Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Castro Speech

FL021440 Havana Domestic Television Service in Spanish 1700 GMT 1 Sep 80

[Speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro at 1 September opening session of
the 16th FAO regional conference for Latin America at Havana's Palace of

[Text] Esteemed friend Edouard Saouma, distinguished delegates, guests: The
people of Cuba and their government are grateful to you for the opportunity
to hold on our island this 16th FAO regional conference for Latin America
and, in welcoming you, they greet your presence among us.

Nothing could have pleased Cuba more than hosting this conference in which
Latin America and the Caribbean are associated with FAO activities. Latin
America's feeling about the future is well known. We firmly believe that
beyond the divisions that occasionally put us at odds and the social
systems which each country chooses, the history which gave us a common
root, our own geographic enclave and which has placed us against the same
enemies, calls on the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean to
undertake jointly the task of liberation, progress and justice. and on this
path, one of the immediate requirements is that of undertaking in most, if
not all, our lands the great social and technical transformations urgently
required in agriculture. The FAO has been and, we hope, will continue to be
of valuable assistance in that great task.

The regional conference allows us to publicly recognize how much our
countries and all the others in the various parts of the world which share
the tasks of development with us owe to the FAO. The FAO has consistently
contributed--with its technical assistance, direct assistance and its
current and complete scientific and technical programs and information--to
the development of agriculture. It would have to be said that the FAO
assistance also has been valuable for economically developed countries
which use the FAO's participation and research. The FAO has also provided
the setting for world and regional analyses of the problems of agriculture,
promoting agrarian reform as an indispensable social change without which
mere technological transformations would only give circumstantial and
short-lived results.

We consider it important that at such a decisive time in the struggle for
development in which the FAO is trying to carry out its obligations in this
field, thee is a man of the Third World at the head of the FAO--our
esteemed friend Edouard Saouma.

The 16th regional conference is being held at a time when its work will
help to show once again the enormous importance which agricultural
development has for mankind under current conditions. Five years have
already passed since all the world's countries met in Rome to hold the
world conference on food. The urgency of solving the food problems of
mankind was emphasized at that time in a dramatic manner and, although at
that time there was a feeling of frustration in the face of stingy
commitments which certain big developed countries, above all, the United
States of America, presented at that conference, there were, however,
organizational, political and technical plans outlined. If these had been
implemented with the collective participation, especially of those that
should contribute with their surplus wealth to diminish hunger in the
world, there would have been progress in the solution of the grave problem
of undernourishment which most of the nations of the so-called Third World
are experiencing.

Unfortunately, hunger persists. It has not become as devastating and
spectacular as it was in past times in various parts of the world, without
excluding Europe; however, it is showing a more systematic and subtle
nature which is affecting persistently hundreds of millions of men and

At the time of the world conference, the FAO estimated that there were 450
million persons suffering from malnutrition--the modern form of hunger. In
numerous cases this malnutrition means premature death and, something that
is even more bitter, it condemns hundreds of millions of youths and
children suffering from it to being human beings marked by all types of
physical deformities and ills for their entire lives.

It could not be said that technical advances in agriculture have been
lacking over recent years. The green revolution gave an opening of hope.
The discovery of new varieties [of plants] and more efficient pesticides,
the scientific method of utilizing fertilization, irrigation and drainage
gave a hopeful perspective. However, hunger persists because, as it has
been said, hunger is a phenomenon of poverty. And we should add that
poverty and hunger go hand in hand with underdevelopment.

In this way, each time we meet to examine the world's food and agriculture
problems, the tasks of development appear before us as undeniable and
urgent. Latin America is not exempt from this historic urgency.

At the beginning of the 5-year period [presumably 1976-80] the World Bank
recognized that almost 40 percent of the rural population in Latin America
was at a poverty level. We would have to add to that figure tens of
millions of Latin Americans whom rural poverty has forced to the cities, to
live--in the well-known own shanty towns and ghettos of the continent--a
life of semi-indigence [semi-indigenicia]. The great tragedy--rural
unemployment--cannot be solved by the weak urban economies of Latin

Agriculture backwardness not only represents poverty and suffering for the
hundreds of millions who have no access to the required nutrition. It also
imposes on our countries the need for importations just to remain within
the outer limits of malnutrition. These importations, as the FAO has said,
are unmanageable because of their proportions and are becoming a new
aggravating factor in their negative balance of payments which places them
in conditions of bankruptcy.

Naturally, all this worsens with unequal trade which subjects the countries
which produce agricultural raw materials to unequal and unstable price
conditions that sometimes make productivity efforts useless. Speaking with
complete honesty, at this time the future prospects for the immense
majority of mankind is a gloomy one. Practically all studies made by
researchers, analysts and scientists of the developed Western countries
recognize this,and these countries have benefitted the most from the
exploitation of our natural resources and, in every sense, have the
greatest moral responsibility for the seriousness of the present and future
situation of the world.

