest in the social services that Venezuelans so sorely needed. During the last ten years, the government has increased social spending by 60.6%, a total of $772 billion [i].

Poverty is not defined solely by lack of income nor is health defined as the lack of illness. Both are correlated and both are multi-factorial, that is, determined by a series of social processes. To make a more objective assessment of the real progress achieved by the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela during the last 13 years it is essential to review some of the key available data on the social determinants of health and poverty: education, inequality, jobs and income, health care, food security and social support and services.

With regard to these social determinants of health indicators, Venezuela is now the country in the region with the lowest inequality level (measured by the Gini Coefficient) having reduced inequality by 54%, poverty by 44%. Poverty has been reduced from 70.8% (1996) to 21% (2010). And extreme poverty reduced from 40% (1996) to a very low level of 7.3% (2010). About 20 million people have benefited from anti-poverty programs, called “Misiones” (Up to now, 2.1 million elderly people have received old-age pensions – that is 66% of the population while only 387,000 received pensions before the current government.

Education is a key determinant of both health and poverty and the Bolivarian government has placed a particular emphasis on education allotting it more than 6% of GDP. UNESCO has recognized that illiteracy been eliminated furthermore, Venezuela is the 3rd county in the region whose population reads the most. There is tuition free education from daycare to university; 72% of children attend public daycares and 85% of school age children attend school. There are thousands of new or refurbished schools, including 10 new universities. The country places 2nd in Latin America and 5th in the world with the greatest proportions of university students. In fact, 1 out of every 3 Venezuelans are enrolled in some educational program.[ii] . It is also a great achievement that Venezuela is now tied with Finland as the 5th country with the happiest population in the world.[iii] .

Before the Chavez government in 1998, 21% of the population was malnourished. Venezuela now has established a network of subsidized food distribution including grocery stores and supermarkets. While 90% of the food was imported in 1980, today this is less than 30%. Misión Agro-Venezuela has given out 454,238 credits to rural producers and 39,000 rural producers have received credit in 2012 alone. Five million Venezuelan receive free food, four million of them are children in schools and 6,000 food kitchens feed 900,000 people. The agrarian reform and policies to help agricultural producers have increased domestic food supply. The results of all these food security measures is that today malnourishment is only 5%, and child malnutrition which was 7.7% in 1990 today is at 2.9%. This is an impressive health achievement by any standards.

Some of the most important available data on health care and public health are as following [iv],[v],[vi]:

*infant mortality dropped from 25 per 1000 (1990) to only 13/1000 (2010);
*An outstanding 96% of the population has now access to clean water (one of the goals of the revolution;
*In 1998, there were 18 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants, currently there are 58, and the public health system has about 95,000 physicians;
*It took four decades for previous governments to build 5,081 clinics, but in just 13 years the Bolivarian government built 13,721 (a 169.6% increase;
*Barrio Adentro (i.e., primary care program with the help of more than 8,300 Cuban doctors) has approximately saved 1,4 million lives in 7,000 clinics and has given 500 million consultations;
*In 2011 alone, 67,000 Venezuelans received free high cost medicines for 139 pathologies conditions including cancer, hepatitis, osteoporosis, schizophrenia, and others; there are now 34 centres for addictions;
*In 6 years 19,840 homeless have been attended through a special program; and there are practically no children living on the streets;
*Venezuela now has the largest intensive care unit in the region;
*A network of public drugstores sell subsidized medicines in 127 stores with savings of 34-40%;

51,000 people have been treated in Cuba for specialized eye treatment and the eye care program “Mision Milagro” has restored sight to 1.5 million Venezuelans
An example of how the government has tried to respond in a timely fashion to the real needs of its people is the situation that occurred in 2011 when heavy tropical rains left 100,000 people homeless. They were right away sheltered temporarily in all manner of public buildings and hotels and, in one and a half years, the government built 250,000 houses.

