Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 475–488 | Cite as

Livelihoods and landscapes at the threshold of change: disaster and resilience in a Chiapas coffee community

  • Hallie Eakin
  • Karina Benessaiah
  • Juan F. Barrera
  • Gustavo M. Cruz-Bello
  • Helda Morales
Original Article


In 2005, torrential rains associated with Hurricane Stan devastated farm systems in southern Mexico. We present a case study on the impacts of and responses to Hurricane Stan by coffee households in three communities in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, with the objective of illuminating the linkages between household vulnerability and resilience. We analyze data from 64 household surveys in a cluster analysis to link household impacts experienced to post-Stan adaptive responses and relate these results with landscape-level land-cover changes. The degree of livelihood change was most significant for land-constrained households whose specialization in coffee led to high exposure and sensitivity to Stan and little adaptive capacity. Across the sample, the role of coffee in livelihood strategies declined, as households sought land to secure subsistence needs and diversified economically after Stan. Nevertheless, livelihoods and landscape outcomes were not closely coupled, at least at the temporal and spatial scale of our analysis: We found no evidence of land-use change associated with farmers’ coping strategies. While households held strong attitudes regarding effective resource management for risk reduction, this knowledge does not necessarily translate into capacities to manage resilience at broader scales. We argue that policy interventions are needed to help materialize local strategies and knowledge on risk management, not only to allow individual survival but also to enhance resilience at local, community and landscape scales.


Vulnerability Adaptation Disaster Resilience Mexico Coffee Maize 



This manuscript is the product of an interdisciplinary collaboration between US and Mexican scientists, funded by the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (CRN Grant #2060, E. Castellanos, PI) and the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC-MEXUS). We are extremely appreciative of the time and consideration given to us by the residents of Siltepec, who were still recovering from their losses to Stan at the time of our research. Many thanks to Pedro Ramirez, Conrado Martinez, Joel Herrera and the students who participated in data collection. We also are appreciative of the comments of the anonymous reviewers of this manuscript, whose comments substantially improved our analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hallie Eakin
    • 1
  • Karina Benessaiah
    • 2
  • Juan F. Barrera
    • 3
  • Gustavo M. Cruz-Bello
    • 4
  • Helda Morales
    • 5
  1. 1.School of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.School of Geographical Sciences and Urban PlanningArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.Departmento de Entomología TropicalEl Colegio de la Frontera SurTapachulaMexico
  4. 4.Instituto de EcologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico
  5. 5.Departamento de AgroecologíaEl Colegio de la Frontera SurChiapasMexico

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