Coffee, Trees, and Labor: Political Economy of Biodiversity in Commodity Agroforests

Robbins, P and Tripuraneni, V and Karanth, K K and Chhatre, A (2020) Coffee, Trees, and Labor: Political Economy of Biodiversity in Commodity Agroforests. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 111 (4). pp. 1046-1061. ISSN 2469-4460

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Tropical and subtropical plantation agriculture has been shown to be compatible with the conservation of biodiversity, but the specific practices, conditions, and farmer strategies associated with such diversity remain poorly understood. In the ecologically rich region of India’s Western Ghats, specifically, farm-scale tree species diversity is a key structural condition explaining avian diversity. Surveying a sample of coffee plantations in the region, we examine farm-scale conditions that give rise to biodiversity. Results suggest that larger plantation size, recent increase in canopy density, and the cultivation of Coffea arabica varieties all encourage tree species diversity necessary for habitat. Results also suggest, however, that these structural conditions are more labor and pesticide intensive. These findings raise some serious questions about the sustainability of biodiversity in this context and suggest difficult trade-offs under conditions of demographic transition, declining labor availability, and concern about chemical inputs. They also reinforce the importance of neo-Chayanovian theories of smallholder behavior throughout geography but especially in the field of political ecology.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Economics
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2020 06:42
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2023 11:49

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