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Decolonizing Resilience: The Case of Reconstructing the Coffee Region of Puerto Rico After Hurricanes Irma and Maria

Authors:
Decolonizing Resilience: The Case of Reconstructing
the Coffee Region of Puerto Rico After Hurricanes
Irma and Maria
Ramón Borges-Méndez
*
and Cynthia Caron
International Development
Community and Environment Department, Clark University
950 Main St., Worcester, MA USA
Published 20 March 2019
The term resilience has saliency in the scholarship and policy on post-disaster management
and disaster-risk reduction. In this paper, we assess the use of resilience as a concept for
post-disaster reconstruction in Puerto Rico and offer a critique of the standard denition.
This critique focuses on the primacy of Puerto Ricos colonial relations with the United
States meshed with decades of political mismanagement of the islands economic and
natural resources by local authorities and political parties. For resilience to be a useful
conceptual device, we argue for decolonizing resilience and show the relevance of such an
argument through a case study of the islands coffee-growing region. Decolonizing resi-
lience exposes power inequities and the individuating nature of post-disaster reconstruction
to illustrate how collective action and direct participation of local actors and communities
carves out autonomous spaces of engagement. Decolonizing resilience necessitates a
contextualized analysis of resilience, taking into account the politics of resilienceem-
bedded in the islands colonial history and the policy bottlenecks it creates.
Keywords: Regional planning; economic development; post-disaster reconstruction;
women in agriculture.
1. Introduction
The term resiliencereceives considerable attention in the scholarship on post-
disaster management, disaster-risk reduction and in other disciplines. Meerow and
Newell (2015) in an analysis of resiliences use and dispersion between 1973 and
2014 demonstrate its increasingly widespread use in a variety of elds ranging
from industrial ecology, to drinking water, to global energy. In this paper, we assess
Corresponding authors email: Rborgesmendez@clarku.edu
J Extreme Events, Vol. 6, No. 1 (2019) 1940001 (19 pages)
©World Scientic Publishing Company
DOI: 10.1142/S2345737619400013
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the use of resilience as a conceptual device to approach post-disaster reconstruction
in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. We present a concise socio-economic
overview of the Puerto Rican economy followed by a brief review of the resilience
literature. Next, we examine how the destruction of and current, on-going planning
efforts to reconstruct the coffee growing region in the post-Irma and post-Maria
period expose long-term structural vulnerabilities in the islands agricultural sector,
which are grounded in its colonial relationship to the United States and paralyzing
partisanship within the Government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; thereby
setting the stage for our critique.
Vulnerabilities that hamper reconstruction efforts, reproduce poverty, and
weaken agricultural communities in the coffee-growing region include, but are not
limited to: (1) limited national political autonomy and its effects at the local level;
(2) obsolete state of technical knowledge and weak collaboration within Puerto
Ricos agricultural extension service; (3) lack of economic opportunity and
depopulation; (4) exclusion or subordination of women in the coffee sector; (5)
climate change and fragile mountain ecosystems; (6) uncoordinated civil society
and weak non-prot sector; and (7) fragmentation of the coffee supply chain. These
factors cannot be understood outside of the relationship between Puerto Rico
and the United States and the insufciencies of local politics to promote spaces of
self-reliance that could support reconstruction in the coffee-growing region.
1
Given Puerto Ricos location in the Atlanticshurricane belt, natural disasters
will continue to disrupt agricultural production and its highly dependent food
system. Suárez (2016) states that up to 90% of the islands food supply and a vast
share of agricultural inputs are imported from the US, and regulated by cabotage
laws dating from the early 1920s that distort local supply-chains.
2
Likewise, an
outdated legal code prevents the modernization and subsequent post-disaster re-
construction of the domestic coffee sector that sustains the livelihood of thousands
of small and mid-size coffee producers.
3
This paper offers an opportunity to think
1
Due to space limitations, we cannot cover all these factors. We address the rst four only.
2
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 is a United States federal statute that provides for the pro-
motion and maintenance of the American merchant marine. The law regulates maritime commerce in
US waters and between US ports. Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act, known as the Jones Act,
deals with cabotage (coastwide trade) and requires that all goods transported by water between US
ports be carried on US-ag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by US citizens, and crewed
by US citizens and US permanent residents.
3
Section 319, Tariff Act of 1930, authorizes the Legislature of Puerto Rico to impose a duty on
coffee imported into Puerto Rico, including coffee grown in a foreign country coming into Puerto
Rico from the US.(Cornell Legal Information Institute). Available from: https://www.law.cornell.
edu/cfr/text/19/7.1. The law has been amended several times including in April 2018. The duty on
coffee, at the time of writing, is $2.50 per pound (US Customs and Border Protection 2018).
Available from: https://www.cbp.gov/trade/automated/news/coffee-imported-puerto-rico.
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through how the standard denition of resilience used by federal, state and local
agencies provides insight into how reconstruction in general is occurring thus far,
and propose principles for strategic planning in coffee-growing regions.
2. Situational Context: The Puerto Rican Economy and the 2017
Hurricanes
Puerto Rico (PR), the smallest of the Greater Antilles, sits in the Caribbean Sea
(Atlantic Ocean). It measures approximately 100 miles in length by 35 miles wide
(3,515 sq. mi.). The capital city is San Juan. The US acquired Puerto Rico from
Spain in 1898 following the SpanishAmerican War (Ayala and Bernabe 2007). In
1917, the JonesShafroth Act, also known as the Jones Act of Puerto Rico (1917),
granted US citizenship to anyone born in PR after 1898. After ve decades of
military and appointed civilian governors, the Puerto Rican Constitution of 1952
created the Commonwealth of PR, granting Puerto Ricans the right to vote and
elect its governor. Puerto Ricans residing in the island cannot vote for the President
of the US; those residing in the mainland can. Puerto Rico elects one Resident
Commissioner, who serves as the voice (with no vote) of the island in the US
Congress. Puerto Rico elects neither senators nor representatives to the US Congress.
National sovereignty is therefore limited.
The establishment of the Commonwealth sets the modern framework of colo-
nial relations with the US together with a set of economic strategies including
tax exemptions to American corporations to invest in Puerto Rico (Ayala
and Bernabe 2007). Operation Bootstrap (Operación Manos a la Obra: 1952-
mid1960s) transformed the islands economy from an agrarian one to an industrial
one focused on manufacturing labor-intensive goods, which displaced Puerto
Rican workers and families to the US mainland throughout most of the latter half
of the 20th century (Ayala and Bernabe 2007). The islands economy now focuses
on services such as banking, tourism, and retail. The industrial sector remains the
largest contributor to Puerto Ricos Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (50.1%), fol-
lowed by services (49.1%) and agriculture (0.8%) (Gould et al. 2015). Even though
agricultures share of the GDP is small (almost 1%), coffee still serves as the
backbone of the central-west highlands. The destruction of coffee trees following
Maria was the worst since Hurricane George in 1998, with many producers losing
their entire harvest and most of their trees (Newton and Quinones Garcia 2017).
With outmigration (depopulation), the coffee sector now employs a growing number
of migrants from the Dominican Republic (Fain et al. 2017;Gould et al. 2015).
