Explaining the “Hungry Farmer Paradox”

Most of the world’s food insecure people live in marginal rural environments. A recent study with coffee producers in northern Nicaragua’s highlands helps explain this “hungry farmer paradox.” These small-scale farmers experienced an average of three months of seasonal hunger over the year studied. Although cash income helped alleviate food scarcity, households that produced more subsistence crops, especially corn and tree fruits, reported still shorter periods of food scarcity. Meanwhile, farmers that used several commonly promoted environmentally friendly farming practices reported no discernible impacts on seasonal hunger.

In an article published in Global Environmental Change, Santa Clara University researchers, including Chris Bacon (Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences), Bill Sundstrom (Department of Economics), and two recently graduated Environmental Studies and Sciences students Ian Dougherty (now with the United Farm Workers Foundation) and Rica Santos (now with the National Council for Science and the Environment), concur with previous studies finding that several factors influence farmer food insecurity, including: (1) annual cycles of precipitation and rising maize prices during the lean months; (2) inter annual droughts and periodic storms; and (3) the long-term inability of coffee harvests and prices to provide sufficient income.

This work identifies the need for balancing coffee production with food production and improving exchange systems to protect farmers from adverse seasonal price fluctuations. It also considers a participatory initiative that uses fair trade cooperatives to increase rural food access through the re-localization of food distribution networks, sustainable agriculture training, and improved food storage. Although crop loss from coffee leaf rust contributes an additional challenge, these and other integrated strategies hold the potential to reduce threats to food security, livelihoods, and biodiversity.

Chris Bacon and Ernesto Mendez are CAN affiliate researchers; Maria Eugenia Flores Gomez is the CAN project manager for the Las Segovias project

* Bacon, C. M., Sundstrom, W. A., Flores Gómez, M. E., Ernesto Méndez, V., Santos, R., Goldoftas, B., & Dougherty, I. (2014). Explaining the ‘hungry farmer paradox’: Smallholders and fair trade cooperatives navigate seasonality and change in Nicaragua’s corn and coffee markets. Global Environmental Change, 25 (2014) 133–149

Author Affiliations

Christopher M. Bacon, Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050-4901, USA

William A. Sundstrom, Department of Economics, Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053, USA

 María Eugenia Flores Gómez, Community Agroecology Network, 595 Franklin Street, Santa Clara, CA 95050, USA

 Ernesto Méndez, Environmental Program and Plant and Soil Science Department, University of Vermont,
The Bittersweet – 153 South Prospect Street, Burlington, VT 05401, USA

 Rica Santos, Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050-4901, USA

 Barbara Goldoftas, International Development, Community, & Environment Department, Clark University, 950 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01610, USA

 Ian Dougherty, Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050-4901, USA

Revisiting the “Thin Months” | co-authored by CAN affiliated-researcher, Ernesto Méndez


Revisiting the “Thin Months” — A Follow-Up Study on the Livelihoods of Mesoamerican Coffee Farmers.

Read this policy brief co-authored by CAN affiliated-researcher, Ernesto Méndez (Director, Agricultural and Rural Livelihoods Group, University of Vermont).

“Smallholder coffee farmers in Mesoamerica face formidable challenges, including highly variable coffee prices, increasing climate change impacts, and worsening outbreaks of pests and diseases, which contribute to chronic debt and food insecurity. Despite these difficulties, the results of a recent follow-up or longitudinal survey show improvement in key aspects of farmers’ livelihoods, though there is an urgent need to continue working with farmers on these issues. The findings point to promising strategies for enhancing livelihoods, including carefully selected crop diversification practices to improve food security; site-specific instead of blanket recommendations for improved agricultural management and livelihood diversification; access to affordable financing and training in financial literacy; and other education and training programs for farmers. …”

 

Se publica edición especial sobre agroecología

Posted in: News   Topics: Agroecology and Food Systems,


Se acaba de publicar la traducción completa de la edición especial que editaron investigadores afiliados de CAN, Ernesto Méndez (Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods Group, Universidad de Vermont) y Chris Bacon (Universidad de Santa Clara), la Directora de CAN, Rose Cohen, el fundador y presidente de la junta directiva de CAN, Steve Gliessman y Manolo Gonzalez de Molina (Universidad Pablo de Olavide de Sevilla), el año pasado para la revista Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. Sale como un monográfico especial de la revista Española Agroecología.

Disponible aqui.

