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Revista mexicana de ciencias agrícolas

Print version ISSN 2007-0934

Rev. Mex. Cienc. Agríc vol.5 n.spe9 Texcoco Sep./Nov. 2014 


Revitalization of coffee farms through rural tourism: case of Coatepec, Veracruz

Claudia Apodaca-González1  § 

José Pedro Juárez-Sánchez1 

Benito Ramírez-Valverde1 

Rodrigo Figueroa Sterquel2 

1 Colegio de Postgraduados Campus Puebla. Carretera Federal México-Puebla, km. 125.5. C. P. 7276. Puebla, Pue., México. (;

2 Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile Av. Brasil 2950. Valparaíso, Chile. (


The neoliberal economic model and the liberalization trade of coffee brought lags in activity, displacement of domestic production that caused the closure of uncompetitive fields in the global market and social conflicts such as poverty and migration. Considering this, options such as social welfare programs and nonfarm rural employment (RNFE) including rural tourism were promoted. The research was conducted in Coatepec, Veracruz, coffee producer and declared “magical town”. The aim of the research was to analyse the possibilities of incorporating coffee producers in agro-tourism activities to diversify their income. A survey was administered to 72 coffee producers. The results showed that, the municipality coffee farmers have low education, elderly, and low coffee yields. Over 50% would like to offer agro-tourism services in pruning, fertilizing, planting, harvesting and hiking. They also need support and infrastructure for the implementation of tourism projects. We concluded that, low yields, lack of government support and low profitability affect the ability of the producers for participating in tourism to supplement their coffee activities.

Keywords: alternative tourism; coffee production; rural crisis; rural nonfarm employment.


El modelo económico neoliberal y la liberalización comercial del café trajo consigo rezagos en la actividad, desplazamiento de la producción interna que ocasionó el cierre de campos productivos poco competitivos en el mercado global y conflictos sociales como la pobreza y la migración. Ante esto, se impulsaron opciones como programas de bienestar social y empleo rural no agrícola (ERNA) entre ellos el turismo rural. La investigación se realizó en el municipio de Coatepec, Veracruz, productor de café y declarado pueblo mágico. El objetivo de la investigación fue analizar las posibilidades de incorporar a los productores de café en actividades agroturísticas para diversificar sus ingresos. Se aplicó una encuesta a 72 productores de café del municipio de Coatepec, Veracruz. Los resultados muestran que los cafeticultores del municipio tienen baja escolaridad, edad avanzada y bajos rendimientos de café. Más de 50% les gustaría ofertar servicios agroturísticos en la poda, fertilización, plantación, cosecha y paseo por senderos. Asimismo, necesitan apoyos e infraestructura para la implementación de proyectos turísticos. Se concluye que los bajos rendimientos, falta de apoyos gubernamentales y la baja rentabilidad del café inciden en la posibilidad de los productores en participar en actividades turísticas como complemento a sus actividades cafetaleras.

Palabras clave: cafeticultura; crisis rural; empleo rural no agrícola; turismo alternativo


The change of economic models in different economies, mainly in developing countries, resulted in the implementation of structural adjustment policies in support of opening their markets. Currently, the agricultural sector promotes the export of fruit and vegetables; and promotes less government involvement in promoting the process of production, processing and marketing of coffee (Villa, 2011). Transnational corporations through the International Coffee Organization (ICO) control the trade, releasing their market, and promoting the emergence of new producing spaces.

In 1989, the policy aimed to coffee producing countries began a process of changes that involved the reduction of government support and the thinning of the institutions responsible for implementing the policy in coffee producing countries, such as the Mexican Coffee Institute (INMECAFE) (ICO, 2004). The structural transformation of the coffee sector in Mexico, brought about the increasing problems of a social nature, such as poverty and migration, due to the impacts of agricultural policy directed to coffee, which was reflected in lower profitability, conversion of uncompetitive farms in the global market, leading in some cases abandonment or replacement of coffee with other crops or other agricultural uses and urban growth (Mestries, 2003; Tapia, 2006; González, 2008; Martínez, 2009). With the increase of poverty in coffee spaces, the Mexican government launched social programs such as compensatory mechanisms, the most important highlights in recent decades, in 1998, the National Solidarity Program (PRONASOL); in 1997, the Education, Health and Nutrition (PROGRESA) and finally, in 2002, the Opportunities Program (Tetreault, 2012).

