CR prepress abstract  -  doi: 10.3354/cr01466

Perceptions of climate trends among Mexican maize farmers

Natalia Rodriguez*, Hallie Eakin, Candida de Freitas Dewes


ABSTRACT: Everywhere in the world, farmers are among the groups most vulnerable to the effects of climate variability and change. Accurate perceptions of climate variability and change can help farmers take effective measures to protect their livelihoods against threats from local environmental change; conversely, understanding how farmers perceive threats from climate change (or not) can help policy-makers anticipate the diversity of strategies and behaviors that will ultimately shape the vulnerability of agriculture in the coming decades. Nevertheless, perceptions of climatic variability and change are influenced by far more than direct experience with and observations of weather and climate; thus, farmers’ perceptions may not always accurately reflect observed climatic trends. We analyzed Mexican maize farmers’ perceptions of change in drought frequency as a proxy for their perceptions of climate variability and change. Through statistical analyses of survey data collected from 1092 maize-producing households in Sinaloa, Chiapas, and the state of Mexico, we identified the factors that are associated with the perception of change in drought frequency. Results showed that indigenous identity and receipt of credits or loans were the variables that most strongly influenced, either positively or negatively, perceptions of change in drought frequency. The results suggest that climate adaptation policy will need to go beyond focusing on agronomic options to consider the social and institutional contexts of farmers’ decision-making as important influences on their risk perception and adaptation strategies.