The government has obviously not eradicated all social ills, but its people do recognize that, despite any shortcomings and mistakes, it is a government that is on their side, trying to use its resources to meet their needs. Part of this equation is the intense political participation that the Venezuelan democracy stands for, that includes 30,000 communal councils, which determine local social needs and oversee their satisfaction and allows the people to be protagonists of the changes they demand.[vii]

The Venezuelan economy has low debts, high petroleum reserves and high savings, yet Western economists that oppose President Chávez repeat ad nauseam that the Venezuelan economy is not “sustainable” and predict its demise when the oil revenues stop. Ironically they do not hurl these dire predictions to other oil economies such as Canada or Saudi Arabia. They conveniently ignore that Venezuela’s oil reservoir of 500 billion barrels of oil is the largest in the world and consider the social investment of oil revenues a waste or futile endeavour. However these past 13 years, the Bolivarian government has been building up an industrial and agricultural infrastructure that 40 years of previous governments had neglected and its economy continues to get stronger even in the face of a global financial crisis.

An indication of the increasing diversification of the economy is the fact that the State now obtains almost as much revenue from tax collection as from the sale of oil, since it strengthened its capacity for tax collection and wealth redistribution. In just one decade, the State obtained US$ 251,694 million in taxes, more than its petroleum income per annum. Economic milestones these last ten years include reduction in unemployment from 11.3% to 7.7%; doubling the amount of people receiving social insurance benefits, and the public debt has been reduced from 20.7% to 14.3% of GNP and the flourishing of cooperatives has strengthen local endogenous economies. In general, the Venezuelan economy has grown 47.4% in ten years, that is, 4.3% per annum. [viii]. Today many European countries would look jealously at these figures. Economists who studied in detail the Venezuelan economy for years indicate that, “The predictions of economic collapse, balance of payments or debt crises and other gloomy prognostications, as well as many economic forecasts along the way, have repeatedly proven wrong… Venezuela’s current economic growth is sustainable and could continue at the current pace or higher for many years.”[ix]

According to Global Finance and the CIA World Factbook,the Venezuelan economy presents the following indicators.[x]: unemployment rate of 8%; 45,5% government (public) debt as a percent of GDP (by contrast the European Union debt/GDP is 82.5%); and a real GDP growth: GDP per capita is $13,070. In 2011, the Venezuelan economy defied most forecasts by growing 4.2 percent, and was up 5.6 percent in the first half of 2012. It has a debt-to-GDP ratio comfortably below the U.S. and the UK, and stronger than European countries; an inflation rate, an endemic problem during many decades, that has fallen to a four-year low, or 13.7%, over the most recent 2012 quarter. Even The Wall Street Journal reports that Venezuela’s stock exchange is by far the best-performing stock market in the world, reaching an all-time high in October 2012, and Venezuela’s bonds are some of the best performers in emerging markets.

Hugo Chavez’s victory had an impact around the world as he is recognized as having spearheaded radical change not only in his own country but in all Latin America where progressive governments have also been elected, thereby reshaping the global order. The victory was even more significant considering the enormous financial and strategic help that the USA agencies and allies gave to the opposition parties and media. Since 2002, Washington channeled $100 million to opposition groups in Venezuela and this election year alone, distributed US$ 40-50 million there.[xi]

But the Venezuelan people disregarded the barrage of propaganda unleashed against the president by the media that is 95% privately owned and anti-Chavez.[xii] The tide of progressive change in the region has started to build the infrastructure for the first truly independent South America with political integration organizations such as Bank of the South, CELAC, ALBA, PETROSUR, PETROCARIBE, UNASUR, MERCOSUR, TELESUR and thus have demonstrated to the rest of the world that there are, after all, economic and social alternatives in the 21st century.[xiii] Following a different model of development from that of global capitalism in sharp contrast to Europe, debt levels across Latin America are low and falling.

