Mediating factors of land use change among coffee farmers in a biological corridor

Trees in agricultural landscapes are important for the provision of environmental services. This study assesses the loss of shade coffee during a 9 year period in a biological corridor in Costa Rica, and investigates the mediating factors of land use change. Following a conceptual framework that presents how household and farm characteristics mediate the interplay between underlying and proximate causes of land use change, the effect of the mediating factors is determined by applying an ordered probit model to household and land use data for 2000 and 2009 from 217 former and present coffee farmers. Additional 224 telephone interviews supplement the data on land use change. Results show a 50% reduction in the coffee area and a corresponding loss of trees. Family labor, age of household head, coffee prices, and use of shade tree products significantly reduce the probability of converting the coffee field, while the number of family members engaged in other agriculture and non-farm work increases the probability. A stronger tie to coffee farming is found to abate the influence of underlying drivers, whereas the younger generation downgrades the labor intensive coffee farming. Payments for environmental services are proposed as a policy instrument that may influence land use.