Agroecology and Coffee Systems

Smallholder coffee agroecosystems and communities play important social, economic and environmental roles in the regions where they are located. Agroecologists have worked with smallholder coffee farmers for decades, in large part because shade coffee agroforestry systems express many social and ecological agroecological principles. Together, the ALC members have decades of experience working with smallholder coffee farmers and cooperatives in Latin America. Our work has evolved from focusing mostly on ecological processes in shade coffee systems to a transdisciplinary approach grounded in participatory action research (PAR). We have developed this section of the ALC website to serve as a permanent repository and resource for work that supports smallholder coffee farmers and their allies in transforming their shade coffee and food systems into ones that are ecologically sound and socially just.

Areas of Focus

Chiapas, Mexico, 2018. Photo: Janica Anderzén

“PAR and Agroecology are a perfect couple; if agroecology is an alternative to industrial agriculture, PAR is an alternative to extractivist research”. Martha Caswell, ALC Co-director. 

Northern Nicaragua, 2015. Photo: Janica Anderzén

Many smallholder coffee farmers depend on coffee, making them vulnerable to various livelihood shocks and stressors. Our research has sought to identify factors that build resilience and strengthen the sustainability of coffee systems.  

SCA Expo, Boston, 2019. Photo: Janica Anderzén

The ALC members have been generating evidence that contributes to processes of making the coffee sector more equitable, just, and sustainable. We are building strategic relationships with a variety of actors to enhance the applicability and impact of our work. 

Laguna del Cofre, Mexico, 2019. Photo: Alejandra Guzmán Luna

Small coffee producers in Mesoamerica experience seasonal food insecurity  and face challenges in feeding  their families. Our research has sought to  understand drivers behind food insecurity, and co-create knowledge with the farmers around about culturally and environmentally suitable alternatives   to overcome “thin months”.

Chiapas, Mexico, 2018. Photo: Alejandra Guzmán Luna

Agrobiodiversity includes the variety of vegetable, animal and fungus species in the farms and landscapes. Agrobiodiversity is an expression of people´s knowledge, agricultural practices, and local state of conservation and ecosystem services.

Chiapas, Mexico, 2017. Photo: Ernesto Méndez

Click for a full list of publications and initiatives from the past decade of coffee research by members of the ALC.

Participatory Action Research

“PAR and Agroecology are a perfect couple; if agroecology is an alternative to industrial agriculture, PAR is an alternative to extractivist research”. Martha Caswell, ALC Co-director.

Participatory Action Research (PAR) has been one of the main features of the link between academia and agroecological movements in Latin America. Over the years, ALC members (researchers, students, extensionists, and staff) have engaged with Participatory Action Research (PAR) approaches. Central tenets of PAR include:

  • Research questions and methodologies are defined collectively: we work with farmers and indigenous collectives (e. g. communities or cooperatives) from the very beginning of the research process to avoid extractive research and ensure the generation of information that is relevant for all parties. 
  • Interactive dialogue: we recognize the wisdom of farmers and indigenous communities, and PAR is an approach that supports weaving academic knowledge with these other knowledge types. For this reason, we work to create bridges among epistemologies. Steps toward this include building mutual confidence, participatory methodologies that draw out multiple perspectives, and openness to multiple ways to of collecting, organizing and analyzing information and exploring non-academic forms of communication. 
  • Action-oriented: the agreements on each step of the PAR process are a way to guarantee that the final results will have relevance in the territories in which the research has taken place. Beyond fulfilling academic requirements, PAR processes honor commitments made with the farmers and indigenous collaborators.
  • Collective power rather than concentrated power: PAR seeks to establish horizontal relationships rather than hierarchical relationships. To achieve this, we intentionally include moments of reflection and periodic points of more in-depth evaluation among all the collaborators. Building this into each PAR process builds habits so that all of us need to be ready and open to receiving feedback. Mutual respect and confidence in relationships are the fertile ground to make this possible. 
  • Establishing long-term relationships with coffee co-ops and families: to build mutual trust, we need to invest in long-term relationships and seek to support processes rather than pursuing finite projects. This is challenging considering that institutional academic processes and funding cycles typically have shorter timeframes, but we believe that there is clear value in deeper relationships that allow for pursing questions at greater depth and evaluate impact at longer scales.
  • Break the distance and objective institutional academic paradigm: in PAR we start from recognizing our own subjectivities -race, class, gender, background-, from them and the perspectives and identities of the farmers and indigenous  collectives we work with. In this sense we establish relationships of collective subjectivity (no-one is a study subject) – instead, we all represent our particular positionality.

The project “Assessing Diversification Strategies in Small Coffee Systems of Mesoamerica” in Mexico, offers a small, but very representative example of the above-mentioned dynamic. We started to work with a group of community facilitators made up of five youths who either were coffee producers or had family members who were co-op members. Researchers and facilitators designed the project together, applying and analyzing research methodologies and findings. Over the term of the project, facilitators have been directly involved in the data collection, analysis and presentation of the findings. That is why the project invited and funded the facilitators’ participation in the 1st Mexican agroecology conference, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, in 2019. They participated as presenters on a co-learning panel (see photo Facilitators in the Mexican Conference). Among the many knowledge-types and experiences shared at the conference – such as the spiritual and political dimensions of agroecology – facilitators showed particular interest in the different experiences of Seed Guardians in Mexico. In the following months, facilitators decided to reproduce what they learned in their communities and since then they have created three agroecological banks with an average of 20 species and more than 20 guardians across three communities.

