Adaptive management emerged in the 1970s as a scientific response meant to be operational. It is founded on an integrated and multidisciplinary approach in order to shed light on the multiform complexity and uncertainty which characterize the social and ecological systems (Berkes and Folke, 1998; Gunderson, 1999). Having evolved in an interdisciplinary field of research-action, it is also known under the term adaptive governance (Folkes et al., 2005), which suggests to take into account the complexity and unpredictability of the socio-ecological systems dynamics. Such a position leads to favor the capacities of response to the changes, which implies continuous reorganization of the examined systems, and, therefore confers a central place to the mechanisms of social apprenticeship and to the follow-up/assessment of the results of management strategies experimented before (Path-Wostl et al., 2008; Eberhard et al., 2009; Chia et al., 2008).
This conceptual framework is mobilized in the project Gaia-Trop in order to identify and analyze under which conditions agriculture in the French West Indian can be viable. Facing the patent failure of the conventional models of production (monoproduction of exportation) on the economic level (external dependence, low competitiveness on the more and more globalized markets, disputable contribution of this productive sector to the creation of wealth), on the social level (lower distribution of incomes, pauperization of the farmers) and on the environmental level (negative impact of farming systems), the preservation of existing productive configurations to their original state cannot be considered. Facing global changes, the current productive orientations will prove to be inefficient because too expensive – regarding the economic social and environmental stakes – indeed even technically impossible. The potential of agriculture to supply ecosystemic services, innovations and goods for the society is at the core of our questioning. The reinforcement of the biodiversity in the fields, farms and landscape represents a structuring lead through the opportunities of mitigation, diversification and sharing/reduction of the risks it offers, as far as it may be controlled and guided (Jackson et al., 2010). A recent current situation of the possibilities of biodiversity development in the scope of an ecological intensification of the agricultural production and of the ecosystemic services in the West Indies has been drawn up by Ozier-Lafontaine et al. (2011). He pinpoints at both the weight and interest to build up collectively basis and tools to promote sustainable and flexible systems.
Adaptive governance appears as a consistent approach to achieve a collective definition and appropriation of the mathematical model of viability suggested in Gaia-Trop. It explores the quality of the local coordination (Angeon, 2008), the sharing of information and knowledge and the role they play in social apprenticeships which take part in the adaptive capacity required to the resilience of agrosystems. This conceptual framework allows to consider in a more strategic approach interpersonal tensions and conflicts, divergent representations and interests. Adaptive governance processes favor the production of collective agro-technical, organizational and territorial innovations that legitimize the emergence of common standards and objectives for the development of sustainable agrosystems. Based on participatory experiments, adaptive governance puts the stakeholders at a central place in decision-making and public action.
The research project aims at mobilizing the skills and expertise of the different stakeholders (farmers, professional organizations, policy makers, associations), thus leading to the establishment of a network of actors in the agricultural world.
Moreover, to be more operational, the tools coming from the mathematical theory of viability will be used to enlighten the decisions and action strategies to carry out. They may concern the necessary policies to guarantee the viability of the agrosystems. The results achieved as for the viability of the farming systems, will thus help to (re)define the adaptation options likely to be favored. It will be a matter of agreement on the modalities and forms of intervention the most suitable to the objectives of viability on the agrosystems, and in case this aim would not be feasible, an opportunity to minimize the vulnerability of these systems. These adaptation options will be co-built with the research team and the stakeholders. These results will thus take part in the local governance dynamics at work.
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