Farmer Strategies for Dealing with Climatic Variability

A Case Study from the Mixteca Alta Region of Oaxaca, Mexico

Journal: Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems

Authors: Paul Rogé, Andrew R. Friedman, Marta Astier, and Miguel A. Altieri

Date published: 2014-04-14


This study describes an interdisciplinary methodology for helping small farmers prepare for climatic variability. We facilitated workshops in the Mixteca Alta region of Oaxaca, Mexico, in which groups of small farmers described how they had adapted to and prepared for past climate challenges. Farmers reported that their cropping systems were changing for multiple reasons: more drought, later rainfall onset, decreased rural labor, and introduced labor-saving technologies. Examination of climate data found that farmers’ climate narratives were largely consistent with the observational record. There have been increases in temperature and rainfall intensity, and an increase in rainfall seasonality that may be perceived as later rainfall onset. Farmers also identified 14 indicators that they subsequently used to evaluate the condition of their agroecosystems. Farmers ranked landscape-scale indicators as more marginal than farmer management or soil quality indicators. From this analysis, farmers proposed strategies to improve the ability of their agroecosystems to cope with climatic variability. Notably, they recognized that social organizing and education are required for landscape-scale indicators to be improved. This outcome suggests that climate change adaptation by small farmers involves much more than just a set of farming practices, but also community action to tackle collective problems.

Keywords: agroecology, climate change, participatory research, rainfed agriculture, small farmers