Trade, tenure and tourism in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico: Understanding the Policy Frameworks that will increase success for an Organics Agriculture

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $280,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Grant Recipient: Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture
Region: Southern
State: U.S. Virgin Islands
Principal Investigator:
Janie Hipp
Eric Wailes
University of Arkansas
Louis Petersen, Jr.
University of the Virgin Islands

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: avocados, bananas, citrus, figs, melons, papaya, pineapples
  • Vegetables: beans, carrots, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), okra, onions, peppers, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: herbs, ornamentals
  • Animals: bees, fish, goats, poultry, sheep, swine
  • Animal Products: eggs, honey


  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, focus group, networking, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, agritourism, budgets/cost and returns, cooperatives, feasibility study, market study, marketing management, value added
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: infrastructure analysis, partnerships, social capital, sustainability measures, urban/rural integration

    Proposal abstract:

    The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have been territories of the United States for many decades. These island territories are located in the Caribbean Sea. Their major agricultural products include: sugarcane, coffee, fruits and vegetables, livestock products, chickens and dairy (Puerto Rico) and adding to that array forage crops, horticultural specialties, fish and aquaculture (U.S. Virgin Islands.) While there is substantial agriculture given the size of landmass available, agriculture within the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico has many challenges. Strengthening opportunities for linkages between the growing tourism industry, existing agricultural operations, and potential organic and sustainable operations is needed. The tourism industry imports virtually all of its food supply needs. By improving the relationship between existing and potential agricultural enterprises within the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and the tourism venues that exist within those territories, much can be done to improve the situation of those who are involved in agriculture, as well as improve the situation for an improved sustainable and organics agriculture. Objectives of the project include research and analysis of policy constraints/barriers to enhanced agricultural market development, particularly in organics and sustainable agricultural products, in general and with the existing tourism sector, specifically. USVI and PR are not included within the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI).

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project explores a new priority area for SSARE, namely an analysis of policy, program evaluation and quality of life. The farming communities within USVI/PR are made up of many who do not have access to vast amounts of land. Their tenure is, for the most part, not based on land ownership and as such their capacity and incentive to conserve, protect or make substantial or expensive changes in production practices and methods is limited. So, to that extent, they are limited-resource farmers. The project objectives are aimed at increasing and encouraging growth in the organics and sustainable agriculture sector, particularly in its linkages with existing tourism sectors and other appropriate avenues that will encourage stabilization and growth of agriculture in the islands. Implicit in the goal of encouraging growth in the organics and sustainable agriculture sectors is the encouragement of environmentally sound agricultural practices and preservation and conservation of agricultural ecosystems in the islands. Finally, by encouraging and fostering growth in the organics and sustainable agriculture sectors, the marketing of agricultural products at the local-island level and the promotion of economic development within the islands by linking the local food system to the local tourism industry will necessarily be the avenue of choice.
    Having demonstrated the cross-cutting nature of the proposed project (i.e., across multiple priority areas of the SSARE programming effort), the project directors and collaborators settled on the emerging priority area of: Policy, Program Evaluation, and Quality of Life as the priority area for this particular project. The thread that intertwines all goals and objectives of the project is the need to analyze different policy options available to the island agriculturalist in order to determine the potential for greatest achievement of the goals of encouraging local food in the tourism industry and increasing the presence of organics and sustainable agriculture within the island agricultural sector.

    Policy identification and the process of evaluating different policy scenarios throughout the course of this project will give the Island participants the opportunity to determine the best avenues to address current policy situations and the clearest path to policy reforms that might be needed in order to encourage organic and sustainable agriculture in linkage with the local tourism industry.

    Objectives of the project include: 1) conduct research and analysis of policy constraints/barriers to enhance agricultural market development, particularly in organics and agricultural products in sustainable production systems, in general; 2) conduct research and analysis of the policy constraints/barriers, opportunities and potential economic impact for increases in organic and sustainable marketing specifically within the tourism sectors in both the USVI/PR; and 3) transmittal/outreach of project findings to the agricultural, trade and tourism sectors throughout USVI/PR.
    The project team will meet regularly to review progress and constraints in achieving project goals. Meetings will be accomplished via telephone conference call and with in-person meetings on a regular basis. The effectiveness of this project will be determined in a number of ways. Our criteria will be compared to contributions reported by survey respondents (e.g., did we identify all relevant subject areas for exploration or did respondents enlighten us further into our study). Survey demographic results will be compared to information from the official agricultural statistical survey sources, as well as other relevant sources, to determine if consistencies exist across data collection methods. Requests for information will be monitored. Information gained at the end of the project as to policies impacted, plans for change and linkages encouraged (especially involving keys and barriers to success) will be monitored beyond the project time frame (should resources permit).

    Effectiveness of the project in gaining participation from those affected in the USVI/PR will be determined through responses to survey instruments, participation in focus group sessions, and through participation in an end-phase symposium on the issues.
    Surveys from participants at the end-phase symposium on the issues will be analyzed to determine effectiveness of the program in achieving desired results and will be incorporated into follow on activities that result from this project. Evaluation of the effectiveness of this project in achieving increased success in the organics/sustainable agriculture arena, particularly in making connections between that industry and the tourism industry, will be measured at the beginning and the end of the project by surveys. These surveys will be designed to elicit data that will gauge participation on the part of producers in providing agricultural product to the tourism industry and gauging participation and interest by the tourism industry in purchasing locally produced agricultural products. Ultimately, the success of the project will be measured by the overall analysis of policy impact and whether key policies were identified for change and finally whether change occurred that would herald an improved situation for sustainable agriculture, the local producer and the organic sector growth.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.