Adaptation in the Coffee Market: Cooperative Membership, Certifications, and Coffee Producer Sustainability in Oaxaca, Mexico

Authors: Meghan Montgomery*, University of Montana
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Latin America
Keywords: Adaptation, agriculture, Latin America, political ecology, commodity markets
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Roosevelt 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Changes in the coffee commodity market after the International Coffee Agreement collapse and subsequent global market reconfiguration have led to a sustained period of low prices and market instability. Smallholder farmers in Mexico, as elsewhere, responded through a range of livelihoods adaptations, including forming cooperative organizations, obtaining specialty certifications, and migrating away from their home communities in search of economic opportunity. This paper used a case study community of small-scale coffee growers in Mexico to analyze cooperative membership and product certifications as adaptive responses, and the influence these two institutions have had on farmer decision-making. I used a mixed-methods approach, employing ethnographic methods, semi-structured interviews, a household survey, and on-farm measures of tree abundance and frequency to examine how producers continue to adapt to sustained commodity market volatility. Drawing on adaptation theory and livelihoods analysis, I documented the ongoing and varying strategies that smallholders have utilized to adapt production practices and shade tree management to cope with commodity market reorganization. Results indicate that while farmers did experience some benefits from cooperative membership and certifications, they did not perceive an overall improvement in their livelihoods due to these adaptive actions. While farmers have adjusted farm management practices and livelihoods strategies because of cooperative membership and certification, these changes are more accurately characterized as reactive coping responses, rather than proactive adaptations. Smallholders in the case study community are constrained by financial, educational, and technological resources that limit their ability to implement long-term strategies to reduce vulnerability to future commodity market restructuring.

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