Left: Saint Pierre, Martinique (copyright: INRA Antilles Guyane). Right: Fields and forests in Guadeloupe (copyright: Didier-Laurent Aubert – DAAF
Guadeloupe and Martinique are considered to be the 5th worldwide hot spot of biodiversity and also vulnerable to global change. Similar to other
islands in the Caribbean Community, agriculture is an important sector that must contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change. This sector also needs to adapt to the
changing climate. Both these can be achieved by building resilience to natural disasters, and by committing to the agro-ecological transition from mainly large
commercial-scale monoculture to a better balance with more diverse and sustainable farming for local use.
The French West Indies (or Antilles Françaises) consists of the archipelago of Guadeloupe, and the island of Martinique. Both are
volcanic islands of the Caribbean Sea in the West, and the Atlantic Ocean in the East. The archipelago of Guadeloupe consists of two connected island masses: Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre, and
several smaller islands: Marie-Galante; Les Saintes and Desirade. The island of Martinique has alsmost fifty islands spread around its coasts.
The surface area of Guadeloupe archipelago and Martinique island is 1628 km² and 1128 km² respectively. In 2018 Guadeloupe and Martinique had a
population of 390,704 and 376,847 respectively. The population density of the islands is 240 people per km2 for Guadeloupe and 334 people per km2 for Martinique.
On both islands, tourism is an important sector for the local economy, and well-serviced by international flight routes and by cruise-ships. In
Guadeloupe, tourism is concentrated in the south of Basse Terre and in Les Saintes island. In Martinique tourism is concentrated in the south of the island. An increase in tourist visitors (13%
in Guadeloupe and 19% in Martinique) was observed in 2017 by comparison with 2016, mainly due to the growing cruise industry. More than 80% of tourists landing on the islands originates from
mainland France, and two thirds stay on the islands for leisure activities. Tourists from Europe and North America arrives mainly during the winter months, while in summer they originate mostly
from the Caribbean area. The changing climate creates new challenges for the tourism sector, tourism professionals and local authorities alike. Climate change, such as more frequent and intense
hurricanes, presents a barrier for tourism development. These extreme events reduce or damage infrastructure and natural resources upon which the tourism sector relies. Climate change may affect
public health and safety (increased dengue fever or chikingunya disease), and increase natural risks, such as floods and extreme events like hurricanes. All of these impacts have a negative
impact on the perception of potential tourists to the FWI.
The main economic sector of both islands are firstly business services, followed by agriculture. Moreover, farming remains historically, socially
and culturally important to the identity of the islands. In 2018, agricultural used about 30% of all land available on both islands. Farm sizes range from less than one hectare to more than 100
Agriculture production in the FWI is dominated by sugar cane and bananas. The prominence of these crops is a
legacy of the colonial era. Most of the sugar cane products (60%) and bananas as fruit (95%) are exported to France. The agro-export status quo is based on the concentration of production in the
hands of land oligarchies. These benefit from agreements that protect their interests through quotas or rights of access to the French market, which is now weakened by globalization. This
economic model, maintained by agricultural rent (European and national financial support), also results in a low diversification of production and a high degree of extroversion.
Vegetables, fruits, tubers and flowers produced on the FWI only contributes 25% of what is needed for local consumption. However, recent national policy (Loi d’Avenir on
Agriculture and Food, 2014) is supporting diversification towards multifunctional agriculture. This could open up new and more fair opportunities for agriculture in the FWI. Smallholders and
family farming will benefit from the new agricultural policies.
During the last decade, the FWI islands have had to deal with many weather events of various intensity, all of which had a considerable negative
affect on the agriculture sector.
The climate of the FWI is tropical. There are two seasons locally called “hivernage” and “carême” in Guadeloupe and Martinique.
During the hivernage (May to November), the weather is generally warm, humid and rainy. During the carême, from December to April, the weather usually dry, in comparison. The
mean annual temperature generally exceeds 18°C. The “hurricane season” extends from June to November. Farming is seasonally organized. The growing season for sugarcane is during
hivernage when there is an abundance of rain, heat and humidity. Harvesting takes places during carême when the sugar content of the cane rises due to the comparatively dry
conditions. Drought and cold nights promote the sucrose formation.
Climate observations are indicating a change or a shift in the seasons. The timing and volume of rainfall are becoming difficult to anticipate.
