At mid-term of the first phase of the VALAB project, this first Innovation Action workshop with the members of the SYAPROVAG and prospective actors of the forest understorey focused on the ‘production’ pillar of the VALAB vision. The objective of this workshop was to assess the current situation, share visions of the future, identify hurdles and potential pathways towards achieving those futures.
The workshop was organised over two days, on 26th and 27th of January 2019, at Inra in Guadeloupe and was organised in coordination with the partners of the VALAB Operational Group. Members of the Operational Group as well as the Innovation action implementer intervened both as experts and facilitators of the workshop. The workshop counted four activities and the eighteen participants were split into two groups according to their specific situation and in order to focus on specific activities. They would come back into plenary to share results and thoughts generated during the activities. The four activities were the following:
Activity 1: The current situation. Who are we and how do we situate ourselves in relation to the current situation?
Activity 2: Where do we want to be in 10 years’ time and what are the potential barriers that hinder our vision?
Activity 3: Prioritizing problems
Activity 4: Identifying solutions
The first half of the VALAB project consisted of a diagnostic of the social, ecological, economic and farming dimensions and of the past and current practices in the forest understorey. We built upon that diagnostic to discuss the current situation of the participants to the workshop. The diagnostic revealed that there are currently five different types of ‘farms’ and projects in the forest understorey. Those types as well as their discriminative characteristics were discussed with the participants. The participants approved those types and agreed they were a representative picture of the current reality. They also added several criteria to the typology that they judged to be important. Those criteria were then considered in the following activities.
Overall, the participants mainly belonged to two of the types: farms’ or projects that were oriented towards eco/agro-tourism and forest gardens. This distinction formed the basis of the following discussion and activities. Participants were then asked to identify and map problems across two axes. One axis related to the type of problem encountered (technical, organisational, commercial, legal and institutional, environmental constraints or others) while the other axis related to the level at which the problem occurred (individual, collective or at a more distant level). The prioritization of the problems highlighted that cash flow, the absence of technical references and access to the forest plots were the main constraints. Other constraints related to the disconnection between participants’ specific situation and the wider institutional framework as well as to the loss of knowledge and know-hows related to their production systems.
Next, participants were asked to think about possible solutions to the different problems they faced and to reflect upon their possible implementation. The questions addressed were: What (what is the solution)? How (means and processes)? Who (who intervenes, who does, with whom is the solution built)? A wide range of solution were identified that represent a roadmap for the social innovation actors to implement from now one. If some of the solutions lay at the individual or group level, others require further connections and partnership with a diversity of stakeholders, institutions and the society and call upon a diversity of expertise (agronomy, ecology, legal, organisational, social engineering).
Another major outcome of this workshop was that the different problems and solutions were strongly connected to each therefore reinforcing our initial hypothesis that devising pathways towards the integrated ecosystemic value-enhancement of the Guadeloupean forest understorey requires a systemic approach.