Food Security

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 535–549 | Cite as

Exploring the role of social capital in influencing knowledge flows and innovation in smallholder farming communities in the Caribbean

  • Arlette S. Saint VilleEmail author
  • Gordon M. Hickey
  • Uli Locher
  • Leroy E. Phillip
Original Paper


This paper presents the results of an exploratory study into how different forms of social capital embedded within community-based social networks may affect innovation in smallholder farming systems to better support food security in the Caribbean. Focusing on two rural communities in the small island developing nation of Saint Lucia, our results indicate the strong presence of interpersonal agricultural knowledge networks operating to: 1) facilitate farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange; 2) increase farmer access to information; and 3) connect farmers to sources of support. In both communities, ‘peer farmers’ were reported as being the primary source of new agricultural knowledge for farmers, with government ‘extension officers’ the secondary source. Comparative social network analysis reveals how different forms of social capital within the two agricultural knowledge networks can affect self-reported farmer innovation in different contexts. Based on these findings we identify a number of opportunities for policy initiatives to better support, coordinate and enhance innovation opportunities among smallholder farmers in the Caribbean with a view to building their adaptive capacity in the face of environmental change. The findings provide important evidence and insights relevant to the governance of domestic agricultural systems and regional food security programming in the Caribbean.


Agriculture extension services Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS) Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Sustainable rural development 



This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund, a program of Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada, and with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada. The funding source had no involvement in the conduct of this research. This research was completed as part of a larger project entitled: “Improving the Nutrition and Health of CARICOM Populations”. Arlette Saint Ville would also like to acknowledge the additional funding support she received through an IDRC Doctoral Research Award 2013–2014; the Schulich Graduate Fellowship (2011–12) and the Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship 2013–16, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, McGill University. We are grateful for the support of Dr. Sonia Laszlo, McGill University and sincerely thank the research participants, communities and Saint Lucia Ministry of Agriculture, Food Production, Fisheries, Co-operatives and Rural Development who supported, and donated their valuable time and knowledge to, our study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and International Society for Plant Pathology 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arlette S. Saint Ville
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gordon M. Hickey
    • 1
  • Uli Locher
    • 2
  • Leroy E. Phillip
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Natural Resource SciencesMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of SociologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Department of Animal ScienceMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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