AOC: Market Integration and Climate as Drivers of Change in the Mexican Maize System: Mulit-Scale Interactions in Livelihood

Project: Research project

Project Details


The sustainability and productive capacity of the world's food systems is high in the agenda of global environmental change research and policy, particularly in light of the United Nation's Millennium Development Goal of halving world hunger by 2015 (Rosegrant and Cline 2007). Building plausible scenarios of the future of food security is hampered by inadequate understanding of the drivers and outcomes of past social-ecological dynamics, and their implications for continuing trajectories for social, environmental and technological development (Berkhout and Hertin 2000; Parry et al. 2007: 154). The influence of social-ecological drivers and the patterns of resulting outcomes also vary spatially, requiring analyses that not only address the "how and why" of change but also the "when and where" at distinct spatial scales (Rindfuss et al. 2004: 13981). One of the primary challenges in evaluating the implications of global environmental change for food systems is the high uncertainty associated with the interaction of climate variability, markets, public policy, cultural priorities and social values in production and consumption choices. The uncertainties are compounded in countries where a substantial part of the population both produce for subsistence as well as participate as consumers in food markets. Will global environmental change be communicated to producers directly, through impacts on crop productivity, or via shocks in prices and market volatility? How do the drivers and outcomes of global environmental and economic change differ according to the physical and social geography of production? Can shifts in the geographic location of production enhance a country's robustness to global change, and, if so, does enhanced robustness mask increased vulnerabilities at finer scales of analysis? These questions are now central to global debates on world food security, and are particularly relevant to countries in the developing world. In these countries, the political and economic context of decision-making is often volatile and institutions are rapidly changing accommodate the integration of agricultural markets, changing consumer tastes and growing inequities between rural and urban populations (Ericksen 2007, Eakin 2005). Increased interdependence brought about not only by bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, but also by the consolidation of agricultural markets and geographic specialization, introduces new questions about the vulnerability of populations to price and other shocks distributed through the global marketplace (Nepstad, Stickler et al. 2006; Eakin, Tucker et al. 2006). Globalization has also introduced new constraints on domestic agricultural policy and rural development strategies that can effect how a country responds to new environmental challenges (Eakin and Lemos 2006). These processes of change mean that farm systems of diverse scales and structures are less and less determined by the immediate geography of production, but rather networked into a web of complex economic, social, and political relationships that cross administrative boundaries and scales (Adger, Eakin, Winkels forthcoming). In these contexts, scenarios built on extrapolations of historical patterns of resource use and policy may be of limited use for decision-making and standard assumptions of price sensitivities, land uses and the function of markets may not always hold. Defining what might be within a suite of plausible futures requires a baseline scenario that captures the factors that are most significant in shaping decisions at different levels of governance, and which highlights the current, changing and interacting sensitivities of the system to diverse stressors. This project will document spatial and temporal patterns of economic and climatic risk at diverse scales through an analysis of the drivers and evolving social outcomes one of the world's most important food systems: the Mexica
Effective start/end date10/1/088/30/12


  • NSF-ENG: Division of Biological & Critical Systems (BCS): $153,684.00

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