Since September 2012, the Jamaican coffee industry has been grappling with the coffee leaf rust (CLR) epidemic caused by the fungal pathogen Hemileia vastatrix. The first widespread outbreak affected more than one third of coffee plants across the island, resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenues for the sector. The emergence and spread of the disease have been linked to a confluence of factors ranging from changing climatic conditions to impacts from extreme weather events, improper farm management practices, and institutional and market constraints that restrict control measures. In this article, we use the case of the CLR epidemic to illustrate how its emergence and continued presence in the Jamaican Blue Mountains is inextricably tied to the wider political–economic and ecological conditions under which coffee production takes place and how H. vastatrix’s complex pathogenesis makes the disease difficult to control. Drawing on an empirical study comprising household surveys, focus groups, archival research, and interviews, we demonstrate how smallholder farmers’ ability to manage rust impacts was severely compromised by ecological pressures, resource constraints, bounded knowledge systems, and market and regulatory limitations.
- plant diseases
- political ecology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Earth-Surface Processes