The population of the island is 3,351,827 (2017 estimate), with a negative
population growth rate (1.74; 2017 estimate; CIA 2018). The economy has
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experienced negative growth over the past 11 years, with public debt accounting
for nearly 93% of GDP (Gould et al. 2015). Unemployment stands at 11.5% with a
net migration rate of 16.9 migrants/1,000 (CIA 2018). Out migration increased
following the 2017 hurricane season (in 2014 the net migration rate was 8.93
migrants/1,000; Gould et al. 2015). Such economic deterioration has contributed to
the islands debt burden, currently standing at $90 billion. To manage the payment
of the debt burden, the US Congress passed the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management,
and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA Act) in 2016 (Austin 2016). PROMESA
is a Federal Law that places Puerto Ricosnances, budget, and some adminis-
trative functions under the control of an Oversight Board appointed by the US
President and Congress. This was the economic and political context when two
back-to-back hurricanes, Irma (Category 5) and Maria (Category 4) struck the
island in September 2017. NOAA estimates Maria-related housing and infra-
structure damages at 90 billion USD (NOAA 2018;Hinojosa and Meléndez 2018).
The estimated human death toll was 4,645 (Kishore et al. 2018).
3. Decolonizing Resilience: Conceptual Framework and Critique
Academic scholarship, policy briefs and donor programming oriented around post-
disaster management emphasize the need to build resilience within households,
communities, institutions and systems, as a larger effort to build back betterand
reduce the impact of future natural disasters. Denitions from development policy
and practice, and urban planning that focus on project implementation in post-
disaster contexts dene resilience as a capacity that allows an entity to prepare for,
absorb, recover from shocks and disturbances, and learn and grow from such
experiences (Adger et al. 2005;Meerow and Newell 2015;Meerow et al. 2016;
Rodin 2014;USAID 2012;Vale 2014;Vale and Campanella 2005;Woodruff et al.
2018). Rodin (2014) emphasizes that resilience develops a capacity to bounce
back ... and ...to create and take advantage of new opportunities in good times
and bad(3). USAIDs resilience statement indicates that resilience contributes to
a sustainable reduction in vulnerability and more inclusive growth(2012: 9).
Meerow and Newell (2015) stress the persistence of such systems (dis)equilibrium-
driven denitions in academic research in various elds such as economics,
geography, ecology, and engineering. Whereas the denition has evolved, the
thrust of the conceptual debate continues to express a preoccupation with the
dynamicversus staticattributes of systems responding to various types of
disruptive shocks. They reveal that communities within the two [denitional]
networks are divided by topic (i.e., social-ecological systems versus ecosystems),
rather than by eld of study(2015: 5). Woodruff et al.s(2018) analysis of over
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100 city plans demonstrates the types of denitions guiding disaster planning,
noting their predominantly technical emphasis, although more normative deni-
tions are making inroads into the eld.
More applicable to PR is the Federal Emergency Management Agencys
(FEMA) conceptualization of resilience, emphasizing the need to create a culture
of preparedness(FEMA 2018). FEMAs resilience denition has three major
components: insurance, mitigation, and preparedness (FEMA 2018).
4
The 2017
Hurricane FEMA After-Action Report (2018) is a detailed review of actions in
these three areas with an emphasis on: operational response; bureaucratic
improvements necessary for interagency coordination; better communications;
revision of the national response framework; workforce readiness; improvement of
disaster relief supply-chains; disaster cost-recovery; pre-event contracting and
contract enforcement, and housing operations. For practical purposes, the content
of this comprehensive report is on systemsresponse with no mention of other
softhumanitarian aspects of disaster-relief such as coping with human misery,
trauma, and the politics of resilience(Vale 2014).
Resiliencesbuilding-back-betterorientation appears in three ofcial and civil
society reports on the Puerto Rican response to the natural disasters and planning
(Commonwealth of Puerto Rico 2017, 2018; Resilient Puerto Rico Advisory
Commission 2018). The rst request for Federal disaster recovery aid of the
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, entitled Building Back Better Puerto Rico, illustrates
the point:
As the focus turns from response to recovery, the scale of the
devastation also provides Puerto Rico and the United States
Government with an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild por-
tions of the islands infrastructure, housing, and economy in a way
that makes Puerto Rico stronger, smarter, safer, better, and more
resilient than before. Due to the unparalleled and widespread
devastation, the disaster recovery period in Puerto Rico represents
a chance to begin again...
5
Almost a year later after Hurricane Maria, the Commonwealths comprehensive
recovery plan (Commonwealth of Puerto Rico 2018) sets enhancing resilienceas
one of its major four vision goals in similar terms. Resilience is considered a
pathway to enhance Puerto Ricos ability to withstand and recover from future
disasters through individual, business, and community preparedness; redundant
4
https://www.fema.gov/blog/2018-06-04/building-resilient-nation.
5
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico 2017: 7.
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systems; continuity of operations; improved codes and standards.
6
While the
Reimagine Puerto Rico Report (2018) issued by the Resilient Puerto Rico Advisory
Commission has a much stronger emphasis on the equity and the social and
communitarian dimensions of reconstruction, it too aligns with the Common-
wealthsofcial formulation:
Resilience is the capacity to respond, survive, adapt, and grow in
response to shocks and stresses. Shocks are major crisis events
that disrupt the normal operation of communities, as well as their
institutions and systems .... stresses are chronic conditions that
progressively reduce the ability of individuals, businesses, insti-
tutions, and systems to function effectively.
7
These perspectives on resilience have fundamental shortcomings including a
supercial understanding of the structural nature of inequality and power with
respect to how social relations and political interests guide decision-making and
opportunity for any entity (e.g., community, institution, household). Vale and
Campanella (2005) in an exception to ahistorical, decontextualized and systems-
driven approaches, stressed that the understanding of (urban) resilience and
reconstruction must account for design politics, including both the politics of
symbolic succession and a politics of institutional processes(Vale and Campa-
nella 2005, p. 9). Subsequently, Vales(2014) concept of uneven resilience
advocates for situating resilience as a concept and as a practice at a variety of
scales and congurations ranging outward from individuals to households,
communities, neighborhoods, rms, civil society, institutions, governance struc-
tures and infrastructure networks as well as to supra-urban forces of subnational
regional hinterlands and even multinational regions (Vale 2014: 191). For Vale,
the signicance of resilience depends on whose resilience is being described
(2014: 191).
We highlight two specic pitfalls, especially in territories with a colonial
history. On the one hand, Béné et al. (2014) and Meerow et al. (2016) argue that
the positivistic nature of resilience expresses no clear relation between poverty
alleviation and resilience(Béné et al. 2014: 615), and fails to recognize that the
poor are (by denition) very resilient to be able to survive(Béné et al. 2014:
615). Even denitions that go beyond the engineering perspective, such as
ecological/ecosystem resilience, and social-ecological denitions, ignore the role
of collective action to address problems of reconstruction or fail to factor-in the
6
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico 2018: 3.
7
Resilient Puerto Rico Advisory Commission 2018: 21.
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disempowerment of local institutions to intervene on behalf of its affected and poor
communities. Grove (2013a,2013b) and Walker and Cooper (2011) bring power
relations to the forefront of their post-disaster reconstruction critiques, tracing the
genealogy of resilience in post-colonial contexts to show that cultures of safety
(i.e., cultures or preparedness) may function as ideologies (or assemblages)of
power normalization and control to modify and regulate collective action.