The change of economic model and adjustment policies implemented in the production of coffee, made the coffee growers to take action to counter the effects of the coffee crisis, among them is his foray into the production of organic coffee, fair trade coffee friendly to migratory birds, coffee environmentally responsible (Pérez, 2010.) but also caused this sector to adapt and participate with other sectors of the rural economy; becoming important the territorial approach, through the organization of production chains, helping to generate better income and adopt efficient systems and environmental friendly (Sepúlveda et al., 2003). The rural territorial development approach poses new coping strategies for farmers, such as boosting rural economic activities related to agriculture or rural nonfarm employment (RNFE).

The activities comprising by the RNFE are complementary to agricultural activities, as these are the backbone of rural territorial development. Such activities emerge with greater dynamism in depressed rural economies and become important in spaces that have resources or tourist attractions. This type of rural tourism activities is given a prominent role in the economy of developing countries, and has even become one of the most important sectors of the economy, because of the number of foreign exchange and jobs generated.

According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO, 2013), the global sector contributed 9% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), generating revenues of about 1 075 billion dollars in 2012, considered to be a dynamic sector that is diversified and is inserted into a tourist promoting new trend, in what is called the alternative or nature tourism. Rural tourism gradually becomes important as a driver of depressed local economies, and it is for this reason that these strategies are driven by the World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Inter-Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), with the objective of promoting rural economies in a territorial approach and sustainable development (Sepúlveda et al., 2003, Pérez et al., 2010).

In Mexico and other countries, tourism is an industry of paramount importance, both for foreign exchange earnings, for the considerable amount of direct and indirect employment generated as well. According to the Tourism Satellite Account in Mexico, prepared by INEGI tourism represents 8.4% of GDP and the share of jobs was 5.8% of the total. With 11.7 million international visitors during the first five months of 2014 (SECTUR, 2014), making it the premier destination in the Americas after the United States of America. During this same period, the tourism balance showed a surplus of 414.5 million dollars in March. Programs as part of the innovation strategy of tourism products and attract new markets are currently working.

In this context, rural tourism becomes important in the survival strategies of producers and farmers. According to the United Nations (UN) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism is the engine of more viable and sustainable economic development, and contribute to poverty alleviation, mainly in developing countries (WTO, 2010). Rural tourism, especially agro-tourism is considered by public and private authorities as a strategy to boost the development of rural areas for their ability to contribute to the generation of additional income farmers (Blanco and Riveros, 2011).

Tourism can promote the revitalization of the development process and poverty reduction in rural areas to further marginalization of developing countries. However, according to Rozo and Vélez (2012) and Juárez and Ramírez (2007) rural tourism should be a complement to agricultural activities, which must not be displaced, since tourism is a seasonal, hence not a permanent activity. In other words: the multifunctionality of rural areas is the basis of tourism activities.

Rural tourism can be a complement to non-agricultural activities, so in the last decade has become a busy strategy in different rural areas. In this regard, Barrera (2006) mentions that there are over 500 000 establishments engaged in the activity in Europe; within it, Spain, France, Germany, Ireland and Austria have the largest tourism in rural areas. In Latin America, specifically in Mexico and Colombia, have developed products like coffee tours and have started designing visits to cacao, pineapple, banana, grape, pepper or nopal, where visitors learn about the history, cultivation and processing techniques, culminating with a tasting of the product (Blancos and Riveros, 2011). In the case of Costa Rica, known for its rich biodiversity, offer tours of farms and natural areas. The agricultural component is based on extensive monoculture planting, coffee, pineapple and banana, specifically sites where extensive monoculture is used; In addition to the use of organic techniques as part of its tourist attractions (Chavarría, 2009).

In Mexico, it is considered that, the rural tourism is nascent, and tourism policy is mainly in two aspects. In the first, the federal government investment is directed to programs that prioritize for sun and beach and involves marginal rural tourism (Juárez and Ramírez, 2007). The second is essentially based on the properties of former haciendas of the nineteenth century Mexico, that started their operation with large government budgets for remodeling and rescue, as is the case where the henequen haciendas in Yucatan occurs as well as the Haciendas y Casas de Jalisco program (Amaya, 2005). This activity is supported by various government institutions, the Ministry of Tourism (SECTUR), Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (CDI), the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) (Palomino et al., 2011) and the respective secretariats of state tourism.