Publications:

Integrating agroecology and participatory action research (PAR): Lessons from Central America | Méndez, V.E., M. Caswell, S.R. Gliessman & R. Cohen | 2017

Introduction: Agroecology as a transdisciplinary, participatory and action-oriented approach. pp. 1-22 in Agroecology: a transdisciplinary, participatory and action-oriented approach. Advances in Agroecology Series. CRC Press/Taylor and Francis. | Méndez, V.E., C.M. Bacon and R. Cohen | 2016

Participatory action-research and support for community development and conservation:  examples from shade coffee landscapes of El Salvador and Nicaragua | Bacon, C., V.E. Méndez and M. Brown | 2005

​Food Security and Sovereignty

Food security has been one of the most important themes throughout our research conducted with coffee farmers, and has often been studied in concert with broader livelihood issues.  According to one definition, food security “exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO, 1996). We have been adapting this definition to the context of Mesoamerica, where the question of food (in)security is particularly relevant.  Several ALC-led studies have shown that many smallholder coffee farmer households in Central American and Southern Mexican coffee lands experience seasonal food insecurity, or “thin months” (Caswell, et al., 2013; Morris et al., 2013; Bacon et al., 2014; Fernandez & Méndez, 2018; Anderzén et al., 2020). We have tracked shifts in these trends over time: a study conducted in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Mexico first in 2007 and then 2013 found that the duration of “thin months” had decreased over this time period (Caswell et al., 2013, Caswell et al., 2014). Yet, food insecurity remains a persistent challenge for smallholder farmers’ families, and can be exacerbated by different environmental, social or economic disturbances.   

In the process of understanding and co-creating actionable knowledge related to the thin months, we have started to consider not only food security, but also food sovereignty. This approach emphasizes “… the right of people to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems” (The Synthesis Report of Nyéléni, 2007). Food sovereignty is the most ambitious goal of a people´s agroecology, as it includes what is culturally relevant and prioritization of the local economy. The work of ALC around food sovereignty has focused on local food production including wild edible species, shorter producer-consumer value chains, traditional practices and its connections with conservation, and inclusion of youth and women. 

In Chiapas, Mexico, the ALC members have been working with the cooperative Campesinos Ecológicos de la Sierra Madre de Chiapas (CESMACH) for more than 10 years. Our ongoing research has reinforced the multifunctional benefits of shade-coffee agroecosystems. includes both production of the cash crop (coffee), but also significant production of food staples (corn and beans are inter-cropped when the coffee trees are young) and that the multi-story production systems also provide access to many fruits and wild edible species. The coffee plots are thus a cornerstone of the community’s food sovereignty. After many years of working  with CESMACH families and the cooperative staff, we learned that the perception of that this locally produced and foraged food as “poor people’s food” is starting to change. The traditional diets and seeds are slowly returning to their position in the center of communities’ food systems. Also, valuing local food sources over external food supply is a way to decrease dependency, build community resilience, and even, support efforts for women and youth empowerment.

Countries: El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica

Publications:

Are Sustainable Coffee Certifications Enough to Secure Farmer Livelihoods? The Millenium Development Goals and Nicaragua’s Fair Trade Cooperatives | Christopher M. Bacon, V. Ernesto Méndez, María Eugenia Flores Gómez, Douglas Stuart & Sandro Raúl Díaz Flores | 2008

‘Los meses flacos’: seasonal food insecurity in a Salvadoran organic coffee cooperative | Katlyn S. Morris, V. Ernesto Mendez, and Meryl B. Olson | 2013

Revisiting the “thin months”- a follow-up study on livelihoods of Mesoamerican coffee farmers | Caswell M., Méndez V.E., Baca M., Läderach P., Liebig T., Castro-Tanzi S., Fernández M. | 2014

Subsistence under the canopy: Agrobiodiversity’s contributions to food and nutrition security amongst coffee communities in Chiapas, Mexico | Fernandez, M. & V. Ernesto Méndez | 2018

Sustainable livelihoods

Many smallholder coffee farmers, the key actors of the global coffee industry, rely on coffee farming for their livelihoods. However, coffee-dependent livelihoods are vulnerable to a range of disturbances, including climate change and volatile coffee markets. Changing climate increases pest pressures, causes extreme weather events and threatens to diminish land areas suitable for growing Arabica coffee. The uncertainty and inherent structural injustices in the global coffee markets often leave farmers with low or nonexistent profits.

