The stresses and dynamics of smallholder coffee systems in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains: a case for the potential role of climate services
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Access to climate information has the potential to build adaptive capacity, improve agricultural profitability, and help manage risks. To achieve these benefits, knowledge of the local context is needed to inform information development, delivery, and use. We examine coffee farming in the Jamaican Blue Mountains (BM) to understand farmer livelihoods, opportunities for climate knowledge to benefit coffee production, and the factors that impinge on farmers’ ability to use climate information. Our analysis draws on interviews and 12 focus groups involving 143 participants who largely cultivate small plots. BM farmers currently experience stresses related to climate, coffee leaf rust, and production costs that interrelate concurrently and with time lags. Under conditions that reduce income, BM farmers compensate by adjusting their use of inputs, which can increase their susceptibility to future climate and disease stresses. However, farmers can also decrease impacts of future stressors by more efficiently and effectively allocating their limited resources. In this sense, managing climate, like the other stresses, is an ongoing process. While we identify climate products that can help farmers manage climate risk, the local context presents barriers that argue for interactive climate services that go beyond conventional approaches of information production and delivery. We discuss how dialogs between farmers, extension personnel, and climate scientists can create a foundation from which use can emerge.
We are grateful for the helpful comments made by two anonymous reviewers. We also call special attention to the talented team of graduate students at the University of West Indies who helped collect data: Anne-Teresa Birthwright, Sarah Buckland, and Jhannel Tomlinson.
This research was funded by the NOAA (grant NA13OAR4310184) with contributions from USAID under the International Research and Applications Project.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
Mr. Gusland McCook is employed by the Jamaican Coffee Industry Board. All other authors declare no conflict of interest.
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