Given the tightening restrictions on operations by U.S.-based organizations in Cuba, the donations represent a major accomplishment for U.S.-Cuba cooperation. As an organization that has worked in Cuba for 12 years, and whose key institutional aim is to expand agroecological practices across the Caribbean region, VCI played an essential role in facilitating the donations, working closely with counterparts in both Cuba and the U.S. over a period of two years.
The donations are the result of long-running collaboration between VCI and both the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation and the Indio Hatuey Experimental Station. Understanding the considerable capacity gaps faced by many Cuban organizations - especially with respect to material hardware and technology - the organizations worked together to advance a proposal after a visit to Cuba by representatives of the Flora Family Foundation in 2017. The first materials arrived to Cuba in August 2019.
“Over the past 25 years Cuba has developed an exemplary sustainable agrifood system based on the principles of agroecology and food sovereignty,” said Dr. Margarita Fernandez, VCI’s Executive Director, who has been working in Cuba for the past 20 years. “They have succeeded in the face of severe U.S. sanctions, which have only tightened under the Trump administration. That such donations have been able to take place at all during this time of political tension is a testament to the collaborative power that is still possible between our two countries.”
Materials donated to the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation - an organization dedicated to harmonizing the needs of society and nature - build essential capacities for training, educational activities and field-based outreach, which are particularly critical in a place with scarce internet access and limited transport infrastructure. The donation to the Indio Hatuey Experimental Station - which carries out scientific research for innovations in agroecology - consists of laboratory equipment for experimental research on soil, feed and animal health. In addition to producing solidarity and good will at a time of heightened tensions, the grants promote continued partnerships between scientific communities and development practitioners in both the U.S. and Cuba. Such collaborative efforts are important for both countries, as they help to address pressing social and ecological issues of mutual concern.