Our research has analyzed strengths and challenges of smallholder coffee farmer livelihoods from different angles, and, in collaboration with a variety of research partners and allies, sought to identify pathways towards more sustainable livelihoods. As an example, a study conducted with Lutheran World Relief assessed factors that can strengthen – or weaken – resilience in smallholder coffee communities of Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti (Caswell et al., 2016). A recent PAR project, conducted with two coffee cooperatives in Mexico and Nicaragua, has used a mixed methods approach to studying various aspects of agricultural diversification in coffee farms, and the possibilities of this agroecological strategy to increase farmer households’ livelihood and security. Our findings, generated through a process of knowledge co-creation and aiming at actionable outcomes, contribute to a growing body of evidence showing that diversified agroecological coffee systems produce multiple benefits for people and nature. When farmers produce a variety of crops, livestock, and other valuab­­le farm products such as honey, they can develop multiple streams of income and become more economically secure. In addition, diversification can increase food security, decrease emigration, create opportunities for youth and women, and strengthen resilience to environmental, social and economic shocks and stressors. However, our research also shows that diversification often entails trade-offs, and there can be access barriers to resources (e.g., land and labor) that are important for on-farm diversification (Anderzén et al., 2020). 

Countries: Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti.

Publications:

Effects of on-farm diversification strategies on smallholder coffee farmer food security and income sufficiency in Chiapas, Mexico | Anderzén, J., A. Guzmán Luna, D. V. Luna-González, S. C. Merrill, M. Caswell, V. E. Méndez, R. Hernández Jonapá & M. Mier-y-Terán | 2020

Confronting the coffee crisis: Fair Trade, sustainable livelihoods and ecosystems in Mexico and Central America | Bacon C.M., Méndez V.E., Gliessman S.R., Goodman D., Fox J.A. (Eds.) | 2008

 Assessing resilience in coffee-dependent communities of Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti | Caswell, M., V.E. Méndez, J. Hayden, J. Anderzén, A. Cruz, P. Merritt, V. Izzo, S. Castro & M. Fernandez | 2016

Assessing resilience in coffee-dependent communities of Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti | Caswell, M., V.E. Méndez, J. Hayden, J. Anderzén, P. Merritt, A. Cruz, V. Izzo, S. Castro, J. Wiegel, A. Ospina & M. Fernandez | 2016

 Análisis de la resiliencia en las comunidades dependientes del café en Honduras, Nicaragua y Haití | Caswell, M., V.E. Méndez, J. Hayden, J. Anderzén, P. Merritt, A. Cruz, V. Izzo, S. Castro, J. Wiegel, A. Ospina & M. Fernandez | 2016

Use and perceptions of alternative economic activities among smallholder coffee farmers in Huehuetenango and El Quiché departments in Guatemala | Gerlicz, A., V.E. Méndez, D. Conner, D. Baker and D. Christel | 2018

Livelihood and environmental trade-offs of climate mitigation in smallholder coffee agroforestry systems pp. 370-381. In: Climate change mitigation and agriculture | Méndez V.E., Castro-Tanzi S., Goodall K., Morris K.S., Bacon C.M., Läderach P., Morris W.B., Georgeoglou-Laxalde M.U. | 2012

Agroecology and climate change resilience in smallholder coffee agroecosystems of Central America | Morris K.S., Méndez V.E., Van Zonneveld  M., Gerlicz A., Caswell M. | 2016

Agrobiodiversity, conservation and ecosystem services

The ALC research team has carried out inter- and transdisciplinary research integrating agroecology, ecology, and political ecology to better understand the coffee landscape and associated socio-ecological relationships. 

Coffee landscapes are mosaics of different land uses, which contain both natural ecosystems and agroecosystems. Those multifunctional landscapes generate many ecosystem services (or ecosystem functions) that are important for farmers´ livelihoods and wellbeing. Since 1999, ALC research has had a perspective of conservation of nature and a relationship with agrobiodiversity and ecosystem services. E. Méndez and colleagues carried out extensive work in Nicaragua and El Salvador, documenting the rich agrobiodiversity of shade trees in the coffee plots. The results have been published in several papers in Spanish and English. These studies track the agrobiodiversity of shade trees in the coffee plots of more than 100 species per country.

This  research marked the beginning of a series of studies  showing how agrobiodiversity in the coffee plots is key for farmers´ livelihoods and conservation. ALC´s research has highlighted the role of the smallholders’ practices to conserve biodiversity and sequester carbon by maintaining structural complexity, high canopy diversity, minimal external inputs in coffee production, milpa (traditional systems to grow corn, beans, and squash), home gardens, and beekeeping. In 2010 ALC members and colleagues reviewed ten years of research in Central America, showing that small farms contained higher levels of agrobiodiversity than larger, collectively managed cooperatives. Another project carried out between 2012-2013 in Chiapas, Mexico analyzed the relationship between agrobiodiversity and food security and concluded that strategies that strengthen and diversify local food systems are essential to improving food and nutrition security. On the other hand, from a climate change mitigation perspective, a transversal nine-year study was carried out in El Salvador. That study showed a potential for carbon sequestration and long-term biodiversity conservation in smallholder coffee agroforestry systems and illustrated the opportunity for synergies between biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation.

A case study from the Dominican Republic focused on the delivery of clean water and carbon sequestration as ecosystem services. The findings from this study suggest that small farms, as part of a diversified livelihood strategy, maintain a diverse tree canopy which supports those key ecosystem services. However, high poverty levels and strong economic pressures to convert to high-input, monoculture crops are threatening native tree species biodiversity. 

The link between livelihoods and food security/sovereignty with agrobiodiversity, conservation, and ecosystem services continue to be part of ALC research.

