• Mexico;
  • Guatemala;
  • Honduras;
  • coffee;
  • livelihood analysis;
  • adaptation;
  • vulnerability;
  • globalization

This article explores the impacts of market shocks and institutional change on smallholder livelihoods, and the challenge of adaptation in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. The rapid decline in coffee prices since the dissolution of the International Coffee Agreement in 1989 has had widespread and profound impacts across coffee-producing regions. The data collected in the three case studies of this project confirm the severity of the impact, particularly in the Mexican and Guatemalan communities. They also illustrate the importance of the historical relationship between farmers and public institutions in defining farmers’ perception of risk, their awareness of the nature of the changes they face, and thus the flexibility of their responses to present and future uncertainty. The project's findings indicate that the existence and development of local networks among farmers, service providers and information sources may be critical for facilitating adaptation, particularly in the context of economic liberalization and globalized agriculture.