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Changing rural livelihoods in Guatemala: evidence from four time points of nationally representative data

Authors: Corbin Hodges*, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, Stuart H Sweeney, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara
Topics: Development, Agricultural Geography, Latin America
Keywords: rural livelhoods, Guatemala, subsistence farming, agriculture, well-being, Latin America, development
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Throughout the World, there are 479 million family-owned farms two hectares or less in size and in developing countries, 75% of the poor depend on subsistence agriculture directly or indirectly for their livelihoods. Despite the past and present importance of agriculture to rural livelihoods, in Latin America a “new-rurality” has been identified, one in which connections to urban and global spaces are strong, potentially shifting household livelihoods. Here, we use four time points of nationally representative data from Guatemala, a country with a strong agrarian tradition, to determine if households are shifting out of agriculture or diversifying livelihoods by combining agriculture with non-agriculture work. Furthermore, for households participating in agriculture, we determine if they are continuing with or abandoning subsistence agriculture or combining subsistence agriculture with work-for-pay on farms other than their own. Results show that the percent of households involved with agriculture did not change over time nor did the percent involved with both agriculture and non-agriculture occupations. Furthermore, for households involved with agriculture, the percent farming their own land decreased, the percent working on other people’s farms increased, while the percent working on both their own farms and other people’s farms remained the same from 1998 to 2015. In conclusion, subsistence farming is declining in Guatemala while livelihood diversification (at least across the broad categories used here) is not increasing, suggesting a declining opportunity base with potential negative implications to household well-being.

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