 

 

 

 

 

Article on Shade Coffee in BioScience

Posted in: News   Topics: Action Research Initiatives,


Shalene Jha, Christopher M. Bacon, Stacy M. Philpott, V. Ernesto Mendez, Peter Laderach and Robert A. Rice recently published an overview article, “Shade Coffee: Update on a Disappearing Refuge for Biodiversity,” in the May 2014 issue of the journal BioScience. Chris Bacon and Ernesto Mendez are CAN affiliated researchers.

 
Abstract: In the past three decades, coffee cultivation has gained widespread attention for its crucial role in supporting local and global biodiversity. In this synthetic Overview, we present newly gathered data that summarize how global patterns in coffee distribution and shade vegetation have changed and discuss implications for biodiversity, ecosystem services, and livelihoods. Although overall cultivated coffee area has decreased by 8% since 1990, coffee production and agricultural intensification have increased in many places and shifted globally, with production expanding in Asia while contracting in Africa. Ecosystem services such as pollination, pest control, climate regulation, and nutrient sequestration are generally greater in shaded coffee farms, but many coffee-growing regions are removing shade trees from their management. Although it is clear that there are ecological and socioeconomic benefits associated with shaded coffee, we expose the many challenges and future research priorities needed to link sustainable coffee management with sustainable livelihoods.
 
 

Explaining the “Hungry Farmer Paradox” | New Article


<--break->Most of the world’s food insecure people live in marginal rural environments. A recent study with coffee producers in northern Nicaragua’s highlands helps explain this “hungry farmer paradox.” These small-scale farmers experienced an average of three months of seasonal hunger over the year studied. Although cash income helped alleviate food scarcity, households that produced more subsistence crops, especially corn and tree fruits, reported still shorter periods of food scarcity. Meanwhile, farmers that used several commonly promoted environmentally friendly farming practices reported no discernible impacts on seasonal hunger. 

In an article published in Global Environmental Change*, a team of researchers, including CAN-affiliated researchers Chris Bacon (Professor, Santa Clara University) and Ernesto Méndez (Professor, University of Vermont) and CAN’s project manager for the Las Segovias project, Maria Eugenia Flores Gomez, concur with previous studies finding that several factors influence farmer food insecurity, including: (1) annual cycles of precipitation and rising maize prices during the lean months; (2) inter annual droughts and periodic storms; and (3) the long-term inability of coffee harvests and prices to provide sufficient income. 

This work identifies the need for balancing coffee production with food production and improving exchange systems to protect farmers from adverse seasonal price fluctuations. It also considers a participatory initiative that uses fair trade cooperatives to increase rural food access through the re-localization of food distribution networks, sustainable agriculture training, and improved food storage. Although crop loss from coffee leaf rust contributes an additional challenge, these and other integrated strategies hold the potential to reduce threats to food security, livelihoods, and biodiversity.

* Bacon, C. M., Sundstrom, W. A., Flores Gómez, M. E., Ernesto Méndez, V., Santos, R., Goldoftas, B., & Dougherty, I. (2014). “Explaining the ‘hungry farmer paradox’: Smallholders and fair trade cooperatives navigate seasonality and change in Nicaragua’s corn and coffee markets.” Global Environmental Change, 25 (2014) 133–149

 

Estelí, Nicaragua | XV Curso Internacional Annual de Agroecología | Inscribase ahora!/Apply now!


Inscribase ahora en:
el XV Curso Internacional Annual de Agroecología
Agroecología y transformación social:
transdisciplinaridad, salud, y desarrollo humano
Estelí, Nicaragua
6-18 de julio de 2014

La Red de Agroecología Comunitaria (CAN) y La Asociación de Desarrollo Social de Nicaragua (ASDENIC), juntos con un comité transdisciplinaria de coordinación, anuncia el XV Curso Internacional de Agroecología, que se llevará acabo en el sitio del Parque de las Ciencias Estelimar, ubicado cerca a la ciudad de Estelí, en el norte de Nicaragua, del 6 a 18 de julio de 2014. El tema principal del curso es Agroecología y transformación social transdisciplinaridad, salud, y desarrollo humano.

