Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

The Potential of Small-Scale Agro-Industry as a Sustainable Livelihood Strategy in a Caribbean Archipelago Province of Colombia

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

The Potential of Small-Scale Agro-Industry as a Sustainable Livelihood Strategy in a Caribbean Archipelago Province of Colombia

Article excerpt


San Andrés, Providence, and Santa Catalina were declared a biosphere reserve in the year 2000; as an effort to protect biodiversity and to promote sustainable development. This declaration entails the development of sustainable economic activities that ensure environmental conservation and the community's wellbeing. Surveys and interviews were used to determine the characteristics of small-scale agro-industry and the perceptions about its sustainability as a livelihood strategy for the Archipelago. The study concludes that agro-industry, as it is currently practiced in the Archipelago, is not sustainable in the long-term. However, it has potential to become a sustainable livelihood strategy. This study calls for efforts to strengthen agriculture and protect local agro-industry production, aiming for a steady supply of raw materials for agro-industry and an assurance of local markets for the products. Further studies on adapting and coping strategies and the contributions that modern technology might offer to artisanal agro-industry are suggested.

Keywords: Small-scale agro-industry, Rural livelihood, Sustainable livelihood, Seaflower biosphere reserve, Colombia.

1. Introduction

Promoting and supporting family agro-industry livelihood systems could provide alternative livelihood opportunities for rural people and enhance the possibility for local development. The generation of value-added products through agro-industry brings employment and economic benefits for rural households, mostly for families whose livelihoods depend on seasonal income-generating activities. The sustainable livelihoods approach is a framework for developing effective strategies for sustainable development and poverty alleviation. Although poor people usually choose the activities to engage in for their livelihood, there are limitations and challenges that need to be overcome in order to ensure sustainability. Designing policies that improve the capability of families engaged in processing agricultural products to provide high quality products in a sustainable way could result in better and higher incomes for those families.

The focus of this paper is on the livelihood of rural people engaged in agro-industry in San Andrés, Old Providence, and Santa Catalina Islands, an archipelago belonging to Colombia and located in the southwestern Caribbean. This is a first approach to providing a general description of the assets, capabilities, and activities of rural households engaged in agro-industry, and the institutions and organizations that have an impact on them. By describing key characteristics of small-scale agro-industrial systems in the Archipelago and analyzing the importance of agro-industry for rural households' livelihood, this paper intends to provide a clearer understanding of the challenges and opportunities related to sustainable livelihood in the islands and the need for support to be provided to small-scale agro-industry.

1.1 Sustainable Livelihood

The concept of livelihood has been widely used as a theoretical basis for research on topics like livelihood and sustainability (Tao & Wall, 2009), livelihood diversification and gender (Simtowe, 2010), community development and sustainable livelihood (Brocklesby & Fisher, 2003), livelihood security (Bhandari & Grant, 2007), the value and challenges of livelihood studies (de Haan & Zoomers, 2005), and organizational approaches to the sustainable livelihood framework (Hussein, 2002). Chambers and Conway (1992) described livelihood as the set of capabilities, assets, and activities which people use to make their living.

Drawing from the work of a wide range of authors whose work centers on sustainable development and livelihood strategies, the present study finds that a sustainable livelihood is characterized by

. its ability to cope with, recover from, and adapt to stresses and shocks;

. its power to maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in the future;

. …

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