Survival by Association


364 pages
Contains Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-1370-1
DDC 338.1'74772'09729




Reviewed by J.H. Galloway

J.H. Galloway is a professor of geography at the University of Toronto.


Survival by Association is a geography of banana production on the
Caribbean islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, and St. Lucia
from the end of World War II to the present. The greater part of the
book is an analysis of the industry on these islands during the early
1960s, when the author did her fieldwork. This emphasis leaves the book
seriously out of balance and raises two questions: why was this research
not published before, and why publish it in so much detail now?

The author is interested in the role of growers’ associations in
promoting bananas as an export crop. By examining banana production on
four islands, she is able to compare and contrast the strategies of
different associations. She argues that the associations have been
necessary to the survival of the banana trade and that their activities
have significantly influenced the patterns of land use. These
conclusions were perhaps to have been expected. Had the associations not
been effective, they would have become irrelevant, and banana exports
presumably would have declined; by being effective, they necessarily
influenced land use.

As the author notes, a fundamental problem of agriculture in the
Eastern Caribbean is that no matter what crop is grown for export, it
can be grown more efficiently and more cheaply elsewhere. Britain and
France, the former colonial powers, encouraged banana cultivation on
these islands after World War II because they could pay with pounds and
francs rather than with dollars. In the 1960s and later, when dollars
had ceased to be scarce, Britain and France negotiated preferential
access for the islands’ bananas to the European market. The
associations have so far been successful in lobbying for continuing
preferential access. The author recounts these negotiations and ends
with a plea for the interests of small-scale producers in a harsh
free-trade world. Her book is both a study in agricultural protectionism
and an important contribution to our knowledge of Caribbean agriculture.
Those who are interested in this subject should not let the weight of
1960s detail deter them from rewarding reading.


Welch, Barbara M., “Survival by Association,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,