Nicaragua es un lugar donde la sociedad se enfrenta con retos fuertes de crear y promover un sistema alimentaria que realmente no perjudica la salud y desarrollo humano ni el medioambiente.  Entre los productores rurales y los consumidores nacionales hay problemas y oportunidades para enfrentar dentro del contexto de la dependencia en la producción para exportación (especialmente en el rubro del café), los cambios culturales, el cambio climático, y las estructuras sociales y políticas.Nicaragua también es un lugar donde la agroecología se presenta como una estrategia viable para abordar estos problemas por parte de varios movimientos sociales que incluyen los sectores agrícolas, gremiales, académicos, políticos, y no-gubernamentales.El objetivo de este curso es lograr que los participantes desarrollarán sus capacidades conceptuales y metodológicas para incorporar los fundamentos de la Agroecología en el proceso de una transformación social enfocado sobre la salud y la capacidad humana para lograr un desarrollo sostenible, saludable y justo.

Profesores confirmados:

Dr. Stephen Gliessman, Emérito, Universidad de California, Santa Cruz (UCSC)
Dr. Ernesto Méndez, Universidad de Vermont (USA), y CAN
Dr. Christopher Bacon, Universidad de Santa Clara (USA), y CAN
Dra. Roseann Cohen, CAN
Dr. Eduardo López, UNAN – Esteli, Presidente de ASDENIC
Dr. Francisco Salmerón, Universidad Nacional Agraria (UNA), Nicaragua
Dr. Jairo Rojas Meza, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Nicaragua (UNAN) – Matagalpa
Dra. Alejandrina Herrera, UNAN – Managua
Roberta Jaffe, MA, CAN
Dr. Francisco Rosado May, Universidad Intercultural Maya de Quintana Roo (UIMQRoo), México
Dr. Carlos Guadarrama, Universidad de Chapingo, Centro Regional Huatusco, México
Dra. Laura Trujillo, Universidad de Chapingo, Centro Regional Huatusco, México
Ramón Olivas, Cooperativa PRODECOOP, Nicaragua
Yadira Montenegro, Directora de Desarrollo, Unión de Cooperativas Augusto César Sandino, San Ramón (UCA San Ramón), Nicaragua

Representantes del Movimiento de Productores y Productoras Agroecológicos de Nicaragua (MAONIC)

**El programa está en desarrollo y esta lista no está completa.

Para asegurar el precio especial, mandar su inscripción antes del 15 de abril!

Para inscribirse: http://agroecologia2014.asdenic.org/


 

Apply now for the XV Annual International Agroecology Shortcourse!

XV Annual International Agroecology Shortcourse
Agroecology and Social Transformation:
transdisciplinarity, health, and human development
July 6 – 18, 2014 
Estelí, Nicaragua

The Community Agroecology Network (CAN) and the Social Development Organization of Nicaragua (ASDENIC), along with an interdisciplinary coordinating committee, announce the XV International Agroecology Shortcourse which will be held in the Parque de las Ciencias Estelimar, located near the city of Estelí in the north of Nicaragua from July 6-18, 2014. The main topic of the course is Agroecology and Social Transformation: transdisciplinarity, health, and human development.

Nicaragua is a nation that faces difficult challenges in terms of creating and promoting a food system that does not compromise health, human development, and the environment. Among rural producers and consumers nationwide, there are challenges and opportunities within the context of dependence on export production (especially coffee), cultural changes, climate change, and social and political structures. Nicaragua is also a place where agroecology exists as a viable strategy for addressing these problems and is supported by different social movements that include the agricultural sector, unions, academics, politicians, and nongovernment organizations. The objective of this shortcourse is for participants to develop conceptual and methodological skills to be able to incorporate the basic principles of agroecology into a process of social transformation that is focused on health and human capacity to achieve sustainable, healthy, and just development.

See attached Announcement and Event Poster for full information and application instructions. 

To ensure you receive the Early Bird price, register before April 15!

To apply: http://agroecologia2014.asdenic.org/ 

Dr. Roseann Cohen Named Executive Director of CAN

Posted in: News   Topics: About CAN,


The Community Agroecology Network (CAN), a nonprofit organization dedicated to alleviating the challenges of hunger and environmental degradation in rural Latin America through an international network of researchers, farmers, farmer organizations, universities, consumers and students, announces the selection of Dr. Roseann Cohen as its new Executive Director, effective July 1, 2013.

Rose holds a Ph.D. with an emphasis in agroecology from the Environmental Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an additional specialization in Latin American and Latino Studies.  Her research has focused on the impacts of insecure land tenure on farming communities of people displaced by violence in Colombia. In addition to her understanding of the complex challenges faced by small farmers in Latin America, she brings years of experience and dedication in working with rural communities throughout Latin America to achieve social equity and foster international solidarity. She is particularly connected to Colombia, both through her research there and strong family connections. 

