Equatorial Guinea is one of the smallest countries in Africa and the only one where they speak Spanish. Located in the heart of the Gulf of Guinea, it is famous for its rain forests, impressive volcanoes and the colonial Hispanic architecture of the capital Malobo. Present at Expo Milano 2015 in the Fruits and Legumes Cluster the country celebrates its National Day on Thursday, October 29.
The beautiful island
The earliest inhabitants of Equatorial Guinea were thought to be the forest-dwelling pygmy, who today are still present in remote areas of the hinterland. Then came the Bantu tribes, who settled on the coast and even on the island of Bioko, one of the few African islands already inhabited by local people, before the arrival of Europeans, the Bubi and then by the Fang. The Portuguese discovered Bioko in 1472 while exploring the coast of Africa to reach India by sailing around the continent. Enchanted by its natural beauty, rich in forests and freshwater, they named the island Formosa, or "beautiful". The island of Annobòn was instead completely deserted and was populated with people from Angola. A focal point for trade and colonial penetration, over the centuries the Equatorial Guinean territory was controlled by Portugal and Spain, that made it a center for the production of sugar, cocoa and coffee and a base for the slave trade, eradicated in the nineteenth century thanks to the intervention of the British and Catholic missionaries.
Enlisting development to achieve food security
After gaining independence from Spain in 1968, the country experienced a difficult period marked by the contrasts of the Cold War. The breakthrough came in the 1990s with the discovery of large offshore oil fields, whose earnings have allowed major investments in the development of the country. One result is the giant leap forward achieved in the education of the population, reaching 87 percent in just a few years, the highest in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. Another objective is that of food security, a major challenge in a country with just 10 percent of its land being cultivatable but with a population that is growing steadily, and which is expected to double within 30 years. There is an urgent need to increase food production, and this is a challenge that Equatorial Guinea is handling through innovation, rural development, the support for family farming and agreements for cooperation. Particularly important is the agreement with FAO which was signed in early October 2015, allocating $32.5 million in financial support.