On the other hand, Olsson et al. (2015) argue that the resilience vocabulary
does not t into the social sciences ... core concepts and theories ... agency,
conict, knowledge, and powerare absent from resilience theory(Olsson et al.
2015: 9). Conventional denitions of resilience downplay the politics of resil-
ience.Olsson et al. warn that by the lack of attention to agency, conict,
knowledge, and power, resilience can become a powerful depoliticizing or natu-
ralizing scientic concept and metaphor when used by political actors(2015: 9).
This is analogous to the critique offered by Albert Hirschman against the impe-
rialist ambitions of development equilibrium economicsand modernization-
functionalist theoristswho insisted on the need for developing economies to
promote, and aspire to, structural convergence with developed countries.
Agency, institutions, and conict were absent from the analysis of growth (or lack of),
thus there was little else to do when things went wrong,other than to blame the
weaknesses, insufciencies, irrationality, and vulnerabilities of the dysfunctional
and incomplete structuresof developing societies (Hirschman 1967,1975). Such
conceptual shortcomings are critical to the utility of a resilience framing of post-
disaster management in post-colonial contexts or in on-going, contested colonial
relationships such as those found between Puerto Rico and the US.
By decolonizing resilience, we advocate stripping resilience denitions of their
prescriptive, functionalist, and ahistorical presumptions in favor of a grounded
denitioninfused by the politics, conicts, and problems of social and individual
agency at play in reconstruction, especially in societies with a colonial reality or
past. Our notion of decolonizing resilience as an analytic tool departs from con-
ventional denitions of resilience in four ways. First, it recognizes that even in the
context of devastation, local actors are capable of collective action to promote self-
reliance. Communities may see no point or may resist returning to a previous state
of equilibriumbecause they perceive such a state skeptically, given its contra-
dictory return to a state of false promises, cosmetic interventions, lack of decision-
making, and powerlessness. Secondly, while technical expertize is critical in
reconstruction and redevelopment efforts, decolonizing resilience emphasizes the
development of learning avenues and institutions at the local level, which
are capable of endogenizing knowledge production, diffusion and application
(Rist et al. 2011). Lists of technical adaptations, troops of experts, bureaucratic
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extension systems, templates for action, strategic plans by external actors, even
though they can be useful, lack embeddedness and do not necessarily contribute to
breaking away from the cycles of dependency on external knowledge (or political
patronage). Thirdly, decolonizing resilience makes a case for creating strategies and
mechanisms of inclusion and equity to support populations excluded in the pre-
vious statefor social, political, cultural and economic reasons. Finally, decolonizing
resilience, emphasizes horizontal micro-connectivity, deliberative practices, and
coordination between organizations in civil society and communities. Advances in
telecommunication and the development of network society (Castells 2000) increase
the circulation of information and knowledge. However, for citizens and commu-
nities to take advantage of such advancements, it is critical to promote platforms of
information that grab and disseminateinformation at the local level, and within
strategic geographies (e.g., the coffee region). Knowledge is sticky(Elwyn et al.
2007) at both the local and higher levels of administration and management. At the
local level, communities or regions have few resources to develop their own local
knowledge, and at higher levels, distortions prevent the ow of information and
resources. Below, we identify and discuss four broad socio-economic and ecological
conditions that illuminate how denitional shortcomings of the traditional denitions
of resilience create policy blindersand demonstrate how our conceptualization
clears the analytic pathway to reach deeper into the local context of reconstruction.
4. Methodological Note
The data for this paper are part of an ongoing investigation on the inclusion and
participation of women in the reconstruction of the coffee supply chain in PR. It
relies on primary data gathered from open-ended interviews with informants and
stakeholders in the coffee region (Yauco, Lares, and Maricao), and in San Juan and
Mayagüez. We interviewed 13 individuals and did two group interviews with
coffee producers, nursery owners and growers, extension agricultural staff, aca-
demics, coffee shop owners, conservation scientists, leadership of the cooperative
movement, and old and new small farmers. Interviews happened between January
and October 2018. We inquired about the following topics: (1) perceptions about
the current situation; (2) the impact of Hurricanes Irma and María in coffee pro-
duction and the coffee-producing region; (3) causes of decline in the industry and
region; and (4) views about potential strategies to rebuild. We draw upon the
secondary literature (e.g., academic journals, newspapers, government reports, and
policy briefs). Our analysis and interpretation in the sections below reects an
overall synthesis of the interviews and secondary literature. Due to space, we do
not directly quote the narrative/qualitative data from the interviews.
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5. Case Study: Coffee-Growing Region
Introduced by the Spanish in 1736, Puerto Rico has been a coffee producer since
the middle of the 18th Century. Its highland shaded haciendas (plantations) pro-
duce a low-acidity, full body coffee, well regarded by specialty coffee consumers.
In 1898, Puerto Rico was the 6th largest coffee producer in the world (Ayala and
Bernabe 2007). Throughout the 20th century, due to the expansion of sugar cane,
urbanization, natural disasters, agricultural policies that focused on planting cheap
coffee varieties, and state rent-seeking practices, local production declined. Local
production does not meet domestic coffee demand, increasing imports of low-
quality coffee. Nevertheless, in 2012, coffee was the fth most important source of
revenue in Puerto Ricos agricultural GDP (Fain et al. 2017;Gould et al. 2015) and
remains an important agricultural crop, despite the fact that the number of coffee
farms and area under cultivation declined between 2007 and 2012 (Gould et al.
2015;National Agricultural Statistics Service 2014).
The coffee industry now faces additional setbacks following Hurricanes Irma
and Maria, which damaged or destroyed almost half of the coffee trees in the coffee
region. The coffee region (and industry) is geographically located in the islands
central-west highlands, specically in ten contiguous municipalities, which are
also some of the poorest.
8
Some of these municipalities, such as Maricao and
Jayuya, show pre-Maria unemployment rates close to 20%, which have been
steady for almost a decade. In 1997, the unemployment rate of Maricao was
21.1%; in 2017, it was 19.8%. For Jayuya, the unemployment rate in 1997
was 16%. In 2017, it was about the same.
9
In 2017, the poverty rate for Maricao was
63.8%. In Jayuya, the poverty rate was 59.8%.
10
The inability to produce a signicant
coffee harvest over the next decade will exacerbate the current scal crisis in the coffee
region, the islands overall economy and reproduce poverty for rural, small coffee
producers, who are under siege by monopolistic consolidation in the industry.
11
Reconstruction of the coffee industry is under threat by climate change.
Warming and drying trends are likely to accelerate after 2040 and could result in
8
Adjuntas, Orocovis, Lares, Las Marias, Maricao, Jayuya, Ciales, San Sebastian, Utuado and Yauco
(upper section).
9
For Maricao and Jayuya see: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LAUCN720730000000003A. This is
a sample for municipalities in the coffee region; other municipalities show very similar gures.
10
US Bureau of the Census, Quick Facts. Maricao and Jayuya: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/
fact/table/jayuyamunicipiopuertorico/BZA010216.
11
Puerto Rico Coffee Roasters (PRCR) is forming a monopoly. Puerto Rican Coffee Roasters now
owns 85% of Puerto Rican coffee production (mainly roasting and some farms). PRCR is actually a
subsidiary of Coca Cola Bottling Company despite containing Puerto Ricoin its LLC name
(Vandermeer 2018).
