Fidel's reply to 'Cubadebate' reader Handy Acosta Cuéllar
The Commander-In-Chief thanks you for your message, which we transmitted early yesterday, and has asked us to send you the following letter:
The two plants you identify are indeed the drumstick tree and the mulberry. The former, originally from India, is the only plant having two types of amino acids. If sown correctly and properly managed, an output of over 300 tons of green leaves per hectare per year can be achieved. It has dozens of known medicinal properties. Like all vegetables, its effects on the digestive system are very beneficial, apart from its high protein value, although it should not be consumed in excess (over 30g per day), which is determined by intestinal motility. Some individuals can take larger amounts. I know some people who consume larger quantities as tea, in powder form, with excellent results based on its sedative and rest-promoting properties. We haven't yet done any tests with tea made from dried leaves, although I imagine these would yield favourable results.
A good deal has appeared about this plant in the international literature. In our country, we have supplied samples of the seeds of a number of varieties to the agricultural research institutes. We will soon know more about its potential. From my point of view, its chief benefit for the populace lies in its properties as animal feed, for meat, milk and egg production and even for fish farming.
The mulberry complements this important quality of the drumstick tree. As I'm sure you know, it has been the basis for silk production by virtue of a biological process involving the silkworm, practised by the Chinese for thousands of years. The main varieties here are from China, although in recent times different varieties have been developed in other parts of the world, some of which we have recently received. The plant is even grown in Spain, to a limited extent. In cold regions, the constraints are temperature and less daylight, arresting growth for several months of the year. In our climate, it keeps growing all year round. Various countries use it in the production of goat's milk, for which people allergic to cow's milk can pay up to double the price.
In Cuba, there were a few drumstick tree plants, which the English colonialists had brought from India to eastern Africa and thence to the English-speaking Caribbean and to Central America (possibly via Belize), where the high prices paid by the Americans to the first growers stimulated its development, for a very short time; thereafter, the producers couldn't find a market either locally or abroad. The way the land was distributed and the lack of schools and instruction impeded its development. In this respect, regrettably, the peoples of the "Third World" have fallen behind.
In Brazil, the research centres have encouraged cultivation of this plant; the Brazilian climate is excellent for the purposes of agricultural development.
In view of your interest, I'll mention two other subjects:
Latin America & the Caribbean as a whole has enough land, water and energy resources to avoid having to promote production of shale gas by means of 'fracking' (hydraulic fracturing), as the United States does, involving proven risks to the American public, as certain serious media have begun to reveal.
We would like them to expand on the subject. One mentioned the problem this morning, saying that people in the United States who live near the sites where non-conventional gas is extracted are showing a significant deterioration in their health.
It says that half the people who participated in the study reported that they had no health problems before the works but now suffer from allergies, asthma, arthritis, cancer, hypertension and disorders of the heart, kidneys, lungs and thyroid gland. 81% of them complain of a bad smell from the chemical compounds, whose content sometimes includes ammonia, chlorine, sulphur and propane.
In America, this gas is extracted by means of hydraulic fracturing: according to the report, the material injected is usually water mixed with sand and chemicals.
This is the third time in recent months that I've seen warnings of this hazard.
Apparently, very few people know that the UN has accepted responsibility for paying a hundred thousand dollars for each of the victims of the cholera epidemic that killed 7,000 people in Haiti, infected by the Nepalese military contingent sent by the UN to Haiti, where the disease has be absent for a century. After exhaustive investigation, it has been confirmed that the strain is identical to that in Nepal; the amount to be paid to relatives is a hundred thousand dollars for each victim, which seems fair, but nobody mentions however the sum that should be paid to the Haitian nation for the tremendous damage caused to this poor and underdeveloped country.
As you, Handy, will understand, the first thing I did today was to try to get a reply to you as quickly as possible, from my modest knowledge about the drumstick tree and the mulberry.
Reports are now coming in of a tropical cyclone heading directly for the eastern region of our island. Nowadays the country has much more experience and will overcome the difficulties.
22 October 2012