Considering all of this, the aim of this work was to analyse the possibilities of incorporating spaces for coffee agro-tourism activities to enhance the income of farmers in the municipality of Coatepec, Veracruz.

Materials and methods

A literature search was conducted, field observations and questionnaires were applied to producers in charge of coffee production units, covering technical, social and economic aspects. Qualitative sampling with a reliability of 95% was applied; the sampling frame was based on the list of beneficiary farmers (producers 2 522) by the program for the Promotion of Coffee in Coatepec, Veracruz. The equation to estimate the sample size is presented by Gómez (1977) and is specified as follows:

n=NZ2α/2 pnqnNd2+Z2α/2 pnqn

Where: N= population size; zα/2= reliability; d= accuracy; pn= ratio with the characteristic of interest; qn= proportion without feature of interest.

The sample size was 72 producers randomly selected in agricultural cultivated locations. The data analysis was performed using parametric and nonparametric statistics and to interpret the information was divided into two groups: producers that would and would not like to participate in tourism activities.

As for the study area, Coatepec is located in the central mountainous area of the state of Veracruz, on the slopes of Cofre de Perote; between parallels 19° 21’ and 19° 32’ north latitude; meridians 96° 47’ and 97° 06’ west longitude; elevation between 500 and 2 900 m. Bordered on the north by the municipalities of Perote, Acajete, Tlalnelhuayocan, Xalapa and Emiliano Zapata; east with the municipalities of Emiliano Zapata and Jalcomulco; south with the municipalities of Jalcomulco, Tlaltetela, Teocelo and Xico; west with the municipalities of Xico, Perote and Acajete (INEGI, 2009) (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Spatial location of the municipality of Coatepec, Veracruz. 

According to the National Census of Population and Housing (INEGI, 2011), the town of Coatepec has a total population of 86 696 inhabitants, representing 1.13% of the state population. Coatepec is one of the main towns in central Veracruz dedicated to growing coffee for their production volume and number of producers. In the 2013 cycle had a 8 485 hectares planted with coffee and a production of 16 478 tonnes (SIAP, 2013) surface. Recognized worldwide for the quality of their coffee and in 2006, was nominated Magical Town, by the Ministry of Tourism (Government of the State of Veracruz, 2008).

Results and discussion

The crisis in coffee prices ushered in new paradigms of production and social structure of the coffee growers in the state of Veracruz, giving guideline to emerging areas such as ecotourism and agro-tourism; eco-friendly production and environment, given its natural and scenic importance. The average age of farmers is 64 years, those who would like to participate in rural tourism are 62.90 years and 65.38 years who do not want to participate; no statistically significant difference (t = -0.251, p= 0.335) between these two groups. Producers are considered seniors and this could affect more negatively in their ability to access and obtain support for production or finance tourist projects when they have a productive age, which ranges between 20 and 40 years (Guadarrama et al., 2009); or even 50 years. This indicates that age may be an important factor that can influence the provision of services. In the rural sector the lowest levels of education are presented, the average is 5.6 years (SAGARPA, 2012).

This result is similar to that found in Coatepec, their with 5.5 years. Coffee growers, who would like to participate in tourism, reached an average education of 4.95 years and 6.19 years for those who would not participate, also no statistically significant difference (t= 1395, p= 0.167) was found.Reyes et al. (2012) reported that more than 90% of the population of ejidos and communities have an average schooling below the secondary level; which coincides with the results. The municipality is characterized by smallholder production units cut with producers with land areas with an average of 2.3 ha, and there is no statistical difference (t= -1.22, p= 0.227) among the producers who would like to participate (2.5 ha) and those who do not like to participate (1.9 ha). This result is quite similar to the national agricultural area of the premises of the coffee plantations in 2010, 1.37 hectares (SAGARPA, 2011).