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top-producing municipalities losing 6084% of their production suitability by
2070 (Fain et al. 2017). In light of this ecological uncertainty and economic
stagnation, the current post-disaster context provides an opportunity to think
strategically about the coffee sectors reconstruction and socially inclusive growth.
Next, we discuss four socio-economic and ecological conditions that inuence
resilience-building in coffee-growing areas: (1) limited national political autonomy
and its local level effects (2) obsolete technical knowledge and infrastructure of the
agricultural extension service; (3) lack of economic opportunity and depopulation;
and (4) inclusion/exclusion of women into the coffee economy. The lack of action
and policy bottlenecks within each of these domains stem from the shortcomings
(or conceptual blind spots) of the conventional denition of resilience. For each
point, we provide a paragraph to outline the general state of affairs in the coffee
region, followed by a second paragraph in which we consider the perspective of
our interviewees and interpret the situation using our critique of the conventional
denition of resilience, thereby emphasizing how our approach advances resilience
thinking and encourages an action-driven agenda, and public engagement in
reconstruction efforts.
Limited national political autonomy and its effects at the local level. Because
PR is not a US state, under the PROMESA Law (2016), the PR Oversight Board
maintains control over the scal affairs of PR, and by default over a signicant part
of reconstruction efforts. The Oversight Board, under the jurisdiction of the US
Committee on Natural Resources, has jurisdiction over insular affairs and territo-
ries. The FEMA of the US Federal Government, the US Corps of Engineers, and
the US Army, together with local state agencies managed the emergency relief.
They continue to have other long-term recovery functions. Their ability to respond
effectively and efciently has been broadly criticized by the media, local, national,
mainland politicians, and international organizations (Bernstein 2018;Hernandez
and Archenbach 2018;Ramirez de Arellano 2018;Warren 2018). A recent quanti-
tative analysis of the inequities of the US federal to hurricanes disaster in Texas and
Florida compared to Puerto Rico corroborates such criticism (Willison et al. 2019).
Further, the tug-of-war between the Government of the Commonwealth of PR
and the Oversight Board resulted in gross mismanagement, such as awarding a
$300 million energy and restoration contract to Whitesh Energy Holdings, a
company with little experience, inadequate staff and questionable corporate history
(CENTRO 2018).
Interviews with actors in the coffee region and industry highlight two main
criticisms with respect to how relationships between the Commonwealth and
mainland institutions affect relief and recovery. First, interviewees spoke about the
exceedingly slow agency response to meet basic needs such as water, food, shelter,
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and medicines in the communities of the mountain municipalities (the coffee
region). In the region, barrios (subdivision of a municipality) were isolated for
weeks and even months. The weak and poor response triggered a variety of self-
help and solidarity efforts. These primary efforts continue to evolve into more
organized and formal entities, which are now serving as stewards of local recon-
struction, such as the centros de apoyo mutuo (centers of self-help assistance)
(Delgado Robles 2018;Dols 2017).
Along with our denition of decolonizing resilience, whereas the lack of po-
litical autonomy has hampered the resilience-building process in key policy areas
at the national level, local collective action has emerged, consolidating around the
lack of response from local and federal agencies. In the context of devastation and
lack of resources, communities and local actors demonstrate the capacity to create
political spaces of collective action to promote self-reliance. Further, they spoke
directly to the collective goal of breaking away from the cycles of dependency on
external knowledge (or political patronage), while asserting skepticism about re-
construction strategies and mechanisms that do not question the previous stateof
neglect and economic exclusion that is well documented in regional poverty and
unemployment data and the physical deterioration of the built environment. In
repeated trips to the region, we have observed consolidating and expansion of local
efforts collective action. For example, residents are taking over abandoned
schools and creating residential complexes to meet their shelter needs. Such indi-
viduals are reconstructing their lives rather than waiting for distant, national
bureaucratic action and interagency coordination,which ignore the power of their
horizontal micro-connectivity and the local learning that takes places in their actions.
A second major criticism expressed pertains to complex bureaucratic processes
to rebuild. Technical expertize is critical in reconstruction and redevelopment
efforts, yet decolonizing resilience emphasizes the development of learning ave-
nues and institutions at the local level, which are capable of endogenizing
knowledge production, diffusion and application. Local actors in the coffee in-
dustry and region spoke at length about the uncertainty and lack of know-how of
agricultural insurance payments, the amount of paper work, the lack of outreach to
explain housing reconstruction relief, and restitution of electric power, potable
water, and roads. As the island and the region move from the emergency stage into
a reconstruction stage, the bureaucratic gap between funding agencies and local
actors appears bigger by virtue of the complex requirements of compliance that
national and federal agencies require of local actors to participate in the resource
and funding allocation processes. This growing gap is congruent with our critique
of conventional denitions or approaches to resilience-building that de-emphasize
collective action and the importance inclusion and equity.
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Obsolete state of technical knowledge and infrastructure of agricultural
extension service. Agricultural extension services in PR are under the United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Program. The Department of
Agriculture of Puerto Rico Service of Agricultural Extension channels services
into eight macro regions that serve 78 municipalities.
12
The Agricultural Experi-
mental Station in San Juan, co-managed by the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in
collaboration with the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of the UPR-Mayagüez also
provide extension services and engage in research and outreach services, such as
information dissemination, demonstration, and education.
Stakeholders in the coffee region identied problems, concurrent with our cri-
tique. First, they referred to a system unable to deliver applied and understandable
research (knowledge) in tune with their needs, such as lack of seed and knowledge
about adaptation to climate change. They attributed the deciencies to a depleted
system of dissemination facilities located in the region (Adjuntas and Utuado), and
with most research taking place at the UPR-Mayagüez, or in San Juans Experi-
mental Station, and to the lack of concerted institutional efforts at disseminating
relevant technical information. Expressions of dissatisfaction with the state of
technical knowledge and infrastructure of agricultural extension service, align with
our critique of resiliences conventional denition. Citizens and communities are
unable to take advantage of technical information platforms at the local level, and
within strategic geographies (e.g., the coffee region). At the local level, commu-
nities have few resources to develop their own local knowledge, and at higher
levels, distortions prevent the ow of information and resources. Stakeholders
provided more specic examples. Invited by the Government of Puerto Rico and
the USDA, coffee producers traveled to the Dominican Republic to address the
lack of coffee seeds and to identify coffee varieties that could resist climatologic
changes (temperature, humidity), and the prevalence of pests and diseases such
as coffee leaf rust (Hemileia vastarix) and coffee borer beetle (Hypothenemus
hampei). Trip participants were surprised by the high technical quality of the
facilities in the Dominican Republic, relative to Puerto Ricos. Knowledge and
research generated outside the coffee region does not ow effectively to it.
Stakeholders lack local capacity to generate it themselves or to nd it elsewhere on
their own. We nd coffee farmers and entrepreneurs pooling resources and local
knowledge to regenerate coffee seed stock and developing new nurseries to en-
hance the productive capacity of plantations. For example, in the town of Yauco
farmers, roasters, the municipality, and non-prots pooled resources and money
to germinate 100,000 coffee trees that will be distributed free of charge to local
12
https://www.informeagricola.com/mapas-agricolas-ocinas-regionales/.