Countries: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica

Publications:

Organización comunitaria, agroforestería y conservación de la biodiversidad en pequeñas fincas cafetaleras y cooperativas del occidente de El Salvador | Méndez V.E. | 2001 

Traditional shade, rural livelihoods, and conservation in small coffee farms and cooperatives of western El Salvador | Méndez V.E. | 2004

Medios de vida y conservación de la biodiversidad arbórea: las experiencias de las cooperativas cafetaleras en El Salvador y Nicaragua | Méndez V.E., Bacon C. | 2005

Ecosystem Services Conservation and Farmer Livelihoods in a Shade Coffee Landscape of Western El Salvador. in: Electronic Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on “Multi-Strata Agroforestry Systems with Perennial Crops: Making ecosystem services count for farmers, consumers and the environment.” | Méndez V.E., Taylor Lovell S. | 2007

Farmers’ livelihoods and biodiversity conservation in a coffee landscape of El Salvador. pp. 207-236. In: Confronting the coffee crisis: Fair Trade, sustainable livelihoods and ecosystems in Mexico and Central America | Méndez V.E. | 2008

Agrobiodiversity and shade coffee smallholder livelihoods: A review and synthesis of ten years of research in Central America | Méndez V.E., Bacon C.M., Olson M., Morris K.S., Shattuck A.K. | 2010

Conservación de agrobiodiversidad y medios  de vida en cooperativas de café bajo sombra en Centroamérica | Méndez V.E., Bacon C.M., Olson M., Morris K.S., Shattuck A.K. | 2013

Shade tree diversity, carbon sequestration, and epiphyte presence in coffee agroecosystems: A decade of smallholder management in San Ramón, Nicaragua | Goodall K.E., Bacon C.M., Mendez V.E. | 2015

Supporting Rural Livelihoods and Ecosystem Services Conservation in the Pico Duarte Coffee Region of the Dominican Republic | Gross L.H., Erickson J.D., Méndez V.E. | 2014

Interactions between carbon sequestration and shade tree species diversity in a smallholder coffee cooperative of El Salvador | Richards M.B., Méndez V.E. | 2014

Subsistence under the canopy: Agrobiodiversity’s contributions to food and nutrition security amongst coffee communities in Chiapas, Mexico | Fernandez, M., and V. E. Méndez | 2018

Contributing to change in the coffee sector

Smallholder coffee farmers are indispensable in the world of coffee – in particular, the rapidly growing specialty coffee industry. Yet, the economic and ecological contributions of smallholder producers are not adequately compensated, and farmers and their organizations largely lack negotiating and decision-making power in the coffee sector. Studies conducted by the ALC members and their non-academic and academic research partners have explored “lock-ins” and critical issues in the coffee industry that have implications on the lives and livelihoods of smallholder producers. An edited book published in the aftermath of the coffee price crisis in the early 2000s shows some of the devastating impacts of the crises in coffee communities in Mexico and Central America (Bacon et al., 2008). Not even sustainability certifications, such as Fair Trade, protect smallholder coffee farmers from some of the negative externalities of the global coffee system (Bacon et al., 2008, Méndez et al., 2010). 

Various actors involved in the coffee value chain have a role to play in making the coffee industry more equitable, just and sustainable. Over the years, the ALC has been building partnerships with a variety of actors connected to the coffee sector in order to enhance the effectiveness and ‘actionability’ of its research. In addition to farmer organizations, the partners include coffee companies (e.g., Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (now Keurig/Dr. Pepper) and Equal Exchange, among others), NGOs working with coffee farmers (e.g., Lutheran World Relief, Heifer International, and Food 4 Farmers), and research institutes (e.g., CIAT, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur). Moreover, the members of the ALC are constantly seeking opportunities to share their research and interact with key stakeholders in the coffee industry. Research/policy briefs (e.g., ALC and the Gund Institute for Environment, 2020; Caswell et al., 2016) and presentations at the Specialty Coffee Association’s (SCA) Expo are examples of this approach.  

Publications:

The Stories Behind the Certification: Perspectives from Fair Trade Coffee Producers. Policy Brief #2. | Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC), University of Vermont, Caswell, M., and J. Anderzén | 2018 (available in English and Spanish)

Agroecology and livelihoods in global coffee systems. Diverse, multifunctional farms key to sustainability. | Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative & the Gund Institute for Environment | 2020

Confronting the coffee crisis: Fair Trade, sustainable livelihoods and ecosystems in Mexico and Central America | Bacon C.M., Méndez V.E., Gliessman S.R., Goodman D., Fox J.A. (Eds.) | 2008

Will “we” achieve the millenium development goals with small-scale coffee growers and their cooperatives? a case study evaluating Fair Trade and organic coffee networks in northern Nicaragua | Bacon C.M., Méndez V.E., Flores M.E., Brown M. | 2008

Food security and smallholder coffee production: current issues and future directions | Caswell M., Méndez V.E., Bacon C.M. | 2012

Assessing resilience in coffee-dependent communities of Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti | Caswell M., Méndez V.E., Hayden J., Anderzén J., Merritt P., Cruz A., Izzo V., Castro S., Wiegel, J., Ospina, A., and Fernandez M. | 2016

