Adaptation in a multi-stressor environment: Perceptions and responses to climatic and economic risks by coffee growers in Mesoamerica

Hallie Eakin, Catherine M. Tucker, Edwin Castellanos, Rafael Diaz-Porras, Juan F. Barrera, Helda Morales

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    54 Scopus citations


    While climate change adaptation policy has tended to focus on planned adaptation interventions, in many vulnerable communities, adaptation will consist of autonomous, "unplanned" actions by individuals who are responding to multiple simultaneous sources of change. Their actions are likely not only to affect their own future vulnerability, but, through changes in livelihoods and resource use, the vulnerability of their community and resource base. In this paper, we document the autonomous changes to livelihood strategies adopted by smallholder coffee farmers in four Mesoamerican countries (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica). Our aim is to gain insight into the process of autonomous adaptation by proxy: through an assessment of how farmers explain their choices in relation to distinct stressors; and an understanding of the set of choices available to farmers. We find that climatic stress is a feature in decision making, but not the dominant driver. Nevertheless, the farmers in our sample are evidently flexible, adaptive, and experimental in relation to changing circumstances. Whether their autonomous responses to diverse stressors will result in a reduction in risk over time may well depend on the extent to which policy, agricultural research, and rural investments build on the inherent logic of these strategies.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)123-139
    Number of pages17
    JournalEnvironment, Development and Sustainability
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Feb 2014


    • Autonomous adaptation
    • Climate change
    • Coffee production
    • Livelihood strategies
    • Market volatility
    • Mesoamerica

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geography, Planning and Development
    • Economics and Econometrics
    • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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