Changes in Climate, Crops, and Tradition

Cajete Maize and the Rainfed Farming Systems of Oaxaca, Mexico

Journal: Human Ecology

Authors: Paul Rogé and Marta Astier

Date published: 2015-09-14


The traditional management systems of the Mixteca Alta Region of Oaxaca, Mexico offer historical lessons about resilience to changes and variability in climate. We interviewed small farmers to inquire about the dynamics of abandonment and persistence of a traditional management system known as cajete maize. The previous generation had sown cajete maize more extensively across the landscape, but farmers increasingly relegated it to high elevation, frost prone agricultural environments that were less suited for seasonal maize. We interpret farmers’ narratives of changing cropping systems from a perspective of general agroecological resilience. The most recent years presented increasingly extreme climatic and socioeconomic hardships: increased temperatures, delayed rainy seasons, reduced capacity of soils to retain soil moisture, changing cultural norms, and reduced rural labor. Transformative change is required to develop novel cropping systems and complementary activities to agriculture that will allow for farming to be sustained in the face of these challenges.

Keywords: agroecological resilience, climate change, traditional management systems, rainfed agriculture, Mexico

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