Effects of Fair Trade and organic certifications on small-scale coffee farmer households in Central America and Mexico | Méndez V.E., Bacon C., Olson M., Petchers S., Herrador D., Carranza C., Trujillo L., Guadarrama-Zugasti C., Cordón A., Mendoza A. | 2010

Sustainable coffee from the bottom-up: impacts of certification initiatives on small-scale farmer and estate worker households and communities in Central America and Mexico | Méndez V.E., Bacon C., Petchers S., Herrador D., Carranza C., Trujillo L., Guadarrama-Zugasti C., Cordón A., Mendoza A. | 2006

Measuring impact at origin. pp. 231-248 In: Specialty coffee: managing quality | Olson M.B., Peyser R., Méndez V.E., Fujisaka S., Oberthür T., Seville D., Georgeoglou-Laxalde M.U. | 2012

Projects & Publications

Agrobiodiversity, Conservation, and Food security among small-scale coffee farmers in El Salvador | 2000-2010

Countries: El Salvador, Nicaragua

Themes: Agrobiodiversity; shade coffee management

Funders: University of Vermont; Annie’s Homegrown Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship; S.V. Ciriacy-Wintrup Postdoctoral Fellowship

Publication(s): Ernesto Méndez , Christopher M. Bacon , Meryl Olson , Katlyn S. Morris & Annie Shattuck (2010) Agrobiodiversity and Shade Coffee Smallholder Livelihoods: A Review and Synthesis of Ten Years of Research in Central America, The Professional Geographer, 62:3, 357-376 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00330124.2010.483638 

Agrobiodiversity and food security in coffee growing communities of Nicaragua | 2010-2013

Countries: Nicaragua

Themes: Smallholder coffee growers, agrobiodiversity and effects of food security, thin months

Partners: CECOCAFEN (coffee cooperative in Matagalpa, Nicaragua)

Funders: Green Mountain Coffee Roasters

Agroecology and ecosystem services in a coffee landscape of Costa Rica | 2010-2014

Countries: Costa Rica, Los Santos Region

Themes: Sustainable coffee farming, biodiversity conservation

Partners: CoopeTarrazú R.L.; Earthwatch

Funders: Starbuck Coffee Company

Publication(s): Castro-Tanzi, S., Dietsch, T., Ureña, N., Vindas, L., Chandler, M. 2012. Analysis of management and site factors to improve the sustainability of smallholder coffee production in Tarrazú, Costa Rica. Ag, Eco & Enviro 155. 172-182.

Chandler, M., Bebber, D.P., Castro, S., Lowman, M.D., Muoria, P., Oguge, N., Rubenstein, D. 2012. International citizen science: making the local global. Frontiers in Ecology. 10(6). 328-331.

Castro-Tanzi, S., Flores, M., Wanner, N., Dietsch, T.V., Banks, J., Ureña-Retana, N., Chandler, M. 2014. Evaluation of a non-destructive sampling method and a statistical model for predicting fruit load on individual coffee (Coffea arabica) trees. Scientia Horticulturae. 167. 117-126.

Castro-Tanzi, S. 2017.El calcio es un nutriente limitante en cafetales bajo manejo intensivo de fertilizantes en Ultisoles. Agronomía Costarricense. 41(1). 105-119.

Granados-Montero, M., Avelino, J., Arauz-Cavallini, F., Castro-Tanzi, S., Ureña, N. 2020. Hojarasca e inóculo de Mycena citricolor sobre la epidemia de ojo de gallo. Agron. Mesoam. 31 (1). 77-94.

Food security, agricultural management practices, and conservation in a Salvadoran organic coffee cooperative | 2010-2012

Countries: El Salvador

Themes: food security; livelihoods; subsistence agriculture; organic and conventional management of milpa

Partners: ACOES Coffee Cooperative

Publication(s): Katlyn S. Morris , V. Ernesto Mendez & Meryl B. Olson (2013): ‘Los meses flacos’: seasonal food insecurity in a Salvadoran organic coffee cooperative, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 40:2, 457-480 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03066150.2013.777708

Katlyn S. Morris , V. Ernesto Mendez , Sarah Taylor Lovell & Meryl Olson (2013) Conventional Food Plot Management in an Organic Coffee Cooperative: Explaining the Paradox, Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 37:7, 762-787 http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wjsa21

Conservation, Agroecology and Livelihoods: Shade trees, Birds, and Farmer Decisions in Smallholder Coffee Cooperatives of Northern Nicaragua | 2011-2013

Countries: Nicaragua

Themes: Biodiversity conservation, farmer decision making, smallholder cooperatives, innovation in smallholder systems, carbon sequestration | 2011-2013

Partners: Santa Clara University (Chris Bacon), UCA-San Ramón

Funders: Community Agroecology Network

Publication(s): Goodall, K. E., Bacon, C. M., & Mendez, V. E. (2015). Shade tree diversity, carbon sequestration, and epiphyte presence in coffee agroecosystems: A decade of smallholder management in San Ramón, Nicaragua. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 199, 200-206.

