It was confirmed that the biggest national thematic priority is food production. As Cuba imported around the 80% of the food consumed by its population, the government considered essential the fostering and consolidation of its national agricultural system, including the emerging private sector (cooperatives and individual producers). It was also confirmed that the Eastern region is the national geographical priority because of its relative poverty.
It was acknowledged that among constraints on the implementation of international projects include
the lack of flexibility of the Cuban financial system considering it is necessary to include international funds in the annual budgets of the institutions if they are to be accessed for project implementation.
MINCEX confirmed its intention to facilitate the implementation of new VLIR-UOS projects in Cuba and suggested the possibility of creating a Committee comprising representatives from VLIR-UOS, MES and MINCEX for the periodic follow-up of projects and trouble-shooting solutions to minimize these identified constraints and problems.
Delegation of the European Union (EU)
The main sector for EU cooperation is food security, providing equipment and supporting small scale agriculture (cooperatives and individual farmers) and decentralised management of food production. The response to hurricanes and other natural disasters is also a focus of special attention. Some funds have been allocated to infrastructure rehabilitation and the reconstruction and conservation of the Cuban architectural heritage.
The EU funds have been channelled through United Nations (UN) agencies and European non-governmental organisations (NGOs) active in agriculture, food security, environment and climate change, social cohesion and cultural cooperation. It was recognised, however, that there are some constraints on attracting European private sector and NGOs to Cuba because of high operation costs.
The EU Delegation pays special attention to the improvement of the local institutions as a way to reinforce the economical potential of the municipalities.
The EU Delegation does not have much contact with MES and Cuban HEIs. MINCEX, as the national focal point for international cooperation, is its main and only national counterpart. This protocol can pose obstacles to the dissemination of information on EU Programmes and initiatives, as well as the involvement of HEI in some projects supported by the EU. From the viewpoint of the Delegation there is a lack of international cooperation culture and project management competences in most Cuban institutions, including HEIs.
The participation of Cuban universities in regional programmes of the EU such as ALFA or AL-INVEST, in international student mobility programmes such as Erasmus Mundus or Erasmus Mundus External Cooperation Windows and the EU´s 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development is extremely limited. The potential for Cuban HEIs to increase their participation in all these platforms of academic and scientific cooperation was recognised.
Universidad de Matanzas (UMCC)
UMCC is a local university of medium size in the context of the Cuban HE system. Its activity is mainly focused on contributing to provincial economic and social development. UMCC lacks potential for an Institutional University Cooperation (IUC) programme, but it has relevant experience in some key areas with the potential for the university’s involvement in other VLIR-UOS projects and programmes: for example:
In line with the main economic development areas in Matanzas province, UMCC has significant capacity in the agricultural sector (sugar industry, the production of potatoes, rice and citrus fruit), in the chemical and oil industry (mainly in heavy oil refining), and in environment and tourism.
a very important role could be developed by the EEPFIH, a research centre with a large experience in the thematic area of food security and agricultural production;
UMCC also has some limited potential for international cooperation in its main research areas: food production, plant biotechnology, pastures and forage, obtaining probiotics, supramolecular chemistry, renewable energy, tourism and heritage planning and conservation.
UC is located in the province of Camaguey, one of the largest of the country and with Camaguey city the third largest in Cuba with 311,000 inhabitants. The province is one of the strategic territories for food production in Cuba (25% of cattle production; 30% of freshwater fish and 50% of shrimp production). Consequently, one of the main research lines of the university is aimed at supporting agricultural development in the Central and Eastern zones of the country.
The UC is one of the most multidisciplinary universities of the country with 9 faculties. Its strongest areas are: agricultural sciences, natural sciences, technical sciences and economic and social sciences. In all these areas the university demonstrates good cooperation with other Cuban HEIs. UC also has a number of dynamic research centres with potential for international cooperation, particularly Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios de Turismo (CEMTUR) [Cultural Tourism Development and Management], Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo de la Producción Animal (CEDEPA) [Food Security and Agricultural Production] and Centro de Estudios de Dirección Empresarial (CEDET) [Local and Rural Development]. Although the university has few existing contacts with Flemish universities there is potential for development of contacts in fields such as biotechnology in agriculture, livestock management, dairy production and transport
The UC shows a reasonable involvement in international cooperation with some postgraduate courses taught in various Latin America countries (Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru and Dominican Republic) and postgraduate students from UC have studied in VUB (informatics). Although UC would not yet have the capacity to implement a full IUC programme it has potential, and could now be an active stakeholder in other cooperation initiatives with Flemish universities, such as joint research projects (currently termed Own Initiatives or OIs) and inclusion in a national food security network with UCLV. UCLV is important for UC and they have good relations.