Rose is deeply passionate about CAN’s mission to sustain rural livelihoods and ecologies through social, environmental, and economic justice. She looks forward to leading the organization and building on the network of long-term community partnerships that integrate research, education, and action. For the past year Rose has held the position of Assistant Director at CAN.

Rose follows Roberta (Robbie) Jaffe who steps down as the Founding Director of CAN, but will remain active on the CAN Board of Directors. CAN Board member and faculty at the University of Vermont, Ernesto Mendez, shared his perspective of this transition:

“While it is sad to see Robbie step down as Executive Director —she has been the engine driving CAN — it is our good fortune that Rose is taking over the position. The Board needed only see the breadth of her experience in order to agree she is ideally qualified to lead CAN into the future. In addition to having a brilliant intellect, Rose has a deep commitment for social and environmental justice and is committed to transparency and honesty in all her interactions. We wish Robbie all the best in her new endeavors.”

Please join the CAN Board of Directors and staff in welcoming Rose to her new position.

 

Special Issue: “Agroecology and the Transformation of Agri-Food Systems: Transdisciplinary and Participatory Perspectives”


Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (formerly knows as Journal of Sustainable Agriculture) has just published a special issue “Agroecology and the Transformation of Agri-Food Systems: Transdisciplinary and Participatory Perspectives.”  For free online access to the entire issue, click here

This special issue is devoted to defining the focus of agroecology, and pointing out ways that it must lead the way in transforming food systems to sustainability, from the seed and the soil, all the way to the table. Guest editors V. Ernesto Méndez, Christopher Bacon, and Rose Cohen (CAN researchers) bring together the transdisciplinary perspectives that have helped form our understanding of agroecology, how it promotes change through participatory action in research and education, and why it is important that agroecology lead the way in bringing sustainability to all people and all parts of our global food system.

 

Article by CAN Researchers Ernesto Mendez & Christopher Bacon & CAN Ass’t. Director Rose Cohen

Posted in: News   Topics: Agroecology and Food Systems,


<--break->The topic of a special issue of the journal Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems addresses “Agroecology and the Transformation of Agri-Food Systems.” Be sure to read the introductory article, “Agroecology as a Transdisciplinary, Participatory and Action-Oriented Approach,” co-authored by CAN researchers Ernesto Méndez and Christopher Bacon and CAN assistant director Roseann Cohen. Find the article here.

Article abstract:

This article traces multiple directions in the evolution of agroecology, from its early emphasis on ecological processes in agricultural systems, to its emergence as a multidimensional approach focusing on broader agro-food systems. This review is timely, as agroecology is being increasingly applied within a diversity of scientific-, policy-, and farmer-based initiatives. We contrast different agroecological perspectives or “agroecologies” and discuss the characteristics of an agroecology characterized by a transdisciplinary, participatory and action-oriented approach. Our final discussion describes the contents of the special issue, and states our goal for this compilation, which is to encourage future work that embraces an agroecological approach grounded in transdisciplinarity, participation, and transformative action.

 

Save the Date! | 14th Annual International Agroecology Shortcourse | July 7-21, 2013


14th Annual International Agroecology Shortcourse

Agroecological Approaches for Climate Change
and Food Systems Resilience

When: July 7-21, 2013

Where: The University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont

Highlights:

  • Instructors include pioneers from the field of agroecology and other experts from the United States, Spain, and Mexico.
  • Learn concepts and techniques for Participatory Action Research (PAR).
  • Consider the opportunities and risks within our food systems related to the changing climate and extreme weather events.

Organized by V. Ernesto Mendez, University of Vermont and the Community Agroecology Network (CAN)

Click here for more information or email Martha Caswell.

 

What is Agroecology? | Is It a Science, a Movement, or a Practice?


University of Vermont, October 3, 2012: Steve Gliessman, chair of the Board of Directors of Community Agroecology Network and an internationally recognized leader in the field of agroecology and Robbie Jaffe, Executive Director of Community Agroecology Network have been invited to participate in a panel discussion with V. Ernesto Méndez, Associate Professor of Agroecology at the University of Vermont. These three pioneers from the field of agroecology will examine the evolution of the field its potential to support the transformation of our current agro-food system. Steve, Robbie, and Ernesto will compare perspectives on agroecology and its connection to the University of Vermont and the wider world.

The panel will conclude with a discussion moderated by current Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group graduate students, focusing on the opportunities and limitations of this approach.

University of Vermont, Davis Center
October 3, 2012, 3-5 pm
Coffee, tea, hot cider and cider donuts will be served