Assessing Resilience in Coffee Dependent Communities | 2015-2016

Countries: Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti

Themes: Resilience

Partners: Lutheran World Relief (LWR), Cafenica

Funders: Lutheran World Relief (LWR)

Publication(s): Caswell, M., V.E. Méndez, J. Hayden, J. Anderzén, A. Cruz, P. Merritt, V. Izzo, S. Castro and M. Fernandez. 2016.  Assessing resilience in coffee-dependent communities of Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti. Research Report. Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ARLG), University of Vermont. Burlington, VT, U.S.A.

Caswell, M., V.E. Méndez, J. Hayden, J. Anderzén, P. Merritt, A. Cruz, V. Izzo, S. Castro, J. Wiegel, A. Ospina and M. Fernandez. 2016. Assessing resilience in coffee-dependent communities of Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti. ARLG/LWR Research Brief #5. Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ARLG), University of Vermont & Lutheran World Relief (LWR).

Caswell, M., V.E. Méndez, J. Hayden, J. Anderzén, P. Merritt, A. Cruz, V. Izzo, S. Castro, J. Wiegel, A. Ospina and M. Fernandez. 2016.  Análisis de la resiliencia en las comunidades dependientes del café en Honduras, Nicaragua y Haití. Informe de Investigación ARLG/LWR #5. Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ARLG), University of Vermont & Lutheran World Relief (LWR).

Participatory Planning and Investment in Climate Change Adapation to Reduce Risks of Small-scale Producers in Central America (“CaféAdapt”) | 2015

Countries: Guatemala

Themes: Climate change adaptation; livelihood diversification

Partners: UVM ALC; Corporación Educativa para el Desarrollo Costarricense (CEDECCO); Hivos, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF); Bioversity International; Asociación Barillense de Agricultores (ASOBAGRI; Guatemala); PRODECOOP (Nicaragua)

Funders: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)

Publication(s): Christel, D., Gerlicz, A., Méndez, V.E., & van Zonneveld, M. (2016). This is how coffee farmers in the highlands of Guatemala are adapting to climate change [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://ccafs.cgiar.org/blog/how-coffee-farmers-highlands-guatemala-are-adapting-climate-change#.Vzs5wfkwjbh

Morris, K.S., V.E. Méndez, M. Van Zonneveld , A. Gerlicz and M. Caswell. (2016). Agroecology and climate change resilience in smallholder coffee agroecosystems of Central America. ARLG Research Brief #4. Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ARLG). Burlington, VT.

Gerlicz, A., Méndez, V.E., Conner, D., Baker, D., & Christel, D. (2018). Use and perceptions of alternative economic activities among smallholder coffee farmers in Huehuetenango and el Quiché Departments in Guatemala. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 43 (3), pp. 310-328. doi:10.1080/21683565.2018.1532480

Gerlicz, A. (2016). Diversification Strategies and Contributions of Coffee Income to Poverty Alleviation Among Smallholders in Northern Huehuetenango and El Quiché Departments in Guatemala (Masters thesis). University of Vermont. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.uvm.edu/graddis/605/.

Assessing Diversification Strategies in Small Coffee Systems of Mesoamerica | 2017-ongoing

Countries: Mexico, Nicaragua

Themes: Diversification in coffee systems, food sovereignty

Partners: USA: Santa Clara University, Community Agroecology Network. Nicaragua: Universidad Nacional Agraria and PRODECOOP. Mexico: El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, and Campesinos Ecológicos de la Sierra Madre de Chiapas

Funders: Agropolis Fondation, Fondazione Cariplo, Fundation Daniel & Nina Carasso

Publication(s): Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative & the Gund Institute for Environment (2020). Agroecology and livelihoods in global coffee systems. Diverse, multifunctional farms key to sustainability. Research brief, December 2020.

Anderzén, J., A. Guzmán Luna, D. V. Luna-González, S. C. Merrill, M. Caswell, V. E. Méndez, R. Hernández Jonapá & M. Mier-y-Terán. 2020. Effects of on-farm diversification strategies on smallholder coffee farmer food security and income sufficiency in Chiapas, Mexico. Journal of Rural Studies 77, 33-46. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2020.04.001.

The State of the Smallholder Farmer in Central America: Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Rural Development | 2020-ongoing

Countries: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua

Themes: Data systematization and analysis

Partners: Lutheran World Relief, Heifer International, Statistics for Sustainable Development

Funders: Lutheran World Relief, Heifer International

Participatory research to support the viability of beekeeping and improve pollinator health in the buffer zone of El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve in Southern Mexico | 2021

Countries: Mexico

Themes: Ecological, economic, and social importance of bees for coffee farmers

Partners: El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR), Campesinos Ecológicos de Sierra Madre de Chiapas (CESMACH).