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farmers. In short, as our redenition of resilience emphasizes, the embeddedness of
local actors in the region generates organized responses to overcome the bottle-
necks and failure of ofcial responses. Secondly, stakeholders spoke about the fact
that extension services should consider the social needs of women in the coffee
region in their role as workers, farm managers, mothers, entrepreneurs, and
administrators in the coffee-supply chain. Decolonizing resilience makes a case for
creating and acknowledging strategies and mechanisms of inclusion and equity to
support populations excluded in the previous statefor socio-economic, political,
and cultural reasons.
Lack of economic opportunity and depopulation. Coffee remains an important
agricultural crop, despite the fact that the number of coffee farms and area under
cultivation declined between 2007 and 2012 (Gould et al. 2015;National
Agricultural Statistics Service 2014). As mentioned above, some municipalities in
the region show pre-Maria unemployment rates close to 20%, which have been
steady for almost a decade. The impact of María, and the islands debt negatively
affect quality of life and lack of economic opportunity. Stakeholders were
concerned that the combined result of these forces facilitates depopulation of the
coffee region.
According to interviewees, depopulation causes multiple problems. First, they
indicated that depopulation creates a severe labor shortage at all stages of coffee
production. Furthermore, the available labor force is aging or has little prior
farming experience. Secondly, stakeholders in the industry and region indicated
that depopulation has depleted the number of small farmers upon which larger
coffee producers rely for coffee supply. The disarray at the base of the planting
pyramid has interrupted the coffee supply-chain. Finally, coffee producers
suggested that young people are neither interested in joining the coffee economy
nor interested in its reconstruction, as they perceive that joining the coffee econ-
omy would be a losing proposition.
A new vision of opportunity with explicit strategies to promote equity and
positive incorporation into the labor market and the economy of the region is
necessary. As we suggest in our conceptual critique of the conventional under-
standing of resilience, reconstruction that does not question the implications of
returning to a previous stage of balancewill not solve existing structural gaps.
Communities and youth see no point returning to a previous state of equilibrium
because they perceive such a state skeptically, given its contradictory return to a
state of false promises, cosmetic intervention, and powerlessness. Our critique
suggests that distant macro solutionsor disembedded policy prescriptionswill
not improve the economic vitality of the coffee region. An economic crisis,
exacerbated by the natural disasters, requires strategies promoting diversied local
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livelihoods based on complementary employment and workforce development
strategies that combine traditional agriculture with other forms of natural-resource
based livelihoods, such as agro-tourism and forest-based ecosystem services. That
is, national-level employment policies have to be informed by the local and re-
gional levels in order to promote permanent income-generation through economic
micro-connectivity already taking place in various sectors.
Exclusion or subordination of women in the coffee economy. Macro-economic
restructuring that contributes to de-agrarianization normally nds women moving
out of agriculture more slowly than men. The international experience on supply-
chain development emphasizes the role that the non-prot sector and donor
institutions play in the vertical integration of women across the supply chain both
for purposes of economic efciency and gender equity (Caron, in press; McKague
and Siddiquee 2014). In such contexts, and as we learned through interviews with
women coffee producers, women play a signicant role in farm management, but
do not necessarily have the decision-making power and control over agricultural
resources nor command the respect of hired, male laborers.
Through our critical review, we contextualize our ndings and observations.
Speaking directly to the lack of explicit strategies to reduce exclusion and promote
equity, the lack of a gender-based strategy to improve the incorporation of women
into the coffee economy is noticeable. Joint titling of farm and land ownership is
not a common practice, rather as head of householdland and other assets are
titled solely in a man/husbands name. The lack of a womans name on such legal
documents inhibits her ability to access capital, inputs, and agricultural information
and often complicates receiving FEMA benets. Furthermore, women farmers
noted that agricultural extension staff disregarded womens needs and interests in
the coffee economy. As most agricultural extension agents and technicians are
male, when they reach farms they tend to ignore women, even though women own,
manage, and work coffee farms. In the absence of an explicit gender strategy,
women are taking to entrepreneurial activity, that to an extent is outside the
conventional supply chain.
We interviewed women forming micro-clustersof complementary activities,
which include providing leadership in the reconstruction of public spaces, envi-
ronmental education for children in schools, opening coffee shops in new locations
with supplies from small farmers and local commerce and confectionary busi-
nesses combining coffee and other materials, such as cacao and fruit jellies. Due to
lack of explicit avenues of inclusion, women are mobilizing resources and them-
selves, creating new organizations and businesses, and harnessing autonomously
the knowledge required to participate in reconstruction. Our critique emphasizes
that resilience measures explicitly must support innovative linkages of revitalization
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such as those emerging from womens collective action. Decolonizing resilience
recognizes citizens and communities creating networks and horizontal opportunities
of engagement and seeking to grow new platforms of information that grab and
disseminateinformation at the local level, and within strategic geographies such as
the coffee region. We argue that local and regional input must drive local platform
instead of trying to force local initiatives into top-down operational templates.
To nurture local embeddedness, horizontal micro-connectivity, and inclusion to
enhance self-reliance is critical to the future of reconstruction.
6. Where to Go: Theory and Action
Our intellectual appeal for decolonizing resilience, is to create resonance among
development practitioners and scholars to prevent the concept of resilience
becoming a powerful force that focuses on the functionalist, scientically natu-
ralizing aspects of resilience as bouncing back to a state of system stability. The
notion of returning to a state of system stability especially in colonial or post-
colonial contexts runs the risk of depoliticizing the very nature of reconstruction,
as struggles to gain control over access to knowledge, information and resources
are conictive, exposing power asymmetries between the colonizer and the colo-
nized. We, like Olsson et al. (2015) and Béné et al. (2014), see how system-level
resilience building and resilience thinking might work against the rural poor. If
conceptualized in such terms, resilience-buildingruns the risk of becoming a
political opportunity to manipulate emerging constituencies or maintaining old
ones, to design or create policy instruments that may maintain an inequitable status
quo, or further disenfranchise minority, marginalized or discriminated populations.
In short, the politics of resilience(Olsson et al. 2015) are as powerful as the
science of resilience.
With respect to practice and programming, this initial analysis of the post-Irma
and Maria coffee region is not to suggest that nothing can be doneunless the
colonial position of PR is resolved. We do not suggest that resolving the islands
colonial relationship with the US is a precondition to encourage an equitable
resilience-building process. We spoke to a variety of stakeholders who expressed a
desire to rebuild and to connect with people both on the island and the US
mainland.
13
Their perceptions suggest how the lack participation at various levels
of decision-making excludes them from policy-making. However, that does not
seem to deter local actors in searching for and organizing new avenues to
13
The Puerto Rican diaspora plays an important role in reconstruction, which we do not discuss in the
paper.
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reconstruct. There are signs of collective action emerging in the coffee region.
Likewise, they made suggestions about gaining better access to agricultural in-
formation and resources in order to contribute to localize knowledgein the
region and its communities, and to blend-in their short-term new ideas and long-
term experience in the process of rebuilding the industry and region. Finally, they
show concern for enduring structural problems, such as the lack of inclusion of
women as equal and relevant actors in rebuilding and development, and the long-
term decline of the region through depopulation. Decolonizing resilience, in such
regard, implies focusing on policy avenues that support new local and regional
avenues that (for the moment) bypass the sovereignty impasseand mainly are
directed to improve the quality of life in the region, open economic opportunities,
explicitly address structural disadvantages, and attracts and anchors new education
efforts in the region.
