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Adaptation Under the Canopy: Coffee Cooperative and Certification Contributions to Livelihood Sustainability

Authors: Meghan Montgomery*, University of Montana
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Development, Latin America
Keywords: Sustainability, commodity agriculture, certifications, adaptation, Mexico, livelihoods, cooperative organizations
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual Track 2
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The collapse and reorganization of global coffee markets associated with the “coffee crisis” have had profound, negative impacts on smallholder producers throughout the world. In Mexico, smallholders responded by shifting livelihood strategies to diversify income, migrating, and converting primary forest cover to subsistence crops and pasture to support household livelihood security. Producers also joined or formed cooperative organizations to access specialty certifications that offer higher priced markets, extension information, and other benefits. However, certifications have had limited benefits for producers, particularly where administered through cooperatives. This research applied a livelihoods framework and mixed methodology in a smallholder coffee community in Oaxaca, Mexico to obtain in-depth data about livelihood strategies, household adaptations to crises, and producer experiences and regarding opportunities and constraints of cooperative membership. Results suggest that responses to the coffee crisis have been mostly reactive, coping strategies limited in their duration and ability to bolster livelihood security. Cooperative membership resulted in some income, material, and social benefits as compared with non-member producers. However, the benefits are minimal and constrained by factors common to the coffee industry as a whole (i.e., persistent low prices and disease) and particular to community context, notably that the cooperative was not a grassroots organization and had strained relationships with producers. This study points to the need to develop locally-based cooperatives and to invest in their institutional and management capacities, to increase local representation in cooperative leadership, and to support and build upon traditional ecological knowledge and management practices in conservation and development initiatives.

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