Funders: Gund Institute for Environment

Link: https://www.uvm.edu/gund/news/buzz-gund-institute-launches-four-apis-fund-projects

PUBLICATIONS 

Agroecology and livelihoods in global coffee systems. Diverse, multifunctional farms key to sustainability. 2020. Research Brief. Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative & the Gund Institute for Environment, University of Vermont. (Español)

Anderzén, J., A. Guzmán Luna, D. V. Luna-González, S. C. Merrill, M. Caswell, V. E. Méndez, R. Hernández Jonapá & M. Mier-y-Terán. 2020. Effects of on-farm diversification strategies on smallholder coffee farmer food security and income sufficiency in Chiapas, Mexico. Journal or Rural Studies 77, 33-46. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2020.04.001

Bacon, C., V.E. Méndez and M. Brown (2005) Participatory action-research and support for community development and conservation:  examples from shade coffee landscapes of El Salvador and Nicaragua.  Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), University of California. Santa Cruz, CA, U.S.A. Available on-line: http://repositories.cdlib.org/casfs/rb/brief_no6/

Bacon C.M., Méndez V.E., Flores M.E., Brown M. (2008) Will “we” achieve the millenium development goals with small-scale coffee growers and their cooperatives? a case study evaluating Fair Trade and organic coffee networks in northern Nicaragua. Center Research Brief # 12. Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. University of California: Santa Cruz, CA, USA.

Bacon C.M., Méndez V.E., Gliessman S.R., Goodman D., Fox J.A. (Eds.). (2008) Confronting the coffee crisis: Fair Trade, sustainable livelihoods and ecosystems in Mexico and Central America, MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, USA.

Castro-Tanzi, S., Dietsch, T., Ureña, N., Vindas, L., Chandler, M. 2012. Analysis of management and site factors to improve the sustainability of smallholder coffee production in Tarrazú, Costa Rica. Ag, Eco & Enviro 155. 172-182.

Castro-Tanzi, S., Flores, M., Wanner, N., Dietsch, T.V., Banks, J., Ureña-Retana, N., Chandler, M. 2014. Evaluation of a non-destructive sampling method and a statistical model for predicting fruit load on individual coffee (Coffea arabica) trees. Scientia Horticulturae. 167. 117-126.

Castro-Tanzi, S. 2017.El calcio es un nutriente limitante en cafetales bajo manejo intensivo de fertilizantes en Ultisoles. Agronomía Costarricense. 41(1). 105-119.

Caswell, M., and J. Anderzén. 2018. The Stories Behind the Certification: Perspectives from Fair Trade Coffee Producers. Policy Brief #2. Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC), University of Vermont. (Document includes English and Spanish version)

Caswell, M., V.E. Méndez, J. Hayden, J. Anderzén, P. Merritt, A. Cruz, V. Izzo, S. Castro, J. Wiegel, A. Ospina & M. Fernandez. 2016.  Análisis de la resiliencia en las comunidades dependientes del café en Honduras, Nicaragua y Haití. Informe de Investigación ARLG/LWR #5. Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ARLG), University of Vermont & Lutheran World Relief (LWR).

Caswell, M., V.E. Méndez, J. Hayden, J. Anderzén, P. Merritt, A. Cruz, V. Izzo, S. Castro, J. Wiegel, A. Ospina & M. Fernandez. 2016. Assessing resilience in coffee-dependent communities of Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti. ARLG/LWR Research Brief #5. Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ARLG), University of Vermont & Lutheran World Relief (LWR). 

Caswell M., Méndez V.E., Baca M., Läderach P., Liebig T., Castro-Tanzi S., Fernández M. (2014) Revisiting the “thin months”- a follow-up study on livelihoods of Mesoamerican coffee farmers, Centro Internacional

Caswell M., Méndez V.E., Bacon C.M. (2012) Food security and smallholder coffee production: current issues and future directions, Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ARLG), University of Vermont: Burlington, VT.

Caswell M., Méndez V.E., Hayden J., Anderzén J., Merritt P., Cruz A., Izzo V., Castro S., Wiegel, J., Ospina, A., and Fernandez M. (2016) Assessing resilience in coffee-dependent communities of Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti. ARLG/LWR Research Brief #5. Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ARLG), University of Vermont & Lutheran World Relief (LWR).

Chandler, M., Bebber, D.P., Castro, S., Lowman, M.D., Muoria, P., Oguge, N., Rubenstein, D. 2012. International citizen science: making the local global. Frontiers in Ecology. 10(6). 328-331.

Christopher M. Bacon, V. Ernesto Méndez, María Eugenia Flores Gómez, Douglas Stuart & Sandro Raúl Díaz Flores (2008) Are Sustainable Coffee Certifications Enough to Secure Farmer Livelihoods? The Millenium Development Goals and Nicaragua’s Fair Trade Cooperatives, Globalizations, 5:2, 259-274, DOI:10.1080/14747730802057688

Fernandez, M. & V. Ernesto Méndez (2018): Subsistence under the canopy: Agrobiodiversity’s contributions to food and nutrition security amongst coffee communities in Chiapas, Mexico, Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems 43(5): 579-601.

Gerlicz, A., V.E. Méndez, D. Conner, D. Baker and D. Christel. (2018) Use and perceptions of alternative economic activities among smallholder coffee farmers in Huehuetenango and El Quiché departments in Guatemala. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. DOI: 10.1080/21683565.2018.1532480

Goodall K.E., Bacon C.M., Mendez V.E. (2015) Shade tree diversity, carbon sequestration, and epiphyte presence in coffee agroecosystems: A decade of smallholder management in San Ramón, Nicaragua. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 199:200-206. 

Granados-Montero, M., Avelino, J., Arauz-Cavallini, F., Castro-Tanzi, S., Ureña, N. 2020. Hojarasca e inóculo de Mycena citricolor sobre la epidemia de ojo de gallo. Agron. Mesoam. 31 (1). 77-94.