Acknowledgment
We thank the Faculty Development Fund at Clark University for supporting eld
research. We also thank all the individuals and organizational representatives who
spoke with us between January and October 2018 in Puerto Rico. The authors also
wish to thank two blind peer reviewers and the Special Issue Editor for valuable
feedback in nalizing this manuscript. All errors herein are our own.
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... Se sabe que los estados y territorios insulares enfrentan vulnerabilidades adicionales al cambio climático debido a características isleñas, como la exposición al aumento del nivel del mar y los impactos naturals constantes, junto con sus pequeñas economías y territorios, el aislamiento y la dependencia de las importaciones (Graham, 2012;IPCC, 2014;Kim y Bui, 2019;Scobie, 2018). La temporada de huracanes de 2017 puso en evidencia esas condiciones subyacentes, incluidas las estructuras de gobernanza del Caribe que reflejan las relaciones neocoloniales (Bang et al., 2019;Bonilla, 2020;Borges-Méndez & Caron, 2019), y perpetúan la vulnerabilidad de los sistemas socioecológicos (Quarantelli , 1992;Ribot, 2014). Dada la importancia de la agricultura local para la seguridad alimentaria de las islas en el contexto de la respuesta y la recuperación de las crisis, es crucial comprender la adaptación de los agricultores al cambio climático a la luz de un desastre: el conjunto de decisiones y procesos que les permiten asegurar la producción agrícola al tiempo que salvaguardan sus medios de vida. ...
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Full-text available
Traducción de, "Rodríguez-Cruz, LA., Moore, M., Niles, MT. (2021) Puerto Rican Farmers’ Obstacles Towards Recovery and Adaptation Strategies after Hurricane Maria: A Mixed-Methods Approach to Understanding Adaptive Capacity. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. doi: 10.3389/fsufs.2021.662918." ++++ La traducción fue realizada por Luis Alexis Rodríguez-Cruz. Esta traducción es directa, no profesional. El propósito es hacer el artículo original en inglés uno accesible. Se le pide disculpas a quien lea por errores ortográficos y gramaticales. Aquí “capacidad de adaptación” y “capacidad adaptativa” se utilizaron como traducción de “adaptive capacity”. ++++ Resumen Los agricultores de todo el mundo están experimentando crisis que hacen evidente la necesidad de comprender mejor los factores y las barreras potenciales para fortalecer la capacidad de adaptación. Esto es especialmente cierto en el contexto de un desastre, donde una interrupción en el entorno natural y construido obstaculiza las estrategias de subsistencia y expone las dinámicas subyacentes que perpetúan la vulnerabilidad a los peligros naturales. Como tal, las interconexiones de atributos estructurales e individuales deben considerarse al evaluar la capacidad de adaptación de las personas. Este estudio utiliza un enfoque convergente de métodos mixtos para evaluar la adopción real y prevista de prácticas de adaptación por parte de los agricultores puertorriqueños, a la luz de los obstáculos que enfrentaron hacia la recuperación después del huracán María de categoría cuatro en 2017, para contribuir a comprender mejor la capacidad de adaptación. Este estudio utiliza datos de 405 agricultores en todo Puerto Rico (87% de tasa de respuesta), encuestados ocho meses después de María por agentes agrícolas del Servicio de Extensión de la Universidad de Puerto Rico en Mayagüez. Los datos cuantitativos se evaluaron mediante regresiones binomiales negativas (adopción real) y modelos lineales generalizados (adopción prevista), mientras que los datos cualitativos (obstáculos informados) se analizaron mediante análisis temático. Este estudio encontró que casi la mitad de los agricultores adoptaron una práctica de adaptación después de María y que, en muchos casos, componentes estructurales, como los sistemas de gobernanza, las redes sociales de los agricultores y la infraestructura, afectan la capacidad de adaptación más que las percepciones individuales de capacidad. Las futuras estrategias e intervenciones de adaptación, especialmente en el contexto de un desastre, deben considerar en qué medida los factores estructurales obstaculizan la capacidad de las personas para prepararse, responder y recuperarse de los impactos de estos impactos. Nuestros resultados muestran que podría haber oportunidad de promulgar nuevos sistemas a la luz de eventos catastróficos, pero esto no depende únicamente de las acciones individuales. El enfoque de métodos mixtos utilizado puede informar estudios futuros para evaluar mejor la capacidad adaptativa desde un punto de vista que incorpore componentes individuales y estructurales.
... Island states and territories are known to face additional vulnerabilities to climate change because of characteristics, such as exposure to sea-level rise and constant shocks, coupled with their small economies and territories, isolation, and dependence on imports (Graham, 2012;IPCC, 2014;Scobie, 2018;Kim and Bui, 2019). The 2017 hurricane season made evident those underlying conditions, including Caribbean governance structures that reflect neocolonial relationships (Bang et al., 2019;Borges-Méndez and Caron, 2019;Bonilla, 2020), and perpetuate the vulnerability of social-ecological systems (Quarantelli, 1992;Ribot, 2014). Given the importance of local agriculture for island food security in the context of response and recovery from shocks, understanding farmers' adaptation to climate change in light of a disaster-the set of decisions and processes that allow them to secure agricultural production while safeguarding their livelihoods (Brooks and Adger, 2005;Jezeer et al., 2019;Shinbrot et al., 2019)-may provide us with a clearer picture of the interplay between individual and structural factors in adaptive capacity. ...
Article
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Farmers across the globe are experiencing compounding shocks that make evident the need to better understand potential drivers and barriers to strengthen adaptive capacity. This is especially true in the context of a disaster, where a disruption in the natural and built environment hinders livelihood strategies and exposes the underlying dynamics that perpetuate vulnerability to natural hazards. As such, the interconnections of structural and individual attributes must be considered when evaluating adaptive capacity. This paper uses a convergent mixed-methods approach to assess Puerto Rican farmers' actual and intended adoption of adaptation practices, in light of the obstacles they faced toward recovery after 2017's category four Hurricane Maria, to contribute to better understanding adaptive capacity. This study uses data from 405 farmers across Puerto Rico (87% response rate), surveyed 8 months after Maria by agricultural agents of the Extension Service of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. Quantitative data was assessed through negative binomial regressions (actual adoption) and generalized linear models (intended adoption), while qualitative data (reported obstacles) were analyzed through thematic analysis. This study found that almost half of farmers adopted an adaptation practice after Maria, and that in many cases, broader structures, such as systems of governance, farmers' social networks, and infrastructure, affect adaptive capacity more than individual perceptions of capacity. Future adaptation strategies and interventions, especially in the context of disaster, should consider the extent to which structural factors hinder individuals' ability to prepare for, respond, and recover from the impacts of these shocks. Our results show that there might be opportunity to enact new systems in light of catastrophic events, but this does not solely depend on individual actions. The mixed-methods approach used can inform future studies in better assessing adaptive capacity from a standpoint that incorporates individual and structural components.
... In Saint-Martin, this would allow reducing population and human asset exposure. Addressing path dependency secondly requires to reduce inequalities and promote social justice (Lebel et al., 2006;Thomas et al., 2018), and to foster community engagement in decision making (Holdschlag & Ratter, 2015;Borges-Méndez & Caron, 2019;Parsons et al., 2019). Promoting social justice would indeed help to secure the livelihoods and habitations of the most vulnerable (Lebel et al., 2006;Collodi et al., 2019), which would in turn help to anticipate increased insecurity during cyclonic events. ...
