VALAB (Integrated Ecosystemic value-enhancement of the Guadeloupe Forest Agrobiodiversity) – Guadeloupe, France


Innovation Action implementers:
The James Hutton Institute

Relevant stakeholders of the IA:

The SYAPROVAG and the VALAB Operational Group

The Innovation Action in a nutshell:
In the early 20th century, agroforestry systems located in spontaneous forests, and in most cases itinerant, and based on a great agrobiodiversity were found in Guadeloupe. Those systems were progressively abandoned because of their own constraints and because of socio-economical mutations of the archipelago (Castro-Nunes 2018). In the 90s, programs to revive the coffee and vanilla sectors led to the creation of farmers organisations. Among them, the Syaprovag was created in 1993 and received at this stage financial support to vanilla plantation. However, vanilla monoculture does not provide a sufficient income to the farmers due to a long return on initial investment, climate hazards, loss of technical know-hows, and international competition which effects are magnified in an insular context.
In 2011, the Syaprovag farmers put forward the alternative of the diversification of activities in forest, inspired by the historical Guadeloupean forest gardens. They designed the concept of “Integrated ecosystemic value-enhancement of the Guadeloupean forest agrobiodiversity” (VALAB). The objectives are (i) to insure an income to the farmer via diverse quality products (ii) to preserve the ecosystemic services offered by the forests to society and (iii) to maintain a threatened socio-cultural heritage. Moving away from long promoted sectorial approaches, the Syaprovag farmers decided to adopt a systemic vision of the forest plot and of the issues related to it. They wrote the VALAB project and associated local partners to its implementation. They chose to talk about “forest valorisation” (value-enhancement) instead of “agroforestry” to be distinguished from the approaches of tree plantation in openfields.
VALAB aims to answer different issues of the Guadeloupean archipelago : economic issues (viability, creation); environmental issues (preserving endemic biodiversity as well as water quality and stock for the islands, balancing carbon stocks and sinks); social issues (providing quality product that meet the local demand maintaining cultural heritage and enhancing agriculture’s contribution to the well-being of the population).
The project induces a paradigm shift in the approach to agroforestry in Guadeloupe: first, through the development of farming systems by and for farmers, then through the objective of achieving global value-enhancement of the forest leading farmers to envision and revisit their role to become biodiversity managers.
The Innovation Action led within the VALAB project and partnership aims to support the development of a shared vision of the Integrated Ecosystemic value-enhancement of the Guadeloupe Forest Agrobiodiversity among the social innovation actors.
For that purpose, the following activities have been organised with the social innovation actors.

  • December 2017: Scoping workshop with the social innovation actors. Introduction of the Simra project and of the purpose of an Innovation Action. Rapid scoping exercise about the social, technical, environmental and institutional constraints met by the social innovation actors.
  • August 2018: Validation of the objectives of the Innovation Action with the two project officers recruited by the SYAPROVAG in February 2018. Objectives set as an Innovation action were to support the development of a shared vision of the Integrated Ecosystemic value-enhancement of the Guadeloupe Forest Agrobiodiversity among the social innovation actors. 3 activities were organised to support this objective. The writing up of a Manifesto, and two workshops focusing on production within, and protection of the Guadeloupean forest understorey
  • September 2018 – January 2019: Elaboration of the Manifesto for the Integrated Ecosystemic value-enhancement of the Guadeloupe Forest Agrobiodiversity (Manifesto available in French here)
  • 26th-27th January 2019: Innovation Action workshop-1. Towards a shared vision of the Guadeloupean forest: where are we and where do we want to go? (Read more about this workshop in this blogpost)
  • 11th May 2019 -Innovation Action workshop-2. The Common Good: what did we inherit, what do we want to leave to our children? (Read more about this workshop in this blogpost)
  • More information about the VALAB project: (leaflet of the project in French available here)
    Also read about the project on their case study page: Include the hyperlink to the Case study page on the Simra website

    News and events:
    EVENTS22 th September 2018: radio interview in the program KAMANNYÒK on Guadeloupe 1ere: What agriculture for our forest understorey? (In French: Quelle agriculture pour nos sous-bois?)
    “Vanilla, coffee, cocoa and vanilla are the first productions that come to our mind when thinking about agroforestry in Guadeloupe but other productions are possible in the forest understorey and could improve farmers’ livelihoods. But how to add value to this forest understorey in a sustainable way in other words, without damaging it? This is the question the VALAB project initiated by the SYAPROVAG and accompanied by a number of partners aims to answer…”.

    21st August 2018: Public presentation of the interim results of the VALAB project. [article in French; interview in TV in French – restricted diffusion rights]