Testimonies of sugarcane and banana farmers and producers are indicating that the two seasons are no longer as clearly separated. Banana plants and sugar cane are sensitive to climatic
conditions. As a result, planning sugarcane cutting, managing banana treatment or cultivating yams is becoming more challenging.
A major climate-related issue for sugarcane farming is the increasingly inconsistent yield and sugar concentrations. In Guadeloupe, sugarcane
crop yields and sugar levels were very low during the 2008 harvest, and the 2009 harvest was marked by abundant rainfalls that led to a reduction of sugar level. The increase in fungal diseases
such as Black Sigatoka on banana trees, or vector-borne (insect) citrus greening on lemon trees are other climate-related challenges for farmers. Black Sigatoka (Mycosphaerella
fijiensis) on banana leaves is a fungal disease which development is favoured by high humidity, and that reduces fruit production. Infected plants also needs to be destroyed, further
reducing and interrupting production of bananas.
Hurricanes also have a negative effect on crop production. Banana stands are particularly affected by strong wind which break the tall and
fragile plants. When banana plants are pushed over by the extreme wind associated with hurricanes two farming strategies may be followed depending on the degree of destruction. If the plants are
partially damaged, they are cut in a particular way called cyclonage. This allows the plants to continue growing during the year. However, if the plants are completely destroyed, the
fields are left fallow before replanting during the following season. In such a case a new harvest is not possible for several years.
Faced with the challenge of adapting to climate change, the agro-ecological transition from the export crops banana and sugar cane to food
production for local markets, offers a basis for designing innovative climate services. The agro-ecological transition for the islands of the FWI is strategically importance for economic, social
and environmental stability in a changing climate.
The sanitary scandal of Chlordecone (1) in 2009, was a first trigger for start of the agro-ecological transition of agriculture in
Guadeloupe and Martinique. This was supported by a new legislative framework, both national and regional (Economic
Development Scheme of Regional Communities) and ambitions for a green economy, which proposes another vision for the development of the agricultural sector.
The climate and agricultural challenges of the FWI are associated with adaptation and mitigation, i.e. a reduction of food imports
and the resulting carbon footprint. Currently, the two islands are more than 80% dependent on food imports. The replacement of imported synthetic fertiliser and pesticides with locally produced
biofertilizers and biopesticides, coupled with climate anticipation and adaptation, can increase the resilience of the current farming systems. The co-identification, with policy-makers and
stakeholders, of pathways for better-decision-making is an important part of the transition. The agro-ecological transition can be facilitated through several actions such as:
Teaching and advising farmers to adhere to and pursue the new agricultural policies – for instance agriculture business chambers can provide
Setting up networks of farmers to enable them to share their experiences – for instance since 2015 economic interest groups have been
supporting farmers to get involved in sustainable agriculture. There are seven such groups in Guadeloupe and five in Martinique.
Reducing the use of pesticides and fertilizers – for instance sanitizing plants havebeen used in banana fields for five years and banana trees are also used as
a sanitizing plants for;
Developing permaculture, organic agriculture and agroforestry.
(1) Chloredecone is a very toxic and persistent pesticide used on banana fields for 20 years from 1972. It is a organochlorine compound and a colourless solid.
Chlordecone is an obsolete insecticide related to Mirex and DDT. Its use was forbidden in France but allowed in the French West Indies. Thousands of hectares have been contaminated through the
long-term use of Chloredecone. A report published in 2009 proposed to compensate the victims in Guadeloupe and Martinique.
In the INNOVA FWI hub we are designing an intelligent information framework and a knowledge repository that has
to be scalable, ergonomic and informative. This framework should allow users to store, search and visualize various pieces of information and knowledge about the impact of climate change on
agriculture processes in the islands. Data analytics are also conducted on key indicators that are defined and extracted from agricultural and climatic data in order to
better characterize season disturbance and changes into plant life cycles in correlation with temperatures, rains and droughts variability.
The framework is called a Data and Knowledge Web Platform (DKP) and is intended to be used either by project members
and stakeholders but also by people who need information about climate change. Use cases of the DKP are various: it will be used to store data from other INNOVA hubs, to connect to web platforms
on climate and climate change, to search for information on climate change, to get a list of available information on a climate change subject, and to show raw data in various kinds of charts and
in a geographic information system. The data that will be stored on the DKP may be structured data (e.g. climate change projections and indices) but also semi-structured and unstructured data
such as narratives, images, and raster maps. The DKP is intended to support climate-based decision making and is presented as a technological climate service.