The producers interviewed are aware that coffee production is going through a crisis and this is reflected in the average yield obtained (2 231 kg ha-1) which is above the national average (1 900 kg ha -1) and similar to the state average yield (2 300 kg ha-1) obtained in 2011. Producers who would like to participate had yields of 2 252 kg ha-1 and 2 204 kg ha-1 those who do not like to participate (Table 1). In this context, those who want to participate in providing tourist services (67.5%) and those who will not (37.5%) commented that it is not profitable to grow coffee at all.

Table 1 General characteristics of coffee growers in the town of Coatepec, Veracruz. 

Características generales Coatepec (promedio) Productores con interés de participar en turismo Productores sin interés de participar en turismo
Edad 64 años 62.9 años 65.38 años
Escolaridad 5.5 años 4.95 años 6.19 años
Unidad de producción 2.3 ha 2.5 ha 1.9 ha
Rendimiento 2 231 kg ha-1 2 252 kg ha-1 2 204 kg ha-1
Total de productores 72 40 32

Fuente: elaboración en base a datos de entrevistas, 2012.

This situation makes them seek survival strategies such as rural tourism: that is why the emergence of new alternatives for income generation is agro-tourism. In Coatepec we found that 55.6% of respondents would like to participate in tourism, which represents a potential opportunity to complement agricultural activities. Coatepec is considered the second most important and rich in natural resources related to the agro-ecosystem of the coffee (Manson et al., 2008) producing area, which places it as a major tourist area. With respect to knowledge among respondents about tourism in the city, we found that the majority (90.3%) know that in Coatepec tourism activities are also aware of their name as magical town (91.8%).

Respondents said that from the year 2000 they noted an increased inflow of tourists due to the dissemination performing government institutions under the "Magical Towns" and the growing interest of tourists to seek other alternatives and leave aside conventional tourism of sun and beach (Juárez and Ramírez, 2010). Respondents also noted that tourism generates jobs (58.3%) and increase revenue (26.4%). It is considered that rural tourism is emerging in Coatepec because 15.3% of respondents know producers involved in these activities and commented that, the attractions frequented by tourists in the town are the falls (47.2%), the county seat (26.4%) and ex-Haciendas (22.2%). They also mentioned that the owners of hotels and restaurants (68.1%) benefit from tourist activities as well as the people living in the county seat; that is, those with money (12.5%). In a study conducted in the northeastern mountains of Puebla, Juárez and Ramírez (2010) mentioned that, the producers argued that rural tourism is an activity that is being exploited by people with greater financial resources in the community and, therefore, is out of the question to be involved. This means that rural tourism will only bring economic benefits if it targets the people of the community, as many times, and specifically on ecotourism, the beneficiaries are the operators of tourism businesses.

We are looking to strengthen rural agricultural activities and encouraging diversification of farm activities, including tourism (Juárez et al., 2010). The findings will shed that substantial farmer participation in the provision of tourism services (34.7%) and the services provided are: hiking (68%), teaching the production process of coffee (28%) and provide lodging (4%). All the producers who provide tourist services mentioned that was not supported by the government and 72% said they require funding to improve infrastructure and provide better service. Juárez and Ramírez (2007) found similar results that show the lack of support from the government and financial institutions through loans to invest in activities that require more capital.

Regarding the benefits for participating in tourism, coffee farmers wishing to participate in tourism activities coincide that their income would actually improve, and 56.3% for those who do not want to participate. About how much income they would get from participating in tourism, 40% said they would be similar to those of coffee, 55% said they would be high. Those who do not want to participate, 46.9% said they would be the same as those from coffee, and 12.5% said they would be high. These results indicate that those who want to participate in the provision of tourism services have a good perception of the income gained from this activity (χ 2= 26.937, p= 0.01). Activities that want to participate are related to the coffee production chain, such as agricultural processing (32.5%), tours of farms (37.5%) and teaching coffee processing (22.5%). Those who do not want to participate, would teach the coffee farming process and give tours. The participation is lower in the provision of food and lodging. This is due to low capitalization and the lack of programs that promote such activities.

With respect to agro-tourism activities that producers believe that may be attractive to tourists, 72.5% and 53.1% of coffee growers who want to participate and do not point out that the plantation is an attractive activity.

