Hunger in Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe is an island and French territory located in the Caribbean. Hunger in Guadeloupe has long been an issue, and that problem has evolved over the past decade.

In 2008, a food crisis struck the Caribbean. Many countries, such as Haiti, had trouble feeding their entire populations. Thousands of citizens from these countries began to riot and protest in the streets, and the Guadeloupean government was worried the same would happen in the island nation.

However, Guadeloupe has an advantage: France. Guadeloupe receives nearly 80 percent of its food as imports. This means that despite tropical issues that affect the Caribbean, the island doesn’t have to worry about feeding its people.

Just a few years after this crisis in 2011, Guadeloupe had an undernourishment level below 5 percent, which is on par with America and many other developed nations. Solving the problem of hunger in Guadeloupe with imports seems like a wonderful answer; however, it doesn’t come without some problems as well.

Guadeloupean people now rely on these imports, urged by the French government to export most of their domestic goods, and their preferences have become based on Western tastes. The problem with a lot of westernized food is that it is full of preservatives and has higher calorie counts than are necessary. Hunger in Guadeloupe no longer refers to undernourishment in the sense of too little food, but instead too little nutrients.

The scientific journal Diabetes and Metabolism found that depending on the particular part of Guadeloupe, rates of obesity vary between 17.9 to 33.1 percent. Another study by Women Health shows that there is an association between low education and low income with obesity. Imports are more expensive than healthy, locally grown fruit. This often causes families to resort to the unhealthy options simply due to cheaper prices.

To help stop this growing obesity rate, the Guadeloupean government must reduce the nation’s dependency on imports by using this rich, tropical farmland to grow fruits and vegetables. The only way they can do this is to work with the French government to encourage them to stop pushing for such great quantities of exports. Not only would this help provide healthier options, but it would help the local economy. More agriculture would provide more jobs to reduce the poverty rate, which is around 12.5 percent.

Scott Kesselring

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Guadeloupe

Poverty in Guadeloupe has been severe for over a decade. Multiple factors contribute to the French territory’s 12.5 percent poverty rate, including natural disasters, a poor job market and a high crime rate.


Guadeloupe is in an island region located in the Caribbean, which means that it is located in an area that is plagued by natural disasters. The region was hit by Hurricane Dean in 2007, which destroyed an estimated 80 percent of the banana crop. This was devastating to the country, as bananas are one of Guadeloupe’s three top exports, in addition to sugar and rum.

According to the U.S. Geological Study, Guadeloupe was also struck by a magnitude 5.7 earthquake in 2014. Along with earthquakes and hurricanes, Guadeloupe regularly faces clouds of ash from Montserrat’s volcano. These clouds can block the sun, damaging the production of all of their crops, which greatly affects their economy.

Since Guadeloupe is prone to such natural disasters, efforts have been made to help these affected areas more effectively and efficiently. One of the first steps, taken in 2003, was to establish a flood forecasting support service, as flooding can be caused by hurricanes and earthquakes, two of the most prevalent natural disasters. Guadeloupe also has Regional Health Agencies that have divided themselves between the three territories, including the two new communities in Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy, to help provide health care to those who face injury in disasters.

Poor Job Market

One of the biggest aspects of a strong economy is a stable job market. Unfortunately, as of 2010, roughly 23.5 percent of the population in Guadeloupe was unemployed. With nearly one in four people jobless, unemployment is one of the major causes of poverty in Guadeloupe.

Even those who have jobs continue to face problems. In 2009, nearly 50 unions gathered together under the Collective against Extreme Exploitation to protest for weeks for higher living wages, adding €200 $250 to base salaries. These protests caused widespread issues, as supermarkets and government offices closed and a food shortage spread across the nation. The Collective’s demands were finally met on March 4, 2009 and $216 million of aid was sent from France.


Guadeloupe is also facing a high rate of violent crime. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report, in 2009 the homicide rate in Guadeloupe was 7.9 percent per 100,000 people, which is higher than the United States’, at 5.01 percent the same year. Crime has continued to rise since then, and in September 2016 France sent 70 police officers to help stop the crime that was devastating Guadeloupe. France hopes to protect its citizens, and to help restore Guadeloupe’s status as a tourist attraction where tourists can feel safe.

