• flexibility;
  • market shock;
  • coffee;
  • smallholder;
  • clustering methods;
  • Guatemala

Small-scale coffee producers are particularly exposed to a very fluctuant market. The present work aims at characterising the adaptation of small-scale coffee and honey producers to the 1999–2003 coffee crisis in the Guatemalan Highlands from a systemic and agronomical perspective. Working with a homogeneous sample of 34 families we identify up to 27 different flexibility mechanisms. A qualitative analysis of families' life histories was combined with classification methods. Besides confirming the importance of the availability resources and some well known adaptive responses, such as workload intensification, expenses reduction or the importance of social networks, the classification of households reveals a sequence in the implementation of flexibility mechanisms. The focus on the combination of coffee and honey productions also suggests changing the traditional approaches to agricultural processes toward the adoption of a more systemic perspective. The possible impacts of these findings on technical extension and construction of public policies are then discussed.