Limits to adaptation to interacting global change risks among smallholder rice farmers in Northwest Costa Rica

Benjamin P. Warner, Christopher Kuzdas, Mariel G. Yglesias, Daniel Childers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


In this paper, we discuss the theoretical relationships among interacting global change risks, valued livelihood goals, and adaptation limits. We build from research on the impacts of multiple and interacting global change risks in lesser-developed countries and seek to understand household adaptation limits in agrarian communities. We ask: What are valued livelihood goals among smallholder farmers in Northwest Costa Rica? How do socio-economic determinants of adaptive capacities determine their ability to meet these goals in the face of the impacts of interacting global change risks? Our data were based on focus groups, interviews, survey responses from 94 smallholder farmers, government statistics, and published literature. We analyzed our data using qualitative content analysis and quantitative logistic regression models. Our analysis showed that farmers perceived rice production as an identity, and that they were being forced to consider limits to their abilities to adapt to maintain that identity. We found that farm size, cattle ownership, years spent farming, and household income variety were determinants of their abilities to remain in rice production while maintaining sufficient levels of livelihood security. We also showed that for those households most vulnerable to water scarcity, their ability to successfully adapt to meet valued livelihood goals is diminished because adaptation to water scarcity increases vulnerability to decreased rice-market access. In this way, they become trapped by the inability to reduce their vulnerability to risks of the interaction between global changes and therefore abandon valued identities and livelihoods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-112
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Adaptation limits
  • Costa Rica
  • Interacting risks
  • Transformative adaptation
  • Valued livelihood goals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Limits to adaptation to interacting global change risks among smallholder rice farmers in Northwest Costa Rica'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this