Coffee Production and Communal Forests in Honduras: Adaptation and Resilience in a Context of Change

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"Export coffee production has been associated with deforestation, increasing social heterogeneity and social tensions. This study examines how export coffee production has posed challenges to a traditional common property regime in western Honduras, and the ways that the indigenous Lenca people are adapting to the new opportunities presented by expanding market linkages. Despite the spread of coffee plantations into mature pine-oak forests, the community has retained common property woodlots and grazing areas, and created a protected watershed in a cloud forest. The research draws on fieldwork conducted over a 14 year period. It encompasses a period of rapid expansion in coffee production (1994-1999), the coffee crisis of 1999-2003, and subsequent adjustments to changing market and climatic contexts. The data include household surveys, interviews, and satellite image analyses. The analyses show that forest cover expanded between 1987 and 2000, and protections for communal forests increased even as privatization proceeded in areas suitable for coffee production. The discussion considers the ways in which recent experiences indicate a level of resilience among households and organized groups, and how communal governance of forests and natural resources appear to contribute to the people's adaptive capacity. It examines the contradictory and complex interrelationships that characterize current processes of change. On the one hand, coffee expansion has been associated with increases in social heterogeneity and inequitable access to land, which pose serious challenges to traditional, largely egalitarian social relationships. On the other hand, people's decisions reveal concern for forest conservation and participation in joint management of natural resources."



forests, coffee, markets, resilience, IASC