Gross L.H., Erickson J.D., Méndez V.E. (2014) Supporting Rural Livelihoods and Ecosystem Services Conservation in the Pico Duarte Coffee Region of the Dominican Republic. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems 38:1078-1107. 

Méndez, V, E. & Hernández Jonapá, R. (2019). Agrobiodiversidad y agroecología de la mano hacia sistemas agroalimentarios más ecológicos y justos. LEISA 35 (2): 16-17

Méndez, V.E., C.M. Bacon and R. Cohen (2016). Introduction: Agroecology as a transdisciplinary, participatory and action-oriented approach. pp. 1-22. In V.E. Méndez, C.M. Bacon, R. Cohen & S.R. Gliessman (eds) Agroecology: a transdisciplinary, participatory and action-oriented approach. Advances in Agroecology Series. CRC Press/Taylor and Francis..

Méndez, V.E., M. Caswell, S.R. Gliessman & R. Cohen (2017) Integrating agroecology and participatory action research (PAR): Lessons from Central America. Sustainability 9(5): 705.

Méndez V.E., Bacon C., Olson M., Petchers S., Herrador D., Carranza C., Trujillo L., Guadarrama-Zugasti C., Cordón A., Mendoza A. (2010) Effects of Fair Trade and organic certifications on small-scale coffee farmer households in Central America and Mexico. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 25:236-251.

Méndez V.E., Bacon C., Petchers S., Herrador D., Carranza C., Trujillo L., Guadarrama-Zugasti C., Cordón A., Mendoza A. (2006) Sustainable coffee from the bottom-up: impacts of certification initiatives on small-scale farmer and estate worker households and communities in Central America and Mexico, Oxfam America: Boston, MA, U.S.A.

Méndez V.E., Bacon C. (2005) Medios de vida y conservación de la biodiversidad arbórea: las experiencias de las cooperativas cafetaleras en El Salvador y Nicaragua. LEISA Revista de Agroecología 20:27-30.

Méndez V.E., Bacon C.M., Olson M., Morris K.S., Shattuck A.K. (2010) Agrobiodiversity and shade coffee smallholder livelihoods: A review and synthesis of ten years of research in Central America. Professional Geographer 62:357-376.

Méndez V.E., Bacon C.M., Olson M., Morris K.S., Shattuck A.K. (2013) Conservación de agrobiodiversidad y medios  de vida en cooperativas de café bajo sombra en Centroamérica. Ecosistemas (Spain) 22:16-24.

Méndez V.E., Castro-Tanzi S., Goodall K., Morris K.S., Bacon C.M., Läderach P., Morris W.B., Georgeoglou-Laxalde M.U. (2012) Livelihood and environmental trade-offs of climate mitigation in smallholder coffee agroforestry systems pp. 370-381. In: E. K. Wollenberg, et al. (Eds.), Climate change mitigation and agriculture, Earthscan: London.

Méndez V.E., Taylor Lovell S. (2007) Ecosystem Services Conservation and Farmer Livelihoods in a Shade Coffee Landscape of Western El Salvador. in: P. Vaast, et al. (Eds.), Electronic Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on “Multi-Strata Agroforestry Systems with Perennial Crops: Making ecosystem services count for farmers, consumers and the environment.”, CATIE/IUFRO: CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica.

Méndez V.E. (2001) Organización comunitaria, agroforestería y conservación de la biodiversidad en pequeñas fincas cafetaleras y cooperativas del occidente de El Salvador, Memorias del Taller Nacional de Agroforestería Comunitaria, ACAFOC/Red Agroforestal de El Salvador: San Salvador, El Salvador.

Méndez V.E. (2004) Traditional shade, rural livelihoods, and conservation in small coffee farms and cooperatives of western El Salvador, Department of Environmental Studies, University of California: Santa Cruz, CA. U.S.A.

Méndez V.E. (2008) Farmers’ livelihoods and biodiversity conservation in a coffee landscape of El Salvador. pp. 207-236. In: C. Bacon, et al. (Eds.), Confronting the coffee crisis: Fair Trade, sustainable livelihoods and ecosystems in Mexico and Central America: Cambridge, MA, U.S.A.

Morris K.S., Méndez V.E., Van Zonneveld  M., Gerlicz A., Caswell M. (2016) Agroecology and climate change resilience in smallholder coffee agroecosystems of Central America, Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ARLG): Burlington, Vermont, U.S.A.

Morris K.S., V. Ernesto Mendez, and Meryl B. Olson. (2013). ‘Los meses flacos’: seasonal food insecurity in a Salvadoran organic coffee cooperative. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 2013 40 (2): 423-446

Olson M.B., Peyser R., Méndez V.E., Fujisaka S., Oberthür T., Seville D., Georgeoglou-Laxalde M.U. (2012) Measuring impact at origin. pp. 231-248 In: T. Oberthür, et al. (Eds.), Specialty coffee: managing quality. International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI): Northcross, Georgia.

Richards M.B., Méndez V.E. (2014) Interactions between carbon sequestration and shade tree species diversity in a smallholder coffee cooperative of El Salvador. Conservation Biology 28:489-497.