Caribbean Agriculture in a Period of Global Change: Vulnerabilities and Opportunities

Agricultural trends in the insular Caribbean are increasingly shaped by global change. Global change is characterized by two components, globalization and environmental change. Specifically, we can identify stresses and shocks associated both by economic trade liberalization, and the impacts of environmental hazards. In the latter case, an apparent increase in extreme weather conditions (notably unpredictable periods of prolonged drought and of intense rainfall) are possible harbingers of climate change. These forces have impacted both export agriculture and domestic food production throughout the region. In this paper, we document the performance of the agricultural sector in the context of these external forces. One focus of attention is the ability of small-scale farming systems to cope with, and adapt to, external change, drawing on their traditional knowledge. Opportunities for Caribbean agriculture are also evident through overseas niche markets and alternative trading networks like fair trade.