Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp 1325–1339 | Cite as

Addressing food and nutrition insecurity in the Caribbean through domestic smallholder farming system innovation

  • Arlette S. Saint VilleEmail author
  • Gordon M. Hickey
  • Leroy E. Phillip
Review Article


Smallholder farmers are key actors in addressing the food and nutrition insecurity challenges facing the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), while also minimizing the ecological footprint of food production systems. However, fostering innovation in the region’s smallholder farming systems will require more decentralized, adaptive, and heterogeneous institutional structures and approaches than presently exist. In this paper, we review the conditions that have been undermining sustainable food and nutrition security in the Caribbean, focusing on issues of history, economy, and innovation. Building on this discussion, we then argue for a different approach to agricultural development in the Small Island Developing States of the CARICOM that draws primarily on socioecological resilience and agricultural innovation systems frameworks. Research needs are subsequently identified, including the need to better understand how social capital can facilitate adaptive capacity in diverse smallholder farming contexts; how formal and informal institutions interact in domestic agriculture and food systems to affect collaboration, co-learning, and collective action; how social actors might better play bridging and linking roles that can support mutual learning, collaboration, and reciprocal knowledge flows; and the reasons underlying past innovation failures and successes to facilitate organizational learning.


Community-based development Land use policy Food policy Complexity Sustainable food systems 



This work was carried out with the aid of a Grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada, and with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD). We are thankful to the reviewers for their valuable comments.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Arlette S. Saint Ville
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gordon M. Hickey
    • 1
  • Leroy E. Phillip
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Macdonald CampusMcGill UniversitySte. Anne de BellevueCanada
  2. 2.Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Macdonald CampusMcGill UniversitySte. Anne de BellevueCanada

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