Arlette Saint Ville, PhD

Bachelor of Arts, Environmental Geography (Hons. with distinction) Nipissing University (1996); Masters of Environmental Studies (MES), York University (1999); Ph.D. Renewable Resources, McGill University (2017).


Interests: Food policy; social capital; social network analysis; Sustainable agriculture; Caribbean.


Ph.D. Thesis:





Caribbean nations are grappling with a wide range of complex social and ecological challenges related to household food and nutrition insecurity, including high non-communicable disease rates, rapid environmental change and a steady decline in rural communities. Recognizing the significance and complexity of these challenges, this dissertation begins with a detailed review of the conditions that have served to undermine efforts to achieve sustainable food and nutrition security outcomes in the Caribbean, focusing on issues of history, economy and innovation. The concept of social resilience subsequently emerges as operating at the pivot of human-nature interactions in the region, cutting across three intersecting policy domains: 1) smallholder farming systems, 2) global environmental change, and 3) food security. Building on this conceptual framework, the remaining dissertation explores how various dimensions of social resilience influence sustainable smallholder agricultural system innovation in the nation of Saint Lucia, a typical small island developing state in the Caribbean Community.

First, focussing on the persistent challenge of low innovation and coordination among smallholder farmers in Saint Lucia, an adapted Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework is used to analyze the various roles played by formal and informal institutions in the export and domestic agriculture and food systems (pre-1950 and post 1950). The results  suggest a need for more ‘bridging’ institutions in Saint Lucia’s food and agriculture sector that could help support shared rule-making, the decentralization of power, and reciprocal knowledge flows in support of smallholder innovation.  A combined Stakeholder Analysis and Social Network Analysis is then used to explore the nature of the stakeholder interactions surrounding the development of Saint Lucia’s 2009-2015 National Agricultural Policy and consider some of the implications for food and agriculture-related policy outcomes. Results reveal a potential role for “boundary” organizations in the policy network, designed to facilitate a transition towards more flexible and adaptive institutions, enhanced knowledge exchange and learning, and greater trust among stakeholders. Turning to the challenge of supporting knowledge exchange and innovation among smallholder farmers at the community-level, Social Network Analysis is then used to assess the interactions between households producing fresh food for the domestic market in two rural communities. The results reveal how different forms of social capital can affect self-reported farmer innovation in different contexts, offering insights for policy that seeks to better support, coordinate and enhance smallholder innovation systems in Saint Lucia.  

This dissertation provides important empirical evidence in support of creating and designing more sensitive, adaptive, locally-specific and culturally relevant agriculture and food system policies in the Caribbean.

Awards and Scholarships:

Sustainable Agriculture Doctoral Scholarship (2014-16). McGill University.

Graduate Research Assistantship (2011-2014), International Development Research Centre, Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF).

Doctoral Research Award (2013-14), International Development Research Centre, Canada.

Schulich Graduate Fellowship (2011-12). McGill University.


Project Publications:

Lowitt, K., Gray-Donald, K., Hickey, G.M., Saint Ville, A., Ganderson, I., Madramootoo, C. and Phillip, L. (2018). The obesity pandemic & food insecurity in developing countries: A case study from the Caribbean. IN: A. Karpyn (Ed.) Food and Public Health: A Practical Introduction. Oxford University Press. pp. 255-279.

Rahman, H.M.T., Saint Ville, A., Song, A.M., Po, J.Y.T., Berthet, E., Brammer, J.R., Brunet, N.D., Jayaprakash, L.G., Lowitt, K.N., Rastogi, A., Reed, G. and Hickey, G.M. (2017). A framework for analyzing institutional gaps in natural resource governance. International Journal of the Commons 11(2): 823–853.

Saint Ville, A.S., Hickey, G.M. and Phillip, L.E. (2017). Institutional analysis of food and agriculture policy in the Caribbean: The case of Saint Lucia. Journal of Rural Studies 51: 198-210.

Saint Ville, A.S., Hickey, G.M. and Phillip, L.E. (2017). How do stakeholder interactions influence national food security policy in the Caribbean? The case of Saint Lucia. Food Policy 68: 53-64.

Lowitt, K., Saint Ville, A., Keddy, C., Phillip, L.E. and Hickey, G.M. (2016). Challenges and opportunities for more integrated regional food security policy in the Caribbean Community. Regional Studies, Regional Science 3(1): 706-716.

Saint Ville, A.S., Hickey, G.M., Locher, U. and Phillip, L.E. (2016). Exploring the role of social capital in influencing knowledge flows and innovation in smallholder farming communities in the Caribbean. Food Security 8(3): 535-549.

Lowitt, K., Saint Ville, A., Lewis, P. and Hickey, G.M. (2015). Environmental change and food security: the special case of small island developing states. Regional Environmental Change 15(7): 1293-1298.

Lowitt, K., Hickey, G.M., Saint Ville, A., Raeburn, K., Thompson- Colón, T., Laszlo, S. and Phillip, L. (2015). Factors affecting the innovation potential of smallholder farmers in the Caribbean Community. Regional Environmental Change 15(7): 1367-1377.

Saint Ville, A., Hickey, G.M. and Phillip, L.E. (2015). Addressing food and nutrition insecurity in the Caribbean through domestic smallholder farming system innovation. Regional Environmental Change 15(7): 1325-1339.