The letter of congratulations sent to Fidel Castro and to Cuba by United Nations Food and Agriculture Director General José Graziano da Silva unleashed open grudges among the foreign enemies of the Cuban government and astonishment in other spheres. But, when looked into, the statement is not a surprise nor is it lacking in fundament. It is one more step in a long list of bilateral work with several points of mutual agreement, collaboration and support.
For Havana, its ties with the FAO acquire a strategic and very opportune nuance, since the food production programme is one of the priority objectives in the economic reform taken on by the Cuban government. The U.N. agency, meanwhile, has Cuba as a reference of agricultural policies with a social focus and as an ally for the South-South cooperation it promotes.
Last week the Cuban capital was the venue for the 12th International Conference on Food Science Technology (CITCA 12). During the event the FAO representative in Cuba, Theordor Friedrich, reiterated the expectations previously expressed by his agency for using more the technical and professional knowledge of the hosts for collaboration with agricultural producers from other South countries.
One of the Cuban experts on this subject, Sergio Rodríguez, the director of the Institute on Research on Tropical Tubers (INIVIT), who gave a master lecture at CITCA 12, agreed in identifying the State’s political will, the technical knowledge and the scientific potential as three of the country’s strong points to face the current global food, ecological, economic and social crisis.
According to Friedrich, the visit made by Graziano da Silva to the Caribbean island nation in early May was in the framework of the FAO initiatives to develop food security in the region as part of the Latin America and Caribbean 2025 Without Hunger Initiative.
Days after his visit, Graziano sent a letter from Rome to former President Fidel Castro (www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2013/05/06/carta-a-fidel-del-director-general-de-la-fao/) to very sincerely congratulate him and all the Cuban people for the early meeting of the goal proposed by the Food World Summit (Rome, 1996) and which proposed reducing by half the number of malnourished persons in each country before the year 2015.
Graziano took advantage of the letter to report on the raising of a goal which has served the FAO as a compass. He said that for the first time in its history, the FAO Conference that will be held next June in Rome will approve the total eradication of hunger as goal number one of his Organisation.
The letter of congratulations sent to Cuba has close antecedents. Late last year the Principal Official of Policies of the FAO Regional Office, Adoniram Sánchez, said that the measures Cuba is taking to obtain food sovereignty as part of the updating of its economic model can become an example for other countries ( http://mesaredonda.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2012/11/23/alaba-experto-de-la-fao-logros-alimentarios-de-cuba/). He especially praised the process of handing over in usufruct state lands to private and cooperative producers.
Sánchez considered that “the Cuban strategy is very interesting, with measures to decentralise the lands, linked to a perspective of food security, especially in the nutritional part, to have the sovereignty, autonomy over the food it produces.”
Other measures point to raising the prices offered to producers for their crops and the investment in equipment to increase basic food production, like that of rice.
Already by November 2012 that regional expert had said to the press that while during the 21st century the issue of extreme poverty, undernourishment and malnutrition is being discussed, Cuba already overcame those evils. And it is fact, no matter how much Cuban consumers suffer today from factors such as low quality, lack of diversity or the high prices in the free food market.
In order to continue consolidating the ties, the FAO officially presented a few days ago in Cuba a project for the conservation of agricultural biodiversity for the biosphere reserve areas of Cuchillas del Toa and Sierra del Rosario, in the provinces of Guantánamo and Artemisa, respectively. That project, which involves close to 5,000 farmers, now forms part of others being sponsored by the FAO for years to expand the forms of sustainable agriculture, family farms, local development and the improvement of the hog mass, among others.
The FAO has been collaborating with Cuba since 1959 through projects involving technical assistance and response to damages caused by hurricanes, droughts and other natural events. (2013)
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