Building Farm Resilience in a Changing Climate: Challenges, Potentials, and Ways Forward for Smallholder Cocoa Production in Bolivia



Migration from the Bolivian Altiplano to the Amazonian lowlands poses a number of challenges related to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Alto Beni, located in the Bolivian Yungas at the interface between two altitudinal zones, is a critical area in this respect. Unsustainable land use practices are leading to soil erosion, shallow landslides, as well as forest and biodiversity loss. Settlers from the Altiplano see themselves confronted with an ecosystem that does not support the agricultural systems they were once used to. Soil degradation and government incentives have promoted migration further into the rainforest, creating pressure on local indigenous groups and biodiversity. The best-suited land use system for the fragile soils and ecosystems in Alto Beni is diversified agroforestry, which is often combined with a cash crop such as cocoa or coffee. Many farmers practising such a system have organic certification and achieve a premium price for their cash crops. However, cocoa farmers in Alto Beni face many challenges. Prolonged droughts, heavy rains, floods, increased heat, and plant diseases are mentioned most by cocoa farmers. In this study we compile results from a research project on the resilience of organic and nonorganic cocoa farms to external risk factors and discuss them in the context of climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and migration. Cocoa farmers who belong to a cooperative and had organic certification achieved higher resilience indicators than others, because they tended to cultivate cocoa in diversified agroforestry systems. Cooperatives fostered agroforestry through capacity-building, knowledge exchange, extension services, and awareness-raising. They also provided social insurances and enhanced mutual support among their members. Challenges within established cooperatives such as lack of technical support to farmers and knowledge exchange within and between organizations can hamper resilience building. Finally, the inclusion of new farmers into cocoa cooperatives seems critical to reducing outmigration and the reproduction of non-sustainable practices in other fragile areas. Multiple challenges remain to be addressed, however, including the enhancement of solidarity economy networks and their extension sectors other than export crops.


Farm resilience Climate change Bolivia-Organic certification-Cocoa 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Development and EnvironmentUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Faculty of Geosciences and the EnvironmentUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.Faculty of AgronomyUniversidad Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA)La PazBolivia
  4. 4.Research Institute of Organic AgricultureFrickSwitzerland

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