Smallholders adaptations to droughts and climatic variability in southeastern Mexico

S. Mardero, B. Schmook, C. Radel, Z. Christman, D. Lawrence, M. Millones, E. Nickl, J. Rogan, L. Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This study explores the temporal and spatial variability and change in rainfall across southeastern Mexico and the mechanisms by which smallholder farmers adapt to this variability, especially droughts. Members of 150 households in 10 communities were interviewed to investigate adaptation strategies among swidden maize smallholders, linked to their perceptions of climate changes. Precipitation data from seven weather stations were analyzed for the 1973-2012 period. Precipitation anomalies were estimated to evaluate the annual and seasonal stability, deficit, or surplus; and linear regressions were used to evaluate trends. Then, these anomalies were linked to variation in reported agricultural practices. Weather station data show a considerable decline in precipitation in most of the study area, coupled with increased drought frequency and an increase in negative anomalies in recent years. Surveys revealed several mechanisms of adaptation, including adjustment of the agricultural calendar (e.g. delaying planting, combined with planting a greater number of varieties of maize), water storage, and livelihood diversification both within and outside of agriculture. These adaptive mechanisms are responsive to demonstrated climatic change over the past 40 years, though globalization affects Mexico's agrarian economy, and farmers likely respond to a combination of economic and climatic factors. Understanding how resource-and climate-dependent swidden farmers respond to co-occurring climatic and economic changes is essential for effective adaptation policy design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-288
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Hazards
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • General Environmental Science
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Sociology and Political Science


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