More than 1 million people are added to the world's population every 5
days. Of this increase, 90 percent takes place precisely in the
underdeveloped countries which have the least wealth, are technically
backward and have the least resources for food production. The world
population which currently is 4.3 billion will increase to approximately
6.4 billion in the next 20 years. Of this total, 80 percent--in other
words, more than 5 billion--will be in the countries which currently form
the so-called Third World.

The magnitude of the effort weighing on the world community is understood
when one thinks of the inescapable moral need and duty to feed, provide
adequate housing, clothe, provide health are, educate and employ in an
extremely brief period of history those billions of human beings.
Regardless of how much countries advance in future years in the application
of a correct population policy, this growth already is inevitable. There
are presently scores of countries where one out of every four children dies
before completing his first year of life. It is estimated that
approximately 25 million children under the age of 5 die every year in
underdeveloped countries, the immense majority of them from curable
diseases and from starvation.

According to estimates of the World Health Organization, the necessary cost
to immunize every newborn child in the underdeveloped world against the
most common children's diseases would be $3.00. [figure as heard, not
otherwise specified] furthermore, in most of these countries, in more than
30 of them, 80 percent of the population is illiterate.

The developing countries, which imported about 20 million tons of grain in
1960, had to import 80 million tons in 1978, and it is estimated that the
figure will be doubled in the next 10 years. The number of persons without
resources to acquire adequate daily nutrition amounts to 800 million.

Will this dramatic picture improve in the next two decades? Everything
indicates the opposite. The current trend of the world's reality aims at a
worsening situation. I refer to the underdeveloped countries. In the
developed countries, which in general are well fed, food production will
increase at a much greater rate than in the rest of the world. They have
and will have the resources, investments, technologies, machinery, fuel,
high-yield varieties, fertilizers and pesticides. With only a fourth of the
world's population, the industrialized countries consume three-fourths of
the minerals produced in the world and, in essence, are the consumers of

The higher prices of oil and gas, which are the fundamental basis for the
production of fuels, fertilizers and pesticides, will increase the cost of
food production. Access to these resources will become much more difficult
for non-oil-producing underdeveloped countries and the real prices of food
will almost double in the next 20 years.

At a time when forests are being diminished at a rate of almost 20 million
hectares per year, a process that is taking place primarily in
underdeveloped countries, the possibility of replacing firewood with other
fuels is diminished for hundreds of millions of families which today have
no other means to prepare their meager food or to obtain a little bit of
heat. There is nothing to assure them today that in the future they will
have firewood or fuel. The forests of these countries will be reduced to
almost half in the next 20 years.

At a time when they have less land per capita, less fertility in the land
and mineral fertilizers are less accessible, hundreds of millions of tons
of manure, the natural and historic fertilizer of soil, have to be used as
fuel every year.

The deserts and dry regions, because of erosion, loss of organic material,
salinification and other factors, are growing at a rate of millions of
hectares each year or the equivalent of Cuba's entire farming area.

With the increase in population, the loss of soil as a result of causes I
have mentioned and the growing utilization of fertile land for urban and
industrial uses, the world's agricultural land per capita--which 10 years
ago was almost 0.5 hectares--will have been reduced to 0.25 hectares in the
next 20 years. Every human being will have to subsist from that small area
in the year 2000. It is doubtful that in that period there can be
per-capita increases in the production of sea and river products. On the
contrary, this production already tends to be dropping. Neither the
hectares of fertile land nor the seas nor the rivers nor the material
resources are equally accessible to all countries. In other words, the per
capita will not even be such for the immense majority of mankind.

So as not to speak too long, I do not mention other factors such as the
growing need for water whose requirements will increase 200 percent in that
period; the contamination of the environment due to the increasing use of
pesticides and chemical products; the potential threats of plant diseases;
the prolonged droughts; the ecological changes and the other disconcerting
difficulties which man will have to face.

These concerns reach all the world's statesmen equally but few concerns
regarding the environment will reach those who starve to death because they
do not have a piece of bread to eat.

The irritating and shameful gap between developed and underdeveloped
countries grows wider each year. Resignation to this is impossible. Being a
realist does not mean being a pessimist. Reality should make us all work
harder and with a greater sense of historic responsibility. The truth is
that agrarian reform in each of our countries is essential and
indispensable. We cannot think of solutions with oligarchic methods and
extensive agriculture. The battle against hunger and poverty can never be
won if there is no social justice.

I also think that small farming and simple subsistence farming are
unproductive. There is need for extensive agriculture with socially just
and efficient methods of production and distribution. However, experience
has shown that agrarian reform is just the first step. Without a certain
degree of mechanization and chemical usage, there can be no productive
agriculture and, therefore, thee can be no agricultural production to
satisfy the local and international needs of this world which is
increasingly threatened by hunger.