As for phytosanitary control, 32.5% and 28.1% of farmers who want to participate or not, mentioned that pest control is attractive for a tourist. In disease control, respondents considered it unattractive to tourists who practice activity. However, pruning is one of the most important activities for the visitors to practice, which was manifested by 77.5% and 53.1% of those who want to participate or not in the provision of tourism services. The harvest takes relevance as an activity to turn into a tourist product. On this regard, 77.5% and 62.5% of the producers who want and not participate in tourism said that it is an attractive activity for tourists, and this review is no statistical difference (χ 2= 1.936, p= 0.16) between groups (Table 2). These results are similar to those found by Constabel et al. (2008) that mentioned that, the main productive activities that support rural tourism, are those related to rural farms as harvesting, milking, rodeo, harvesting, canning, care in food and animal care among others.

Table 2 Agricultural activities that producers consider having touristic potential. 

Labores agrícolas Productores con interés de participar en turismo Productores sin interés de participar en turismo
Frecuencia (%) Tipo de participación Frecuencia (%) Tipo de participación
Plantación 29 72.5 Contemplando 17 53.1 Contemplando
Control de plagas 13 32.5 Contemplando 9 28.1 Contemplando
Control de enfermedades 3 7.5 Contemplando 2 6.3 Contemplando y participando
Poda del cafeto 31 77.5 Contemplando 17 53.1 Participando
Cosecha 31 77.5 Participando 20 62.5 Contemplando
Total de productores 40 32

Fuente: elaboración en base a datos de entrevista, 2012.

With regard to training for providing this type of agro-tourism practices that respondents would like (77.5%) and would not like to participate (59.4%) consider that they are able to explain the coffee agro-tourism activities. No significant difference (χ 2= 2.752, p= 0.097) was found between groups with respect to the ability to explain the agro-tourism activities. It is noteworthy the institutional neglect regarding coffee production. Hence, 67.5% and 68.8% of those who do and do not participate, do not have support for coffee production and have no access to credit and agricultural insurance and technical advice. Fritscher (2001) mentions that release negatively impact the markets in credit, marketing, technical support and subsidies, so many small producers had no support for production at all. In this situation, respondents noted the need to be supported over the production process (25%), human and economic (23.6%) relations, among others. This type of support is essential to increase production and to improve the conditions in which they find the plots would develop the tourism product (Juárez and Ramírez, 2008).

Regarding the impact that it could bring to agro-tourism, we found that 82.5% of those who want to participate, mention that do not foresee negative impacts on the implementation of such projects, similar opinion by those unwilling to participate (87.5%). The 17.5% and 12.5% of the groups said that the main negative impacts are economic, and referred specifically to the increase in food prices and land. In a study by Pérez et al. (2010) found very similar results to mention that the respondents (75%) did not detect any damage caused by the activities of rural tourism and mentioned that, the negative effects were the organic (junk), the social, because they have generated envy among the people of the community and, finally, economic, that has led to the rise in prices of agricultural products in the community.


With the liberalization of the coffee market, several producers were at the expense and uncertainty of transnational corporations by the fall in international prices. This leads to increase poverty in the coffee areas because they represent a low-profit business by the lack of promotion for production.

Most of the producers think that coffee production is no longer profitable due to low prices. Coffee production in the municipality is in charge of producing an advanced age and low education, below the national average. It is also characterized by low yields (similar to state), do not have any support for the improvement of their plantations, and access to credit, crop insurance, and technical assistance for cultivation. Considering this situation, most of the producers are interested in participating in activities for supplementing their coffee activities and have a good collection of revenue from this activity, since about 80% say would improve their income from tourism.

Regarding agro-tourism, respondents believe that the activities of planting, pruning and harvesting are attractive activities to be practiced by tourists. Importantly, there is potential for agro-tourism activities foray into coffee producers and manifest in their experience of culture in the perception of them, to feel empowered to explain the production process, in the scenic resources of their land; which may be attractive to tourists. However, their participation is subject to the provision of financial resources and infrastructure, training from the different levels of government, federal primarily through oriented programs such projects.

The relationship between coffee production and tourism should be a snap for improving the income of farmers through the identification and participation of government and educational institutions involved in this project and ensure the full participation of owners agricultural and natural resources for the benefit of their own development.

This could also give way for planning a survival strategy for coffee producers in Coatepec, since only a few people venture into this type of activity.

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Received: January 2014; Accepted: June 2014

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