Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation (International Conservation and Development)

Department or School/College

Society and Conservation

Committee Chair

Stephen Siebert

Commitee Members

Sarah Halvorson, Laurie Yung


Sustainable livelihoods, agroforestry, adaptation, certified agriculture, tropical forest management, Rainforest Alliance


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Food Security | Forest Management | Human Geography | Latin American Studies | Nature and Society Relations


The collapse and reorganization of global coffee markets associated with the “coffee crisis” have had profound, negative impacts on smallholder producer livelihoods throughout the world. In Mexico, the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement (ICA) coincided with withdrawal of government support for agriculture, which devastated producers dependent on coffee for their livelihoods. Smallholders responded by shifting livelihood strategies to diversify income, migrating, and converting primary forest cover to subsistence crops and pasture to support household livelihood security. In some instances, producers also joined or formed cooperative organizations to access specialty certifications that offer higher priced markets, extension information, and other benefits. However, certifications have had limited benefits for producers, particularly where administered through cooperatives. This research applied a livelihoods framework to a smallholder coffee producing community, Santa Lucía Teotepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, in order to understand smallholder responses to economic crisis and prolonged stress, benefits derived from cooperative membership, and motivations behind rustic shade- grown coffee management decisions. The study used qualitative and quantitative methods to obtain in-depth data about livelihood strategies, household adaptations to crises, producer experiences and opinions regarding opportunities and constraints of cooperative membership and local knowledge, uses and management practices of shade trees in coffee farms. Results suggest that responses to the coffee crisis have been mostly reactive, coping strategies limited in their duration and ability to bolster livelihood security. Membership in the cooperative UNECAFE has resulted in some income, material, and social benefits as compared with non-member producers. However, the benefits are minimal and constrained by factors common to the coffee industry as a whole (i.e., persistent low prices and disease) and particular to community context, notably that the cooperative was not a grassroots organization and had strained relationships with producers. Results indicate that shade tree values and management practices do not vary due to cooperative membership or certification, but rather due to ecological attributes of coffee plots and producers’ access to resources. Producers derive a wide range of benefits from traditional shade coffee systems that reflect cultural traditions and rich local ecological knowledge. This study points to the need to develop locally-based cooperatives and to invest in their institutional and management capacities, to increase local representation in cooperative leadership, and to support and build upon traditional ecological knowledge and management practices in conservation and development initiatives.



© Copyright 2019 Meghan C. Montgomery