Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 167–177 | Cite as

Weed control practices on Costa Rican coffee farms: is herbicide use necessary for small-scale producers?



This paper presents research conducted during two coffee farming seasons in Costa Rica. The study examined coffee farmers’ weed management practices and is presented in the form of a case study of small-scale farmers’ use of labor and herbicides in weed management practices. Over 200 structured interviews were conducted with coffee farmers concerning their use of hired labor and family labor, weed management activities, support services, and expectations about the future of their coffee production. ANOVA and regression analyses describe the relationships between farm size, labor, and herbicide use, and three farm types (i.e., conventional, semi-conventional, and organic). Based on findings regarding the amount of labor used to manually control weeds on different types of farms (large farms, small conventional, semi-conventional, and organic farms) I am able to challenge small conventional farmers’ perceived need for herbicide use. Semi-structured interviews of coffee farmers and extension workers further revealed a dominant role played by agro-chemical companies in assisting farmers with production problems, and documented a high transaction cost for information provided from elsewhere. Chemical companies hire extension workers to visit farmers at their farms, free of charge, to offer recommendations on how to treat different pest problems, while government and cooperative extension agents charge for the service. There is a need to increase the amount of resources available to the National Coffee Institute to fund one-on-one farmer support services in order to balance the influence of agro-chemical company representatives and allow farmers to make better decisions regarding weed management.


Coffee Costa Rica Extension services Herbicides Organic—Small-scale farmers Weed management 



National Coffee Institute (Costa Rica)


United States Agency for International Development


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Systems EcologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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