With all these causes culminating to create poverty in Guadeloupe, it may seem like there is little hope. However, Guadeloupe has been on a resurgence and its efforts to rebuild are taking effect. For example, before Hurricane Irma hit in the beginning of September 2017, France had already mobilized military and health care personnel so that they were stationed in Guadeloupe to provide help after the storm. This effort made a lasting impact on Guadeloupe and its people, sparing many lives. With continued support from France, the people of Guadeloupe will be able to move out of poverty and thrive as a nation.

Scott Kesselring

Photo: Google

Hunger in Guadeloupe

Residents of Guadeloupe bore witness to the 2009 food crisis in Haiti, watching as people protested in the streets, asked for more food from their government. Fights don’t occur over hunger in Guadeloupe; the people do what the government says, and do their best outside of that.

Guadeloupe authorities have neglected subsistence agriculture and have favored export crops, like bananas and sugarcane. These two crops cover half of the island’s cultivated land alone. While this is great for trading and exports to other nontropical countries, big-buck companies often dominate these trades, yielding high profits and strictly maintaining farmers and crops. Plus, agriculture only accounts for 3.3 percent of the workforce. Guadeloupe needs government support to start focusing on locally grown foods. Otherwise, hunger in Guadeloupe is inevitable.

Guadeloupe has good soil, although often polluted. Produce farming locally could be year-round due to its tropical climate. It also has a wide array of plants and animals, with more than 220 edible species including 60 vegetables and 130 fruits, because 43 percent of the island is a forest. All of the locally grown products are rich in antioxidants and Vitamins A, C and E. The two main causes of premature death in Guadeloupe are diabetes and cardiovascular disease, both of which can be helped by these vitamins and nutrients.

This would be great news for hunger in Guadeloupe, except that the French territory imports 80 percent of its food. People there have grown accustomed to importing their food. The locals prefer to consume imported food and don’t trust locally grown foods that they’ve never seen. They consume products that have likely been processed and only do so because the imported food is accessible and cheaper than locally grown produce.

Hunger in Guadeloupe is a difficult statistic to measure due to it being a part of France. However, most people agree that the islanders can still improve their way of living to avoid a hunger crisis. If the nation pushes for the purchase of local produce off shelves and for imported foods to go down from 80 percent, and tries to convince government officials and authorities that half the land isn’t needed to farm exported goods, Guadeloupe would save itself from the possibility of a future food crisis.

Rilee Pickle

Photo: Flickr

In 2009, the citizens of Guadeloupe launched the largest revolt in the country’s history. According to Reuters, there were “huge demonstrations accompanying the strike, consisting of as many as 100,000 people marching in the streets demanding social and economic change.” The strikes were in response to the rising cost of living and disparity in commodity prices in comparison to metropolitan France. The first general strikes were caused by the salary of Guadeloupe being lower than metropolitan France. Alongside low salary, the unemployment and poverty in Guadeloupe were double than the workers living in metropolitan France.

The strikes included groups ranging from environmental groups, to music and dance groups. The wide diversity of activists came together and formed the Lyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon (LKP), loosely translated as the Alliance Against Profiteering. After a month of striking, the LKP came to an agreement with the French Government on 165 demands, including “A 200-euro ($250) increase in the monthly minimum wage, measures to aid farmers and fishermen, lower bank fees, reduced airfares between the islands and France, and reduced prices on food, housing, water, gasoline, and public transportation.”

The strike ended on March 4, 2009, with the Jacos Binos Accord. It is uncertain what the long-term impact of the movement will be and how it will affect the socioeconomic future of Guadeloupe, but one thing is clear, as the new slogan on T-shirts and banners in post-strike Guadeloupe asserts: “Nothing will ever be like it was before!”

Strikes Effective in Reducing Poverty

As a way of rectifying the rifts caused by the strikes, President Sarkozy personally visited Guadeloupe. During his stay, he asserted the view that “Guadeloupe is French, and will remain French.” Almost a decade later, we are seeing some of the ways the French government has taken action to keep poverty in Guadeloupe low preventing another revolt.