The changes in Venezuela are not abstract. The government of President Chávez has significantly improved the living conditions of Venezuelans and engaged them in dynamic political participation to achieve it [xiv]. This new model of socialist development has had a phenomenal impact all over Latin America, including Colombia of late, and the progressive left of centre governments that are now the majority in the region see in Venezuela the catalyst that that has brought more democracy, national sovereignty and economic and social progress to the region.[xv] No amount of neoliberal rhetoric can dispute these facts. Dozens of opinionated experts can go on forever on whether the Bolivarian Revolution is or is not socialist, whether it is revolutionary or reformist (it is likely to be both), yet at the end of the day these substantial achievements remain. This is what infuriates its opponents the most both inside Venezuela and most notable, from neocolonialist countries. The “objective” and “empiricist” The Economist will not publicize this data, preferring to predict once again the imminent collapse of the Venezuelan economy and El Pais, in Spain, would rather have one of the architects of the Caracazo (the slaughter of 3000 people in Caracas protesting the austerity measures of 1989), the minister of finance of the former government Moises Naim, go on with his anti-Chávez obsession. But none of them can dispute that the UN Human Development Index situates Venezuela in place #61 out of 176 countries having increased 7 places in 10 years.

And that is one more reason why Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution will survive Venezuela’s Socialist leader.
Carles Muntaner is Professor of Nursing, Public Health and Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He has been working on the public health aspects of the Bolivarian Revolution for more than a decade including Muntaner C, Chung H, Mahmood Q and Armada F. “History Is Not Over. The Bolivarian Revolution, Barrio Adentro and Health Care in Venezuela.” In T Ponniah and J Eastwood The Revolution in Venezuela. Harvard: HUP, 2011
María Páez Victor is a Venezuelan sociologist, specializing in health and medicine.
Joan Benach is a professor of Public Health at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona. He has collaborated in a number of studies on the public health policies of the Bolivarian Revolution.
[i] Páez Victor, Maria. “Why Do Venezuelan Women Vote for Chavez?” Counterpunch, 24 April 2012
[ii] Venezuela en Noticias, Venezuela en Noticias Venezuela en Noticias, Venezuela en Noticias
[iii] Gallup Poll 2010
[iv] Muntaner C, Chung H, Mahmood Q and Armada F. “History Is Not Over. The Bolivarian Revolution, Barrio Adentro and Health Care in Venezuela.” In T Ponniah and J Eastwood The Revolution in Venezuela. Harvard: HUP, 2011 pp 225-256; see also 4, Muntaner et al 2011, 5, Armada et al 2009; 6, Zakrison et al 2012
[v] Armada, F., Muntaner, C., & Navarro, V. (2001). “Health and social security reforms in latin america: The convergence of the world health organization, the world bank, and transnational corporations.” International Journal of Health Services, 31(4), 729-768.
[vi] Zakrison TL, Armada F, Rai N, Muntaner C. ”The politics of avoidable blindnessin Latin America–surgery, solidarity, and solutions: the case of Misión Milagro.”Int J Health Serv. 2012;42(3):425-37.
[vii] Ismi, Asad. “The Bolivarian Revolution Gives Real Power to the People.” The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Monitor , December 2009/January.
[viii] Carmona, Adrián. “Algunos datos sobre Venezuela”, Rebelión, March 2012
[ix] . Weisbrot, Mark and Johnston, Jake. “Venezuela’s Economic Recovery: Is It Sustainable?” Center for Economic and Policy Research, Washington, D.C., September 2012.
[x] Hunziker , Robert. “Venezuela and the Wonders of Equality”. October 15th, 2012
[xi] Golinger, Eva. “US$20 million for the Venezuelan Opposition in 2012”,
[xii] Páez Victor, Maria. “Chavez wins Over Powerful Foreign Conglomerate Against Him”, Periódico América Latina, 11 October, 2012
[xiii] Milne,Seumas. “The Chávez Victory Will be Felt Far Beyond Latin America” , Associate Editor, The Guardian, October 9, 2012:
[xiv] Alvarado, Carlos, César Arismendi, Francisco Armada, Gustavo Bergonzoli, Radamés Borroto, Pedro Luis Castellanos, Arachu Castro, Pablo Feal, José Manuel García, Renato d´A. Gusmão, Silvino Hernández, María Esperanza Martínez, Edgar Medina, Wolfram Metzger, Carles Muntaner, Aldo Muñoz, Standard Núñez, Juan Carlos Pérez, and Sarai Vivas. 2006. “Mission Barrio Adentro: The Right to Health and Social Inclusion in Venezuela”. Caracas: PAHO/Venezuela.
[xv] Weisbrot, Mark.”Why Chávez Was Re-elected”. New York Times. Oct 10th 2012

