6120 - Climate risks and adaptation strategies in rural Mesoamerica: the case of small coffee growers facing multiple stressors.

This paper presents a study on the strategies of coffee growers in four countries, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica, to adapt to a changing climate in the context of multiple stressors such as market shocks, price volatility, and pest incidence. The vulnerability of small coffee growers to these stressors of global and local nature became evident in the past decade when a drastic drop in world prices coincided with the incidence of successive extreme-weather events such as tropical storms (Stan, Agatha) combined with years of very low precipitation. Small coffee growers in the region must make production and livelihood decisions with limited knowledge of the global trends in important variables. These decisions affect the local environment as coffee is recognized as a more environmentally friendly crop than most land use options available to these farmers.

We use a comparative research program using an interdisciplinary approach to explore the factors that influence the decisions of growers in eight coffee regions (two in each country); the forms of livelihood adaptations that they are pursuing; and the implications of those strategies for the people and landscapes of each region. Institutional factors that may shape farmer’s choices receive special attention, including participation in organizations.

Our results show that neither climatic nor pest problems are dominant drivers of farmers’ strategies; farmers are mainly responding to economic stresses. One of the primary strategies has been participation in farm-level organizations that provides them with access to organic and fair-trade markets and more stable prices. Another successful strategy is the increase of diversification in three areas: income by planting other crops, coffee varieties planted and commercialization channels used. Migration also plays an important role when confronting a severe stress. Our results address the issue that adaptation processes and outcomes at one geographic scale of analysis may be inadequate at broader scales. Understanding these cross-scalar linkages is essential for fostering resilience among rural communities.

Keywords: Mesoamerica, coffee, adaptation, multiple stressors, climate variability

Author: Castellanos, Edwin (Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Guatemala / Guatemala)


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