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This empirical and interdisciplinary study investigates the contribution of deeply enrooted social-political factors to the accumulation of exposure and vulnerability and amplification of cascading impacts of disasters, with implications on the creation and reinforcement of path dependency maintaining social-ecological systems on a maladaptive trajectory. Applying the Trajectory of Exposure and Vulnerability approach to Saint-Martin (Caribbean), we more specifically highlight how the causal chain linking historical geopolitical and political-institutional drivers to legal, economic, demographic, sociocultural, planning-related and environmental drivers, created the accumulation of exposure and vulnerability over time and contributed to the propagation and amplification of the impacts of tropical cyclones Irma and José in 2017. We find that historical social-political dynamics involving unsustainable development and settlement patterns, the weakness of local institutions , population mistrust in public authorities, high social inequalities and environmental degradation maintained Saint-Martin on a maladaptive trajectory through powerful reinforcing mechanisms operating both between and during cyclonic events. This study demonstrates that long-term interdisciplinary approaches are required for a better understanding of path dependency and the identification of levers to break it in risk-prone contexts. In Saint-Martin, breaking path dependency requires the alignment of local institutional capacities with national risk reduction policies, the promotion of social justice and involvement of local communities in decision making. This study therefore confirms the relevance of backward-looking approaches to support forward-looking climate adaptation.
... A number of the papers in the theme section take issue with mainstream conceptualizations of 'rebounding' and resilience. For one thing, as Borges- Méndez and Caron (2019) note, "the notion of returning to a state of system stability . . . runs the risk of depoliticizing the very nature of reconstruction" because it forecloses on questions about the need for system change. ...
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Within the last 40 years, academic research on disasters has focused on resilience as applied to individual adaptive capacities, rebuilding resources, and policy-driven solutions. While there has been an increased awareness of the many gendered dimensions of post-disaster recovery, women’s and mother’s agency in such situations is still largely ignored. Thus, this dissertation adopts a maternal focus, arguing that mothers are not merely vulnerable subjects but critical agents of post-disaster recovery for families, communities, and social systems more generally. To analyze mothers’ resilience, I looked to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico as an illustrative case and field site. Combined across two site visits in 2019 and 2020, I interviewed nine mothers and conducted a focus group with eight midwives. Their interviews were framed as stories using Clandidin and Connelly’s (2000) restorying techniques. Additionally, I drew from Buzzanell’s (2010) Communication Resilience Framework to map five communicative processes of enacting resilience onto these stories. By studying their stories, I was able to extend Buzzanell’s framework to acknowledge the proactive agency of maternal resilience as enacted through communication, contextual, and relational elements of life in the aftermath. My analysis identifies how mothers reproduced and revised configurations of personal, family, and community life post-disaster. Overall, these embodied research practices revealed how these women remade their daily practices, renegotiated relationships and identities, and created new resource avenues not just to survive but to thrive and live well. When interlinked with histories, material exigencies, and cultural discourses, “getting back to normal” required mothers to seek the routine and advocate for change simultaneously in both motherwork and domesticity. All across the island mothers used anger as a productive force for activism and creative entrepreneurship and leveraged communal coalitions as key components to establishing collaborative empowerment and belongingness. The relationships they had with one another enacted their own brand of resilience. I argue that maternal resilience broadens discussions and understandings of what resilience is and how mothers, through their mothering practices, enact transformative approaches to disaster recovery.
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Climate change is a threat to food system stability, with small islands particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events. In Puerto Rico, a diminished agricultural sector and resulting food import dependence have been implicated in reduced diet quality, rural impoverishment, and periodic food insecurity during natural disasters. In contrast, smallholder farmers in Puerto Rico serve as cultural emblems of self-sufficient food production, providing fresh foods to local communities in an informal economy and leveraging traditional knowledge systems to manage varying ecological and climatic constraints. The current mixed methods study sought to document this expertise and employed a questionnaire and narrative interviewing in a purposeful sample of 30 smallholder farmers after Hurricane María to (1) identify experiences in post-disaster food access and agricultural recovery and (2) reveal underlying socioecological knowledge that may contribute to a more climate resilient food system in Puerto Rico. Although the hurricane resulted in significant damages, farmers contributed to post-disaster food access by sharing a variety of surviving fruits, vegetables, and root crops among community members. Practices such as crop diversification, seed banking, and soil conservation were identified as climate resilient farm management strategies, and smallholder farmer networks were discussed as a promising solution to amass resources and bolster agricultural productivity. These recommendations were shared in a narrative highlighting socioecological identity, self-sufficiency, community and cultural heritage, and collaborative agency as integral to agricultural resilience. Efforts to promote climate resilience in Puerto Rico must leverage smallholder farmers’ socioecological expertise to reclaim a more equitable, sustainable, and community-owned food system.
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Understanding how perceptions around motivation, capacity, and climate change’s impacts relate to the adoption of adaptation practices in light of experiences with extreme weather events is important in assessing farmers’ adaptive capacity. However, very little of this work has occurred in islands, which may have different vulnerabilities and capacities for adaptation. Data of surveyed farmers throughout Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria (n = 405, 87% response rate) were used in a structural equation model to explore the extent to which their adoption of agricultural practices and management strategies was driven by perceptions of motivation, vulnerability, and capacity as a function of their psychological distance of climate change. Our results show that half of farmers did not adopt any practice or strategy, even though the majority perceived themselves capable and motivated to adapt to climate change, and understood their farms to be vulnerable to future extreme events. Furthermore, adoption was neither linked to these adaptation perceptions, nor to their psychological distance of climate change, which we found to be both near and far. Puerto Rican farmers’ showed a broad awareness of climate change’s impacts both locally and globally in different dimensions (temporal, spatial, and social), and climate distance was not linked to reported damages from Hurricane Maria or to previous extreme weather events. These results suggest that we may be reaching a tipping point for extreme events as a driver for climate belief and action, especially in places where there is a high level of climate change awareness and continued experience of compounded impacts. Further, high perceived capacity and motivation are not linked to actual adaptation behaviors, suggesting that broadening adaptation analyses beyond individual perceptions and capacities as drivers of climate adaptation may give us a better understanding of the determinants to strengthen farmers’ adaptive capacity.
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If disaster responses vary in their effectiveness across communities, health equity is affected. This paper aims to evaluate and describe variation in the federal disaster responses to 2017 Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, compared with the need and severity of storm damage through a retrospective analysis. Our analysis spans from landfall to 6 months after landfall for each hurricane. To examine differences in disaster responses across the hurricanes, we focus on measures of federal spending, federal resources distributed and direct and indirect storm-mortality counts. Federal spending estimates come from congressional appropriations and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) records. Resource estimates come from FEMA documents and news releases. Mortality counts come from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports, respective vital statistics offices and news articles. Damage estimates came from NOAA reports. In each case, we compare the responses and the severity at critical time points after the storm based on FEMA time logs. Our results show that the federal government responded on a larger scale and much more quickly across measures of federal money and staffing to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida, compared with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The variation in the responses was not commensurate with storm severity and need after landfall in the case of Puerto Rico compared with Texas and Florida. Assuming that disaster responses should be at least commensurate to the degree of storm severity and need of the population, the insufficient response received by Puerto Rico raises concern for growth in health disparities and increases in adverse health outcomes.