Only Solution to Climate Change: The Economic Model - From Capitalism to Socialism

President Hugo Chávez has undergone successful cancer surgery in Cuba! To celebrate that, we revisit a 2009 interview in which he discusses climate change and President Obama. Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman spoke with Chávez at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009. He called the summit undemocratic and accused world leaders of only seeking a face-saving agreement. "We must reduce all the emissions that are destroying the planet," said Chávez. "That requires a change in the economic model: we must go from capitalism to socialism."

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez spared no criticism of the climate conference in Copenhagen. At a joint news conference he held with the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, on Friday afternoon—this was before President Obama announced the accord—Chávez called the proceedings undemocratic and accused world leaders of only seeking a face-saving agreement. He described President Obama as having won the "Nobel War Prize" and said the world still smelled of sulfur, referring to his comments about President Bush at the United Nations last year.
Well, shortly after the news conference, I caught up with President Chávez for a few minutes.

AMY GOODMAN: You sell more oil to the United States than any country but Canada. Your economy depends on oil, yet you are here at a climate change summit. What’s your proposal?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] The problem is not the oil, but what they do with the oil. The United States is the biggest spender of oil and of all the planet resources. Oil is a very valuable resource for life—electric heaters. We must have to transition ourselves to a post-oil era. And that’s what we must discuss: searching and developing new sources of energy. And that requires scientific research. That requires investment. And the developed countries must be the ones to assume this responsibility first.

AMY GOODMAN: What level of emissions are you willing to support reductions of emissions?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] One hundred percent. One hundred percent. We must reduce the emissions 100 percent. In Venezuela, the emissions are currently insignificant compared to the emissions of the developed countries. We are in agreement. We must reduce all the emissions that are destroying the planet. However, that requires a change in lifestyle, a change in the economic model: We must go from capitalism to socialism. That’s the real solution.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you throw away capitalism?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] The way they did it in Cuba. That’s the way. The same way we are doing in Venezuela: giving the power to the people and taking it away from the economic elites. You can only do that through a revolution.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama—what is your reaction to his speech today?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] Obama is a big frustration. In my opinion, Obama can become one of the biggest frustrations in the history for many people, not for me, but for the people of the United States that voted for him and saw him as a symbol of hope for change. But he has given continually to the most aggressive Bush policies, the imperialist policies.

AMY GOODMAN: What example of that?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] The war. I told Obama, when he took the initiative to come visit us in the Summit of the Americas—we talked for a few minutes. I told him, "Obama, let’s work for peace in Colombia. That’s what I am proposing. Let’s get a team together to analyze the problem." But absolutely nothing. He is now installing seven military bases in Colombia. That’s just one example.
And in Iraq and Afghanistan, policies of war. Guantánamo, it is a great frustration. And I feel sorry, not for me. You are from the United States. I feel sorry for you, because you deserve a government that takes care of the problems of the people of the United States and stops thinking about dominating the rest of the world and just governs over the United States, eradicates the problems of the United States, the poverty, the inequality, which gets bigger every day, the unemployment, families on the street, homeless, without Social Security, diseases. I wish for you to get a government that truly takes care of you first and then works towards peace for the rest of the world.

AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. government calls you a dictator. What is your response?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] I laugh. I laugh. It is the empire calling me a dictator. I’m happy. And I remember Don Quixote, Quixote who was with Sancho, you know, and the dogs start to bark, and Sancho says, "They are going to bite us." And Quixote wisely answers, "Take it easy, Sancho, because if the dogs are barking, it is because we are galloping." I will be very sad and worried if the imperialist government was calling me a great democratic man. No, it is them, the empire, who attack those who are truly contributing to the real democracy.

