Vulnerabilities in Mexico

Diversification or transformation? Coping with vulnerabilities to multiple stressors in Chiapas, Mexico

Collaborators: Zachary Christman, PhD (Rowan University, New Jersey) & Birgit Schmook, PhD (ECOSUR, Mexico)

Christman, Zachary, Hamil Pearsall, Birgit Schmook, Sofia Mardero. 2015. Diversification and Adaptive Capacity across Scales in an Emerging Post-Frontier Landscape of the Usumacinta Valley, Chiapas, Mexico. International Forestry Review. 17(1): 1-13.

This project examines whether the dual processes of globalization and climatic variability lead to diversification of agricultural coping strategies or transformation to more diversified livelihoods through a case study of vulnerabilities in Eastern Chiapas, Mexico. Chiapanecos have experienced multiple stressors over the past years, including more frequent and increased periods of drought, hurricanes, and landslides, unsustainable agricultural practices, and dramatic population growth.

Credit: Zachary Christman

Primary forest and zones previously used for smallholder agriculture are transitioning to more intensified agricultural systems and/or rangeland for cattle. Multiple studies have examined vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities inMexico, concluding that smallholder farmers respond to stressors through the diversification of farming and/or livelihood activities. However, these studies do not consider whether this diversification is a short-term coping strategy, or part of a transition towards an alternate socio-economic structure. This study investigates the changing nature of human-environment vulnerabilities in the Usumacinta Valley of Eastern Chiapas through an exploration of changing land use and land cover patterns, changing agricultural practices, local perceptions of these changes, and coping strategies employed to manage vulnerabilities.

This project will employ multiple frameworks, including rural livelihoods, vulnerability scoping diagram, and double exposure vulnerability frameworks to synthesize five environmental, demographic, agricultural, and economic datasets. This study extends vulnerability research by adding a temporal dimension to work on adaptive capacities that considers the changing nature of coping strategies in response to multiple stressors over time. This research has direct implications for actionable science, including agricultural policies, workforce training, and disaster preparedness.

We completed our first field season in 2013. Blog postings from this trip can be viewed at the following link:

This project has received funding from Temple University’s Office of International Affairs.

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