Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp 1367–1377 | Cite as

Factors affecting the innovation potential of smallholder farmers in the Caribbean Community

  • Kristen LowittEmail author
  • Gordon M. Hickey
  • Arlette Saint Ville
  • Kaywana Raeburn
  • Theresa Thompson-Colón
  • Sonia Laszlo
  • Leroy E. Phillip
Original Article


The need for domestic smallholder farming systems to better support food and nutrition security in the Caribbean is a pressing challenge. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) faces complex socio-ecological challenges related to historical legacies of plantation agriculture, small population sizes, geographic isolation, jurisdictional diversity, and proneness to natural disasters, all of which underscore the importance of fostering system-wide innovation potential. This paper explores the factors that are impacting the innovation potential of smallholder farming households in four CARICOM small island developing states (St. Lucia, St. Kitts-Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana) using data collected through producer household surveys, focus groups, and key informant interviews. Results indicate that a systemic lack of access to finance, markets, and knowledge networks is perceived as limiting smallholder innovation potential in the region. Compounding these challenges was a pervasive lack of trust reported between actors and institutions throughout the agricultural innovation system, hindering the potential for collective action. Our findings point to the need for more decentralized governance approaches that are capable of establishing stronger relationships between actors and institutions to enhance knowledge flows in support of regional rural development and food and nutrition security objectives.


Food security Agricultural policy Adaptive capacity Resilience Institutions Innovation platforms 



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). The study was a component of a joint research collaboration between McGill University and the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, conducted under the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF). We acknowledge the enormous support and contributions of the Institutional Partners and personnel in the Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Cooperatives, Ministry of Health and Social Services, and Ministry of Education and Information, St. Kitts-Nevis; National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAERI), Ministry of Agriculture, Guyana; Ministry of Agriculture, Food Production, Fisheries, Cooperatives and Rural Development, St. Lucia. Sincere thanks also to Liam Sjolander for assistance with survey data analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristen Lowitt
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gordon M. Hickey
    • 1
  • Arlette Saint Ville
    • 1
  • Kaywana Raeburn
    • 2
  • Theresa Thompson-Colón
    • 3
  • Sonia Laszlo
    • 2
  • Leroy E. Phillip
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental SciencesMcGill UniversitySte-Anne-de-BellevueCanada
  2. 2.Department of Economics, Faculty of ArtsMcGill UniversitySte-Anne-de-BellevueCanada
  3. 3.Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental SciencesMcGill UniversitySte-Anne-de-BellevueCanada

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