People’s power takes power away from the oligarchy

Analyzing the Debate on Chavez’s Socialist Plan:
Interview with Venezuelan Academic Javier Biardeau

by Hector Escalante

The Plan of the Nation for the 2013-2019 period, proposed by President Hugo Chavez last June in the context of his socialist platform for the 2012 presidential election, stopped being an electoral platform when it was opened up for debate and improvement by the Venezuelan people. In short, the national program is to be strengthened by the contributions of the national collective, by the experiences and needs of the people.

President Chavez has insisted repeatedly that the “invitation” to debate is open to all sectors of society, that is, both pro- and anti-Chavez forces. But will the initiative truly strengthen democracy and people’s power in Venezuela? That is the question that guides this interview with Javier Biardeau, Professor of Sociology at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV).

Hector Escalante: What’s your take on the national discussion to improve the 2013-2019 Plan of the Nation?

Javier Biardeau: I think it’s a very positive advance when compared to the methods used to plan and design public policy within liberal representative democracy. At the same time, this is just a beginning, a brief and limited process that still needs to establish authentic channels for debate that allow for the recognition of political pluralism and the diversity of proposals on the table.

Future discussions will produce a more participatory democracy with a greater density of debate, recognizing the multiplicity of voices, the diversity of revolutionary currents, the balance between majorities and minorities, and the inclusion of tendencies from within both government and opposition circles.

Sadly, the opposition has shown a truly infantile capacity to take advantage of these public spaces created precisely to foment a controversial, agonistic dialogue with the government. The opposition has failed to make a counterproposal to be discussed with the nation, a fact that signals their total lack of interest in holding a true debate.

Putting it simply, the Venezuelan opposition seeks only to operate as a destructive voice and force in society. Regrettably, the terrible habit within opposition circles of characterizing the government as an “authoritarian democracy” creates a grey area that cancels out the possibility of creating a constructive opposition that contributes to society. According to those negative voices, to debate policy with the government is to collaborate with a “totalitarian” or “autocratic” regime. Meanwhile, those within the opposition that do reflect, think critically, etc., do so using a limiting ideological script born of US politics. They see nothing more than “democratic totalitarianism”, “fascism”, “authoritarian nationalism”, or what some of them call “radical populism”.

As such, the possibility of a constructive debate on the importance of planning the country’s social and economic development becomes trapped in a polarized dead end. Their positioning limits the discussions on what actions are to be taken, resources to be designated, responsibilities among actors, the content and objectives of an ambitious plan aimed at building Bolivarian Socialism of the 21st Century in order to overcome capitalism, once and for all, in Venezuela.

The Crux of the Debate
The current debate is about transforming an electoral platform into an authentic, participatory, democratic, and inclusive design of policy so as to produce a matrix of public policies to be carried out in the different realms of national and international political life. This debate is far removed from neoliberalism and its minimized state and at the same time has nothing to do with the bureaucratic socialism of the 20th century and its authoritarian statism. Instead, it seeks to advance a democratic and social state based on rights and justice, on participatory democracy, on the direct exercise of popular sovereignty.

This kind of debate helps bring people out of political lethargy, breaks inertia, and serves to overcome the thesis that the permanent democratic revolution is now concluded and that institutionality is all that matters. In short, it gets everyone thinking about governance, about efficient public management, the administration of popular will and the strengthening of both the faces and voices of democratic power.

In Venezuela today there are tendencies from above and tendencies from below that are at an impasse. One of the greatest roadblocks we face is that part of society that says “yes” to Chavez while at the same time says “no” to following through on his proposals. By doing so, they leave President Chavez isolated. It’s no accident that Chavez often expresses sentiments of solitude, often says he feels like (Simon) Bolivar, alone.

