Between 1999 and 2005 the deregulation of the international coffee commodity chain produced both a coffee crisis, characterized by the lowest prices ever for coffee farmers in producing countries, as well as a coffee boom within consuming countries as "the latte revolution" took shape. This research seeks to understand how social, economic and environmental change have unfolded in the producing country of Costa Rica following this coffee crisis. The impacts of two resistance strategies that peasant coffee farmers and their allies have deployed in the face of this crisis are tested: participation in Fair Trade marketing networks and the adoption of agroecological farming practices. Over six years of ethnographic community-based fieldwork, more than 70 agrobiodiversity inventories, archival research, semi-structured interviews, numerous farmer focus groups as well as a randomized survey of more than 100 farm-households were the main methodologies utilized to gather data for this research project.
I find that Fair Trade price premiums were inconsequential in providing support for smallholder resistance to the coffee crisis in Costa Rica. I find pivotal, the role played by Costa Rican governmental institutions in a successful agroecological transition that reduced external input costs. This is significant because the process took place amidst the backdrop of "roll-back neoliberalism" characterized by privatization and declining state involvement in the provision of services. With no market, not even a "fair" one, able or willing to provide the training and unique resources these smallholders needed, the state not only stepped in, but was successful according to the results of this study. With innumerable environmental, social and economic spillover effects of this transition process accruing at several scales, the results of this study argue for the creation or redirection of state-led institutions with the power and support to conduct agroecological research and training, especially in the de-technification transitional process to low-external input agriculture.