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Increasingly, local governments are creating resilience plans. What do these plans contain and how do they compare to other efforts to plan for climate change? We use plan evaluation to analyze resilience plans from U.S. cities in the 100 Resilient Cites program and compare them to 44 climate change adaptation plans. Resilience plans lack critical elements to prepare cities for climate change, but offer a platform to address economic, social, and environmental policies that may amplify climate change impacts. Resilience planning represents an alternative, potentially complementary, path to preparing for climate change, but there is room for improvement.
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BACKGROUND Quantifying the effect of natural disasters on society is critical for recovery of public health services and infrastructure. The death toll can be difficult to assess in the aftermath of a major disaster. In September 2017, Hurricane Maria caused massive infrastructural damage to Puerto Rico, but its effect on mortality remains contentious. The official death count is 64. METHODS Using a representative, stratified sample, we surveyed 3299 randomly chosen households across Puerto Rico to produce an independent estimate of all-cause mortality after the hurricane. Respondents were asked about displacement, infrastructure loss, and causes of death. We calculated excess deaths by comparing our estimated post-hurricane mortality rate with official rates for the same period in 2016. RESULTS From the survey data, we estimated a mortality rate of 14.3 deaths (95% confidence interval [CI], 9.8 to 18.9) per 1000 persons from September 20 through December 31, 2017. This rate yielded a total of 4645 excess deaths during this period (95% CI, 793 to 8498), equivalent to a 62% increase in the mortality rate as compared with the same period in 2016. However, this number is likely to be an underestimate because of survivor bias. The mortality rate remained high through the end of December 2017, and one third of the deaths were attributed to delayed or interrupted health care. Hurricane-related migration was substantial. CONCLUSIONS This household-based survey suggests that the number of excess deaths related to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is more than 70 times the official estimate. (Funded by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and others.)
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Coffee production has long been culturally and economically important in Puerto Rico. However, since peaking in the late nineteenth century, harvests are near record lows with many former farms abandoned. While value-added markets present new opportunities to reinvigorate the industry, regional trends associated with climate change may threaten the ability to produce high-quality coffee. Here, we discuss the history of coffee in Puerto Rico, outline important bioclimatic parameters, and model current and future habitat suitability using statistically downscaled climate data. Model projections suggest that warming trends may surpass important temperature thresholds during the coming decades. Under high (A2) and mid-low (A1B) emission scenarios for 2011–2040, Puerto Rico is projected to exceed mean annual temperature parameters for growth of Coffea arabica. Warming and drying trends may accelerate after 2040 and could result in top producing municipalities losing 60–84% of highly suitable growing conditions by 2070. Under the A2 scenario, Puerto Rico may only retain 24 km² of highly suitable conditions by 2071–2099. High temperatures and low precipitation levels can result in diminished quality and yields, as well as increased exposure and sensitivity to certain insects and diseases. The climate data and models used are based on best current understanding of climate and emission interactions with results best interpreted as projected climate trends rather than predictions of future weather. Planning, innovation, and adaptation provide promising avenues to address current and future socioecological challenges while building a model of sustainable and resilient coffee production in Puerto Rico and throughout the region.
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Fostering resilience in the face of environmental, socioeconomic, and political uncertainty and risk has captured the attention of academics and decision makers across disciplines, sectors, and scales. Resilience has become an important goal for cities, particularly in the face of climate change. Urban areas house the majority of the world's population, and, in addition to functioning as nodes of resource consumption and as sites for innovation, have become laboratories for resilience, both in theory and in practice. This paper reviews the scholarly literature on urban resilience and concludes that the term has not been well defined. Existing definitions are inconsistent and underdeveloped with respect to incorporation of crucial concepts found in both resilience theory and urban theory. Based on this literature review, and aided by bibliometric analysis, the paper identifies six conceptual tensions fundamental to urban resilience: (1) definition of ‘urban’; (2) understanding of system equilibrium; (3) positive vs. neutral (or negative) conceptualizations of resilience; (4) mechanisms for system change; (5) adaptation versus general adaptability; and (6) timescale of action. To advance this burgeoning field, more conceptual clarity is needed. This paper, therefore, proposes a new definition of urban resilience. This definition takes explicit positions on these tensions, but remains inclusive and flexible enough to enable uptake by, and collaboration among, varying disciplines. The paper concludes with a discussion of how the definition might serve as a boundary object, with the acknowledgement that applying resilience in different contexts requires answering: Resilience for whom and to what? When? Where? And why?
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Structural reforms in the global economy and national economic policies change the contribution of agriculture to economic development as well as the nature of and responsibilities that women fulfill in agricultural economies. Women provide the majority of agricultural labor in South Asia; yet despite this contribution women have less access to the resources, inputs, land and knowledge that would make their labor more productive (McKague and Siddiquee 2014: 135). Market-led reforms and macro-economic restructuring contribute to de-agrarianization, with women tending to move out of agriculture more slowly than men. While male migration potentially leads to the feminization of agriculture, a woman’s social position (age, income and marital status) shape whether or not she is more likely and able take up more agri- cultural work in the absence of male labor or retreat into the domestic sphere (Arun 2012). This chapter examines the position of women in the agricultural labor force, the shifting nature of their participation in the context of male migration, the relation- ship between their paid and unpaid work, and, finally, their access to and control over agricultural resources.
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This paper explores the multidimensional effects of an external non-tariff measure (NTM) on maritime transportation between the United States (US) and Puerto Rico (PR) trades. In particular, this research addresses the vulnerability level of PR’s agrifood sector in relation to sustainability as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) highly influenced by a larger economy. Due to the high potential of climate changes in the Caribbean, this study reviewed the effects of a maritime cabotage policy on a SIDS agribusinesses’ logistic. Could a NTM affect the supply chain capabilities and the food security of a SIDS? What challenges and opportunities does the US Cabotage policy present for PR’s agricultural sector’s competitiveness? Based on mixing empirical analysis in an exploratory convergent design, the research categorizes the cabotage policy in relation to the effects on PR’s agrifood supply chain, its port infrastructure, and its native agribusinesses’ competitiveness. Results show the maritime cabotage itself is a constraint. However, the interactions with others NTMs, indirectly related to the cabotage but inherent to the political status and business relationship between PR and the US, add other limits. In addition, it revealed that internal factors have an impact on the efficiency and competitiveness of PR’s agro-industrial sector. © 2018, Hunter College Center for Puerto Rican Studies. All rights reserved.
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Making Markets More Inclusive bridges the management literature with work on agricultural value chains in developing and emerging economies. © Kevin McKague and Muhammad Siddiquee, 2014. All rights reserved.
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Originally published in 1967, the modest and plainly descriptive title of Development Projects Observed is deceptive. Today, it is recognized as the ultimate volume of Hirschman’s groundbreaking trilogy on development, and as the bridge to the broader social science themes of his subsequent writings. Though among his lesser-known works, this unassuming tome is one of his most influential. It is in this book that Hirschman first shared his now famous “Principle of the Hiding Hand.” In an April 2013 New Yorker issue, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an appreciation of the principle, described by Cass Sunstein in the book’s new foreword as “a bit of a trick up history’s sleeve.” It can be summed up as a phenomenon in which people’s inability to foresee obstacles leads to actions that succeed because people have far more problem-solving ability that they anticipate or appreciate. And it is in Development Projects Observed that Hirschman laid the foundation for the core of his most important work, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, and later led to the concept of an “exit strategy.”