Strategies of resistance and resilience to food insecurity and environmental change: the informal trading of food in the Caribbean

In the Turks and Caicos Islands access to food through formal channels is too expensive for large segments on society; relying instead on covert, informal trade for nutritious food.

The challenge

Increasing food insecurity in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) of the Caribbean is chiefly linked to environmental and political economic change. On the one hand, the TCI are experiencing climate change-related environmental degradation (soil erosion, loss of fisheries); on the other hand, TCI’s dependence upon food imports (90%) means that formal structures of accessing food are defined by the corporate (mainly US) food regime, and the little food produced by the national food industries (fish and seafood) is largely re-directed to the growing industry in tourism.

In a country with multiple geographical barriers (the TCI is composed of 40 different islands and cays), social inequalities (Gini index is stable at 65 for the past few decades) and large undocumented migrant population, this means that formal channels to access food are too expensive for many, while subsistence agriculture is increasingly disappearing not only due to the environmental change, but also due to land appropriation for real estate. As discovered by the previous research, this leaves large segments of society dependent upon covert, informal trade with fishermen coming from the Dominican Republic and Haiti for nutritious and appropriate foods.

What we're doing

We are further examining informal trade in food commodities - as an example of islanders’ resistance and resilience to global environmental, economic and political shocks – is important for understanding the potential to develop fair and sustainable future foodways.

How it helps

We hope that our research will help towards developing fair and sustainable future foodways.


Lead researcher profile

Dr Jessica Paddock, Lecturer in Sociology


  • Cabot Institute for the Environment Innovation Fund to the value of £7000.
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