People’s power is the direct control over popular sovereignty. It’s the power to modify structures in society that serve only to maintain inequality and exclusion. As such, the debate underway empowers movements of workers, students, campesinos, the indigenous, scientists, professionals, etc. The mobilization of these sectors of society benefits the entire national collective since they represent the basis of Venezuelan democracy, the basis of our constitutional transformation.

The crux of the issue, however, is that this process is bound to modify the correlation of forces, the political framework that exists and the relations that holds it together. Behind the scenes there are actors that seek to secure a political and social pact among different social classes, a sort of social dialogue.

But if one digs a little, one finds a set of clashes between interests of all types. This clash of interests, both economic and social, is the key reason President Chavez has put the debate into the hands of people’s power. And if the national collective fails to use a sharp class analysis to interpret the issues at hand, groups involved, etc. we’ll never succeed in understanding what lies behind the permanent conflict between government and opposition.

In Venezuela, there are dominant classes in the realms of the economy, politics, ideology, and culture. The question to ask is whether or not people’s power takes power out away from the oligarchy of money? That is precisely what it does. That’s what it’s all about. Otherwise, we’d be in the presence of a simulation of people’s power.
Venezuela and Palestine to Strengthen Relations after Landmark U.N. Vote
by Ewan Robertson

Venezuela will be the first country to receive an official Palestinian delegation after the Middle-eastern country was recognised by the United Nations as a non-member observer state yesterday.

The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to grant Palestine’s request for observer state status, with 138 in favour, 9 against and 41 abstentions. Israel and the United States were among those who voted against the resolution.

In his address to the UN General Assembly, Venezuelan ambassador to the UN, Jorge Valero, voiced his country’s strong support for the resolution and for full Palestinian statehood.

The Venezuelan ambassador also criticised Israel’s policies towards Palestine, stating that “the Bolivarian government and the people of Venezuela have condemned the state of Israel’s aggression against the Palestinian people”.

He further decried Israeli “state terrorism” against the Palestinians, slamming Israel as an “Occupying power...[that] violates international human rights law, [and] fails to comply with hundreds of UN resolutions, putting it at the margin of international law”.

Valero urged the UN General Assembly that “the warmongering Israeli elite must therefore be held to account for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the Palestinian people”.

He then concluded his intervention by declaring “long live the free and sovereign Palestinian people!”

The UN vote comes just a week after the end of Israel’s latest military assault on Palestine’s Gaza Strip, which left 162 Palestinians and 5 Israelis dead. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez publicly condemned the attacks as “savage” at the time.

Alongside the Venezuelan government, the Venezuelan delegation to the Latin American Parliament also celebrated the result of yesterday’s UN vote, expressing it’s “most profound satisfaction” with Palestine’s achievement of its new diplomatic status.

Palestinian Delegation

Following yesterday’s landmark UN vote, a top-level Palestinian delegation is to travel to Venezuela to strengthen relations between the two countries.

The Palestinian ambassador to Venezuela, Farid Suwwan, confirmed today that the delegation will arrive this Sunday, and that the two nations are expected to agree on up to eight new accords in the areas of health, education, tourism, culture and sport.

“Relations between Venezuela and Palestine have never been as good as they are now…the first official delegation that the Palestinian state sends to another nation is going to be Venezuela and it’s going to be a big delegation; five ministers, three vice ministers and two secretary-generals of state,” said Suwwan in an interview with Venezuelan state channel VTV.

The diplomat added that existing agreements between Venezuela and Palestine will also be strengthened, including scholarship programs for Palestinians to study in Venezuela. The summit will look at implementing agreements “with a permanent work mechanism throughout the year,” he said.

Venezuela established diplomatic relations with Palestine in April 2009, after severing relations with Israel in reaction to its January 2009 assault of the Gaza Strip.

In a meeting between President Hugo Chavez and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in October last year, Venezuela agreed on a variety of accords to support Palestine, including building medical facilities and supporting sustainable urban agriculture in the Middle Eastern territory.