Rural households' vulnerability and adaptation to climatic variability and institutional change: Three cases from central Mexico
AuthorEakin, Hallie Catherine
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the concept of social vulnerability through documenting the intersection of both political-economic uncertainty and climatic variability in the production decisions and livelihood strategies of peasant farm households in three communities in central Mexico. Although the research is situated within the broader literature on globalization and climatic change, the study focuses on the impacts of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation events of 1997, 1998 and 1999 and the neoliberal agricultural policy reforms of the 1990s as rough analogies of these larger-scale processes. The author uses both quantitative and qualitative methodology and a livelihoods analysis framework to document rural responses to change. The research concludes that institutional change and uncertainty are often more important than biophysical factors in structuring households' vulnerability and adaptation strategies to climatic risk. Households' adaptive capacity is more a function of the stability and flexibility of their livelihoods than of the households' agricultural income potential. Maize production continues to be central to the livelihood security for smallholders, despite the crop's sensitivity to climatic risk and lack of commercial potential. The household as a unit of labor management and allocation, and the institution of the ejido, also play important roles in risk management by enabling agricultural intensification and diversification. Small-scale commercial farmers are particularly vulnerable from the double impact of market and climatic risks the lack of flexibility in their production process. The importance of the institutional context of production in defining households' adaptive capacity suggests that one cannot assume spontaneous adaptation to climate changes. Furthermore, seasonal climate forecasts---often proposed as possible decision tools to facilitate agricultural adaptation---will have little utility for farmers whose production strategies are limited by lack of credit and insurance, poor producer prices, rising input and consumer costs and land scarcity. The dissertation concludes by arguing that vulnerability to climatic risk may be best addressed through "adaptive policies"---policies that evolve over time with the changing goals and vulnerabilities of rural populations, while aiming to expand the range of choice and flexibility of their livelihoods over the long-term.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Geography and Regional Development