Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Ernesto Méndez

Project Collaborators

Alejandra Guzmán Luna (ECOSUR), Diana V. Luna-González (University of Waterloo), Scott C. Merrill (University of Vermont), Martha Caswell (Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative, University of Vermont), Mateo Mier-y-Terán (CONACYT-ECOSUR), V. Ernesto Méndez (Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative, University of Vermont), Rigoberto Hernández Jonapá (Campesinos Ecológicos de la Sierra Madre de Chiapas CESMACH)

Status

Graduate

Student College

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Program/Major

Plant and Soil Science

Primary Research Category

Social Sciences

Presentation Title

Assessing livelihood diversification in smallholder coffee communities in Chiapas, Mexico: A Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach

Time

12:30 PM

Location

Mildred Livak Ballroom

Abstract

Smallholder coffee farmers in Mesoamerica conserve and produce important ecosystem services and are key actors in the global coffee commodity chain. Despite their valuable contributions, these farmers face persistent livelihood challenges common to many smallholder farmers around the globe. Diversification is a key principle in agroecology-based transitions; for smallholder coffee farmers, livelihood diversification is an option to respond to the shocks and stressors emerging in their dynamic socio-ecological context. While diversification is a commonly recommended strategy, little is known about which forms of diversification are likely to yield most sustainable results in particular contexts. In our three-year, participatory action research (PAR) project, also grounded in agroecology, we analyze how different livelihood diversification strategies contribute to food security, climate change resilience, livelihood performance and gender equity of smallholder coffee farmers in Mexico and Nicaragua, and how this relates to the sustainability of coffee-based agrifood systems. This paper presents findings from household surveys (N=167) and 3 focus groups conducted in Mexico between June 2017 and March 2018. We explore 4 selected livelihood strategies and characteristics of farmer households, such as land use and levels of diversification. We also analyze outcomes of these strategies in terms of seasonal food insecurity and household economy. The preliminary findings suggest that farmers who combine income-generating and consumption-oriented activities in their livelihood portfolios are more likely to have lower number of ‘lean months’ and gain a sufficient income than other households. These findings are relevant for coffee farmer organizations as well as for other actors along the coffee value chain who seek to support smallholder coffee producers to have sustainable livelihoods.

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Assessing livelihood diversification in smallholder coffee communities in Chiapas, Mexico: A Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach

Smallholder coffee farmers in Mesoamerica conserve and produce important ecosystem services and are key actors in the global coffee commodity chain. Despite their valuable contributions, these farmers face persistent livelihood challenges common to many smallholder farmers around the globe. Diversification is a key principle in agroecology-based transitions; for smallholder coffee farmers, livelihood diversification is an option to respond to the shocks and stressors emerging in their dynamic socio-ecological context. While diversification is a commonly recommended strategy, little is known about which forms of diversification are likely to yield most sustainable results in particular contexts. In our three-year, participatory action research (PAR) project, also grounded in agroecology, we analyze how different livelihood diversification strategies contribute to food security, climate change resilience, livelihood performance and gender equity of smallholder coffee farmers in Mexico and Nicaragua, and how this relates to the sustainability of coffee-based agrifood systems. This paper presents findings from household surveys (N=167) and 3 focus groups conducted in Mexico between June 2017 and March 2018. We explore 4 selected livelihood strategies and characteristics of farmer households, such as land use and levels of diversification. We also analyze outcomes of these strategies in terms of seasonal food insecurity and household economy. The preliminary findings suggest that farmers who combine income-generating and consumption-oriented activities in their livelihood portfolios are more likely to have lower number of ‘lean months’ and gain a sufficient income than other households. These findings are relevant for coffee farmer organizations as well as for other actors along the coffee value chain who seek to support smallholder coffee producers to have sustainable livelihoods.