Thursday, August 29, 2013

PALMA Project: International Development among the Transition

Why I am interested in the project?
I learned about the project from the lecture we had in the UNDP-Cuba office and was amazed by UNDP’s participation in Cuba’s development. Interested in the way such an international development project is conducted in a country like Cuba where the state and the communist culture prevail everywhere in their daily life, I chose this as the topic of my research to study the dynamics behind the project and the experiences provided by its success.

Introduction of the Project
Programa de Apoyo Locala la Modernización Agropecuaria en Cuba (PALMA), or “Program of Local Support to the Modernization of the Agriculture Sector in Cuba” is a five year project implemented by United Nations Development Program to increase agriculture productivity and to reduce the country’s dependence on imported food through material delivery and capacity building. PALMA receives funding from the European Union through two EU initiatives: Food Facility (11.7 million Euro) and the Food Security Thematic Program (4.4 million Euro) (PALMA, 2009). In 2012, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) also became a funding source with a maximum contribution of 1.2 million USD. The project began in July 2009 and the project is expected to be completed in December, 2014. In the Cuba side, the Ministry of Foreign Trade represents the country and the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for the execution of the program. Until now, more than 13,200 new farmers and 366 cooperatives in five provinces of Cuba have received agricultural equipment and inputs. The percentage of basic food production increase ranged from 25% to 80%.

Backgrounds of the Project
PALMA was designed to be situated in the two national strategies of the Cuba government: decentralization of agriculture production and local management of agricultural development at municipal levels. From the lecture in Cuba, we were also informed of the practices of UNDP in the capacity building of local governments, which turned out to be going together with PALMA’s effort in improving local officers’ management and decision-making level. The other interesting point of the project is EU’s funding and the triangle relation between EU, UNDP and Cuba in the project. In 2010, EU passes the first country strategy paper for Cuba and put “food security” as one of the three priorities in the country paper. The relative flexible condition of the aid to some extent reflects EU’s attitude towards Cuba, which is different from U.S. or China but more similar to Canada.

Design and Implementation
UNDP adopted the approach of “bottom-up” to precede the project. Given the high education level of Cuban farmers and the technical knowledge accumulated in the cooperative network. The ground provided many resources for the project to utilize and this is also the unique characteristics of development project in Cuba. Another interesting combination is between the Cuban “solidarity” sprit and the “learning by doing” philosophy of the project. In our visit to Cuba, “solidarity” was emphasized by many people from different classes and the community relation based on traditional social capital still bound people closely in most area of the island.
In addition to the adaptability of the project, participation of beneficiaries and the intention to develop sustainability also guarantee the success of the project.

Apart from the development management methods used in the project, the most intriguing feature of this project is the dynamics between international players and Cuban government in the tide of economic reform. Choosing food security as the focus is a smart way to avoid political disputes and it addressed a compelling problem of the country, which increases the Cuba government’s acceptance of the project. To go further, success of the project to some extent helps justify the authority of the regime even though the money comes from capitalist countries. As the second largest project conducted by UNDP in Cuba, PALMA’s success may provide a model for future development project in this country. It does not mean the model should be copied completely, but as the PALMA itself, the mindset to find a position in the power dynamics and to take advantage of local development policies are the principal guarantee of a success. 

Havana view

Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme and of the United Nations opulation Fund (2013). Draft Country Program Document for Cuba(2014-2018). United Nationas.
Holm, W., & Ag., P. (2011). Walking the walk: Cuba's path to a more cooperative and sustainable economy.
PALMA (2009). Programa De Apoyo Local a la Modernizacion Agropecuaria en Cuba (PALMA). Havana: UNDP.
UNDP Cuba (2010). Buletin Information of UNDP Cuba. Havana: UNDP Cuba.
UNDP (2012). Hacia la seguridad alimentaria desde el desarrollo humano local. UNDP.

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