It is here where the agricultural problem is coupled with the general
development problem and where the urgency that the world solve the tasks
imposed by the march toward a new international economic order is

In speaking a year ago at the United Nations on behalf of the nonaligned
countries movement and presenting there the conclusions of the sixth summit
conference of the movement's chiefs of state and government, I had the
opportunity to discuss problems that still prevail and which are related to
development, particularly to agriculture. I recalled figures, many of them
from the FAO, which indicated that in the next 10 years it would be
necessary to cultivate approximately 76 million hectares, while the
irrigation systems for another 45 million hectares of land require repairs.
When I spoke of the 76 million hectares, I was referring to new hectares.

From this we deduced, based on international estimates that are quite
modest, that just to obtain reduced rates of agriculture growth of 3 to 4
percent the developing countries would have to invest in their agriculture
from $8 million to $9 million annually.

A few months after that speech, the Brandt Commission report presented
figures which on this and other aspects confirm the statements I made.

How will this dramatic problem, which undoubtedly is one of the most urgent
mankind has to face, be solved? Well, as I said at that time, it is closely
linked to the biggest problem of our times, the problem of peace, since if
there is no development there can be no peace either.

At that time I maintained that if the problems of unequal trade were
resolved, if the farm goods and other raw materials which developing
countries supply industrialized countries received fair prices, there would
be a decisive contribution to our countries' self-financing of development.
I also noted at that time, and I repeat today, with regard to the gigantic
military expenditures in the world, that with $300 billion there could be
built in one year 600,000 schools with room for 400 million children, or 60
million comfortable housing units with a capacity for 300 million persons,
or 30,000 hospitals with 18 million beds, or 20,000 factories capable of
generating jobs for more than 20 million workers, or irrigation to 150
million hectares of land could be provided which with an adequate technical
level, could feed 1 billion persons.

Lastly, I proposed--and I want to reaffirm it now because the proposal has
been supported by the 34th UN General Assembly and has been conformed in
Havana and New Delhi by the Group of 77 which, along with the nonaligned
countries movement, represents the developing world--that in the strategy
for the new international development decade it was necessary to guarantee
as part of said strategy that developing countries receive an additional
flow of resources of not less than $300 billion in those 10 years with
annual contributions that could begin with sums of no less than $25

At this time when this 16th FAO regional conference for Latin America is
being held, work has begun at the special UN General Assembly aimed at the
formulation of this third decade. Unfortunately, the international
circumstances are not the most propitious to get the necessary results from
that session.

As international tensions increase, as the gloomy panorama of a cold war
again emerges and as the arms race grows, it is doubtful that there will be
any change in the lack of political will which the developed capitalist
countries have shown in discussing in various international
forums--including the United Nations--relations between what has been
improperly called the North and South.

In a recent and well-documented report prepared at the urging of the U.S.
Government by a commission of U.S. specialists concerning the serious
problems mankind will be facing in coming decades, they, after going into
the frightening perspectives, assert: The required changes are beyond the
capability and responsibility of this or any other nation acting alone. It
is indispensable that there emerge an era of unprecedented cooperation and

I ask myself: If there is a need for an era of unprecedented cooperation
and commitment to save mankind from certain disaster, what is the sense of
the arms race, the cold war, the policy of strength and the sharpening of
international tensions? Isn't this perhaps extraordinary insanity? As I
said once, bombs can kill the hungry, the sick, the illiterate, but they
cannot kill hunger, disease and ignorance.

But the difficulties of the international atmosphere cannot stop this
battle for new and more just international economic relations. This is a
struggle which, above al, is forced on us by the needs of our peoples and
the intolerable conditions of life of those hundreds of millions of hungry
and backward men and women who are in obligation of the international
community. but it is also a struggle that is essentially linked to the
efforts for international peace and cooperation. As I have reiterated, the
development of backward countries is the only path through which the crisis
of the world capitalist economy could find a road to solution.

Mr Chairman, members of the delegations to this conference:" Cuba will
continue to perform its duties and will be on the frontline of combat for
development. The Cuban delegation to this 16th conference will cooperate
with a constructive spirit in the discussion of the important agenda you
have for your consideration. Moreover, our country places at your
disposition its modest experience in the field of social and technical
transformations made as a result of a preserving, unrenounceable and
promising effort to develop a highly productive and modern agriculture on
the basis of fair social bases.

With an annual export of more than 6 million tons of sugar, a population of
less than 10 million and approximately 1/2 hectare of farming land per
capita, Cuba is perhaps the country with the highest per capita food
exports in the world. Each nation has the duty to do its utmost on its own
and to cooperate to the maximum with others. Only in this way will our
nations be able to win this difficult, decisive and vital battle we have
before us. Thank you very much. [applause]