From Origin

Climate Adaptation in Coffee Country


A social scientist considers the roots of Colombian farmers’ woes.

Maria stared at me over the rickety table of an open-air restaurant in the Andean mountains of the Colombian coffee axis. Feeling lightheaded, I politely declined another offer of coffee. On this, my second research trip to Risaralda, I rued the irony of studying a beverage I can’t drink—caffeine compounds my altitude sickness.

Maria and I had been chatting about her experience as a coffee farmer coping with both a changing climate and a civil conflict that had left this region largely cut off from the wider world until about a decade ago.  Maria has been farming coffee for more than 50 years, since she left elementary school in second grade. Like many of the farmers in this region, she has a vast repository of knowledge garnered from her coffee-farming grandparents, parents, and neighbors, and her experience with her land.

As a Purdue University social scientist who focuses on communication, I was here with three Colombian researchers from the Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira to learn about the social aspects of climate change impacts in this region (the full names of coffee farmers who participanted have been withheld to protect their anonymity). How do Colombian coffee farmers learn about climate change? How would they like to receive information on adaptation strategies? How do they describe their personal, firsthand experiences with a changing climate?

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