Agriculture and Human Values

, 25:555 | Cite as

Livelihood change, farming, and managing flood risk in the Lerma Valley, Mexico

  • Hallie Eakin
  • Kirsten Appendini


In face of rising flood losses globally, the approach of “living with floods,” rather than relying on structural measures for flood control and prevention, is acquiring greater resonance in diverse socioeconomic contexts. In the Lerma Valley in the state of Mexico, rapid industrialization, population growth, and the declining value of agricultural products are driving livelihood and land use change, exposing increasing numbers of people to flooding. However, data collected in two case studies of farm communities affected by flooding in 2003 illustrate that the concept of flood as agricultural “hazard” has been relatively recently constructed through public intervention in river management and disaster compensation. While farming still represents subsistence value to rural households, increasingly rural communities are relying on non-farm income and alternative livelihood strategies. In this context, defining flooding in rural areas as a private hazard for which individuals are entitled to public protection may be counterproductive. A different approach, in which farmers’ long acceptance of periodic flooding is combined with valuing agricultural land for ecoservices, may enable a more sustainable future for the region’s population.


Vulnerability Flood Livelihoods Agriculture Mexico 



Funding for this research was provided by a National Science Foundation International Research Fellowship (Grant 0401939) to H. Eakin. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The authors are appreciative of the support of X. Guadarrama and E. Domínguez in the collection of data as well as the contributions provided to this research by the public officials and rural residents interviewed. The map in this article was prepared by A. Lerner. The article was significantly improved with the helpful suggestions of three anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Centro de Estudios Económicos, Colegio de MéxicoMexicoMexico

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