Assessing the adaptation strategies of farmers facing multiple stressors: Lessons from the Coffee and Global Changes project in Mesoamerica

Edwin J. Castellanos, Catherine Tucker, Hallie Eakin, Helda Morales, Juan F. Barrera, Rafael Díaz

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    41 Scopus citations


    This paper analyzes the challenges and opportunities entailed in the design, implementation and dissemination of an interdisciplinary project that evolved into a knowledge co-production effort. The project explored the livelihood strategies of coffee growers in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica facing multiple stressors of economic (market shocks and price volatility) and physical nature (climate variability and pest incidence). Our objective was to determine the factors that influence farmers' decisions and the implications of those decisions for the people and the landscapes of the region. To achieve this objective, we intended to engage farm communities and sector representatives in the research process, and to a large extent this intent was realized. Nevertheless, the project illustrates the difficulties in achieving knowledge "co-production" with stakeholders whose day-to-day existence focuses on issues largely outside the domain of the research program. We adopted decision-analysis tools to integrate our knowledge and hypotheses to find a common language and structure for our research design. In relation to regional and national policy makers and sector experts, we aimed to communicate the decision-environment of the smallholder producer to enhance awareness of the institutional opportunities and constraints in the adaptation process. For the farmers themselves, we aimed to serve as conduits and mirrors of their own knowledge, rather than serving as external authorities on issues that appeared to be of little interest to them. Through the course of the project, we experimented with diverse modes of stakeholder interaction and, through collaboration with local experts in communication strategies, identified a set of tools for successful dissemination of results. The credibility and direct ties of the participating research organizations and collaborating institutes with the local communities were often an asset, sometimes a complication, but always a critical factor in the process of stakeholder interaction. The messages constructed from the collective knowledge of local farmers in distinct regions in four countries with different social and institutional histories represent crucial information for policy makers who are looking to support the adaptation processes of rural people facing changes of a global nature. However, communicating these messages in a usable and useful way to decision makers at various levels proved to be challenging.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)19-28
    Number of pages10
    JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
    StatePublished - Feb 2013


    • Bottom-up adaptation strategies
    • Climate change
    • Coffee
    • Knowledge co-production
    • Multiple stressors
    • Stakeholder communication

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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