In 2016, France created a universal healthcare system for individuals who live within Guadeloupe. The scope of coverage ranges from medicinal prescriptions to death insurances, in attempts to further decrease poverty. The unemployed are also able to use the health care benefits. As of the first day of 2017, “This system covers pregnant women and patients with long-term illnesses (LTI). Patients in these categories no longer pay upfront for their appointments with medical professionals as part of their maternity or LTI coverage.” This took much of the strain of high living costs off of citizens and created more accessible healthcare for Guadeloupe.

This past September, the French government sent police reinforcements to tackle the ever-increasing crime rates in Guadeloupe. According to an article published on Dominica News Online, 70 police officers were sent from France to aid with overall violence within the country. Decreasing crime rates increases tourism, which is increasingly important with the new global attention Guadeloupe is receiving due to being part of France.

Since the revolt in 2009, Guadeloupe has been recognized as a French nation. Much of Guadeloupe’s attractiveness today is attributed to its tropical area with its French-style of living. The French continue to send aid to help in decreasing poverty in Guadeloupe.

Taylor Elgarten

Photo: Flickr

French Aid to Ease Poverty In Martinique
Martinique is a small island in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean. This insular region of France has a population of 385,551. The official language is French, but the local Antillean Creole dialect is still widely spoken. Despite Martinique’s Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.946, which is the 24th highest HDI in the world according to the United Nations, the country has fallen victim to a series of economic and environmental misfortunes in recent years.

Partly to blame for the rise in poverty in Martinique is the global drop in fuel prices from 2008 to the present. Martinique’s petroleum drilling and refining infrastructures have been unable to keep up with the global market price. Martinique’s petroleum export value has suffered an unprecedented drop from 28% to minus 7% profitability between 2014 and 2015, putting a major burden on their economy.

Another problem facing Martinique and neighboring islands like Guadeloupe is the pollution of Chlordecone, an endocrine-disrupting pesticide that was used on banana farms in the Basse-Terre area of Guadeloupe which lies 105 miles north of Fort-de-France, Martinique’s capital city. “The chlordecone is trapped in the mud on the estuary and is released every time there’s a storm. It will go on for generations,” says Nicolas Diaz, a biologist working for Guadeloupe regional council.

France gave $33 million between 2008 and 2010 to access the scope of the pollution, and conduct research. Scientists of the report concluded that the pesticide has entered into many aspects of Martinique’s food and drinking supply, as well as the environment; introducing a lot of serious health problems onto the island, including a rise in prostate cancer. The poor are the ones that are affected most by chlordecone pollution. “About 80,000 people live in areas where the soil is contaminated and 13,000 absorb more chlordecone than the reference dose per day, simply by eating their own vegetables,” according to professor William Dab, head of the Science Committee for the Martinique and Guadeloupe Chlordecone Plan.

Fishermen have also taken a toll from the pollution as the local lobster and fish populations contain unsafe levels of the pesticide. In response, French overseas minister to Martinique, Victorin Lorel, a native of Guadeloupe, has been instrumental in advocating for a $2.66 million aid package to Martinique’s fishermen to ease the industry loss now and into the future. Lorel also has promised a new “ambitious plan” for fisheries in France’s lesser Antilles overseas departments.

The European Union, as a part of its goal to bring all EU members up to Europe 2020 targets for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth has allocated €520,951,695 between 2014-2020 to Martinique. The aim is to rebuild infrastructure, increase renewable energy production, improve the skills of the impoverished population and generally raise the quality of life, by lowering poverty.

In addition to the incredible contributions from the EU and the French government, there has been a large effort in France to provide humanitarian aid to help with poverty in Martinique. There are numerous organizations that are involved in providing human services/sending volunteers to the satellite territory, as well as setting up food drives and clothing drives to try to lower risks of poverty in Martinique. It is encouraging to see different entities join together to provide this French outer department hope for their future.

Joshua Ward

Photo: Flickr